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Spice I Am  : Home Style Thai Recipes - Sujet Saenkham

Spice I Am

Home Style Thai Recipes

Paperback Published: 25th March 2015
ISBN: 9781921383595
Number Of Pages: 202

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In this much anticipated cookbook Sydney-based Thai chef Sujet Saenkham shares his family recipes for the fresh flavours of regional Thai cooking so you can enjoy authentic Thai food at home.

Leave the Thai takeaway menus in your kitchen drawer, as you learn how to make restaurant favourites such as Sujet's signature stir-fried crispy pork belly with basil, roasted red duck curry with eggplant, tomato and pineapple and crispy prawn and lemongrass salad, as well as traditional classics like pad Thai, fishcakes and a massaman beef curry from scratch. Throughout, Sujet offers practical advice on finding the ingredients and mastering the cooking techniques you need to create your own Thai feasts at home.

About the Author

Sujet Saenkham of Sydney's critically acclaimed Spice I Am restaurant stable was born in a remote village in Central Thailand, where he learnt to cook treasured family recipes at his mother's and grandparents' sides.

After switching from an accounting degree to studying science with a major in chemistry in Bangkok, in 1985 Sujet ventured to Australia and loved it so much that he decided to make Sydney his home. Here, he studied hospitality, and his long-held ambition of becoming an executive chef was realised in 2004, when he opened the doors of Spice I Am in Sydney's Surry Hills.

This hole-in-the-wall was immediately adopted as the Thai restaurant of choice for the city's food media, and the restaurant empire has since expanded to include a more sophisticated restaurant in Darlinghurst; an offshoot in Balmain; a restaurant called House Thai, which specialises in Issan dishes from the north of Thailand; and, in 2014, Surry Hills Eating House opened, showcasing the regional cuisine of southern Thailand.

This is Sujet's first cookbook.

Industry Reviews

'The recipes are well rounded, rich and flavorful.' Marin Independent Journal Online

Sharing Treasured Family Recipes

Now, I am lucky to fulfil another dream – writing my own cookbook. Here, I share the recipes that I learnt at my mother's and grandparents' side, as well as those I discovered when living with my in-laws in Phuket. I'm also inspired by the different ingredients and techniques from the regions across Thailand, where the local climate and seasonal availability of ingredients strongly influence the food. In the north, for example, little or no coconut milk or cream is used, while animal fat and pork meat feature extensively due to the Chinese influence. Fresh herbs and spices are another common feature, thanks to the proximity to Laos and Vietnam. In the north-east, the cuisine is leaner, and dill and lemon basil star in many dishes. In central Thailand, one can find dishes from all areas of Thailand, so there is a much wider selection.

In Thailand, food is created to be communal. A selection of dishes is placed on the table at the same time and everyone happily shares them. Usually, there will be a stir-fry, curry, soup and fresh or steamed vegetables offered with a chilli dipping sauce. While steamed long-grain rice is served in most of Thailand, sticky rice is common in the north and north-east. These days, forks and spoons are used, but when I was young we used our fingers. At our restaurants we prefer to serve all our dishes to be shared, as is the tradition, and the chapters in the book reflect this respect for authenticity.

Traditionally, our meals don't start with an entree, but sometimes light snacks or small dishes are served in between the larger dishes. These smaller dishes used to take quite a long time to prepare, but now they've been adapted to be easier, and I've included some of these in the Light Meals chapter on pages 6–23. Mum always made a huge batch of these because of the large size of our family, and as kids we always looked forward to them. They looked and tasted so intriguing, and made me want to learn more about food.

In Thailand, soups (see pages 24–41) are not usually served separately, but dished up as a part of the main meal to be shared with rice. They are called tom, which means boiling water with added herbs, spices and protein. The same key ingredients are used throughout Thailand, but the proportion and preparation varies. Northern Thai cooks tend to use less chilli and more oily ingredients, and include fermented soybean paste instead of shrimp paste. In the north-east, coconut milk isn't used at all and sometimes raw ingredients are roasted before adding to the soup. In the south, cooks may include fresh turmeric in their broth. All these techniques are used in central Thailand, but the soups often include freshwater fish or scampi. Here in Australia, the most well-known Thai soup would have to be the hot and sour soup, tom yum goong, on page 31.

The rice and noodle dishes on pages 42–63 are made with ingredients you'll find at most greengrocers and supermarkets across Australia. The plain flavour of rice and noodles are enhanced by combining them with chilli for heat, tamarind or lime for sourness palm sugar for sweetness and oyster and soy sauces for salt. Quick and easy, they're ideal for a meal-on-the-run or a tasty snack. Most recipes can be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and oyster sauce. You can leave out the fish sauce too, but you'll need to add more salt. I suggest you taste as you cook and adjust the flavour as you go. Although a wok makes cooking Thai food simpler, it isn't essential – Mum made extremely good pad Thai (see page 55) when she first visited Sydney using a cast-iron frying pan.

Our table always includes a salad – they're easy and refreshing, and the flavours dance in your mouth. The idea is to achieve a balance of salty, sweet and sour with heat from chilli. Be careful not to add too much fish sauce, as it easily overpowers other ingredients; sometimes you may need to season with salt to maintain the right balance and not make the dressing too liquid. Similarly, cane sugar can be added with the palm sugar to get the correct balance of sweetness. I find the softer palm sugar produces the best balance, but the harder palm sugar, which usually has added cane sugar and is therefore sweeter, can be used instead. Tahitian lime is included for sourness – lemon can be substituted, but it doesn't produce a well-balanced result.

Each meal also includes a stir-fry (see pages 64–89) of one kind or another. Mum told me that cooking oil wasn't available when she was young, so they simply tossed vegetables in the wok till they were cooked. Stir-fries were my grandfather's specialty. In his generation, meat came from wild animals and cooking oil wasn't used at all; the fat generated from the meat as it cooked was used instead. Homemade fish sauce was the only seasoning, and no sugar was added – the balance of flavours came from the ingredients, which always included organic homegrown vegetables. Although we now cook with a wide range of meats, these principles are still maintained in the kitchen at Spice I Am.

Having conquered stir-fries, Mum taught me how to cook a coconut-based curry. The first step was grinding fresh coconut flesh to make coconut cream. Next was making the curry pastes from scratch (see pages 180–186). She taught me to prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook, as the process is so quick. Once the charcoal fire was lit, it was so hot it was used to steam the rice, then the rest of the meal was cooked with the remaining heat.

There are two types of Thai curry: coconut-based curries are made by cooking curry paste with fresh coconut cream or vegetable oil until you have a rich aroma, so all the paste ingredients are well cooked before adding the meat. The meat is then cooked until it has absorbed the flavour of the paste. This is the traditional way to make a Thai curry, passed down over generations, and it's the way that I pass on here. Water-based curries use water or stock instead of coconut, and are therefore much lighter, but also spicier, with a sweet-and-sour note.

When seasoning a curry, add the fish sauce, then taste to see if you need to add any sugar. Vegetables add a wonderful texture to the dish. Sweet basil gives a lovely perfume that's especially important in coconut-based curries, whereas water-based curries tend to include hot basil or holy basil. Wild basil works well with wild or strong meats such as lamb or boar.

On pages 138–155 I've included some of my favourite special Thai dishes. Traditionally, these weren't everyday meals, but prepared during important cultural events and religious ceremonies. Some are only made when the ingredients are seasonally available, and different parts of the country have their own specialties depending on the tribe, culture and local ingredients. Most children look forward to these occasions and the food that went with them – I know I did! Nowadays, these dishes are so popular you don't have to wait for a special occasion to enjoy them.

Dessert as we know it in Australia is not often served in Thailand – usually a selection of fresh fruit is offered at the end of a meal instead. Mum sometimes served sweets as a treat when all of us kids were home, however Dad got used to having dessert, so we now enjoy it regularly (thanks, Dad!). My mother's recipes for my childhood favourites can be found on pages 156–171.

I love to cook more than anything else, and cooking the food I grew up with is my passion. I learnt early on how to cook a meal to nourish and give pleasure to my family from whatever we found in the paddy fields, and I carry these valuable lessons with me to this day. My hope is that sharing my treasured family recipes here will inspire you to cook Thai food at home, too.

ISBN: 9781921383595
ISBN-10: 1921383593
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 202
Published: 25th March 2015
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 28.5 x 23.6  x 1.5
Weight (kg): 0.87
Edition Number: 1

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