My father spent two weeks in Thailand a decade or so ago, as a participant of an international ObGyn conference. My sister and her husband explored several Thai resorts looking for the ultimate scuba-diving adventure. Many of my friends from Europe and the U.S. have been posting their photos from visiting Siam to their Facebook pages in recent years.
I listen to and read many of their stories, longingly touch the souvenirs they bring back, and admire the images that accompany each one of their tales. I live vicariously through their memories, happy for their experiences, but at the same time completely consumed with the insatiable “reisefieber”.
I occasionally try to satisfy the hunger for traveling by roaming the aisles of my neighborhood Asian stores. I bury my face in a bunch of purple-tinted Thai basil and scratch-and-sniff stiff stalks of lemongrass in a vain desire to be transported to the land that has been calling my name for years.
I know the food can take me there instantaneously, but I have been hesitant to delve in and try to replicate all those fragrant dishes I enjoyed in Berkeley and San Francisco. Even though I live in Los Angeles, where I can find all the exotic ingredients necessary to prepare a Thai meal, I was intimidated by the thought. But no more.
A few days ago my fears were thoroughly dispersed when I joined a group of food writers and bloggers at Melissa’s Produce in Vernon to celebrate Katie Chin’s newest cookbook, Everyday Thai Cooking – Quick and Easy Family Style Recipes.
I met Katie just a few weeks ago at Camp Blogaway. Her life story really touched my heart. Katie’s mother opened one of the first Chinese restaurants in Minneapolis and taught her how to cook from an early age. But when Katie moved to California and started working in the entertainment industry, her hectic life pulled her away from cooking. She ate out most days and soon she felt that she had forgotten how to prepare a meal on her own. She called for help and her mother joined her, determined to stand by her side and guide her to reconnect with the art she almost lost. In no time, Katie quit her job and started a catering company with her mother. She didn’t only regain her knowledge of cooking – she quickly became a culinary expert, appearing on cooking shows by herself and along with her mother, authoring cookbooks, teaching cooking classes, and demonstrating recipes for various TV stations.
Melissa’s chefs prepared several recipes from Katie’s book. Everything we tasted was full of flavor, fresh, colorful, and bold.
After lunch Katie entertained us while showing us her effortless way of preparing Thai food – in this case Chiang-Mai Chicken in Lettuce Cups and Pineapple Fried Rice. Both of these dishes combined the elements of flavor that are always present in Thai cooking: sweet, salty, sour, and hot. Katie is warm, personable, vivacious, and funny. Her passion for cooking and love of all Asian food was apparent throughout the demonstration. We learned that we can freeze grated ginger and break away the pieces as needed. She taught us how to use lemongrass and offered suggestions for serving these dishes (like this pineapple bowl).
As a mother of twin toddlers, she is aware of time constraints of working families. There are more than 100 recipes in her book and almost all of them are quick and easy. She de-mystified the art of cooking Thai, providing basic recipes for delicious staple dishes that include both homemade and store-bought options. The dishes are organized by courses and each step-by step recipe lists prep times and substitutions for more elusive ingredients. Did I mention that the book is gorgeous? The photography is amazing and just looking at all those beautiful colors and glossy pages makes me want to cook.
Everyday Thai Cooking is a compilation of simple recipes that embody the essence of Thai cuisine. The book is published by Tuttle Publishing (thank you for my own copy!) and you can purchase it from Amazon. As far as I am concerned, I am not stuffing it on my shelf to collect dust – this beauty is going to become a favorite, a well-used friend who will help me master the art of Siamese food.