Cooking the Books: Thai Street Food


Wow, it’s been two months since I’ve done one of these…I assure you, I have been cooking- I just haven’t had the time to blog. You know how it is. With my current schedule, we’ve been eating out a little more than I’d normally like, and definitely more than the bathroom scales would like.

Anyways, most of what I have attempted over the last few weeks has been from this book- David Thompson’s Thai Street Food. I love Thai food, I especially love Thai street food- I still have cravings for banana roti. If you’re ever in Bangkok and want to get an idea about what it’s all about, you wouldn’t go too wrong with a walking tour run by Bangkok Food Tours.


Anyways, this cookbook- a birthday present from my family-  is everything I love a cookbook to be. Brilliant and candid street photography tells stories of daily life, with the recipes providing the texture and detail. As you’d expect from David Thompson, methods and ingredients are authentic- as is the end result.

The recipe: Stir Fried Minced Beef with Chillies and Holy Basil p241

This is Thai comfort food at its best. We has something similar on the streets in Bangkok last April, and tasting this sent me straight back there. The wok fried egg with drizzly yolk tops it all perfectly and adds a creaminess to the salty, spicy, garlicky yumminess.

I prepared this for a Wednesday night in while hubby was out at football training. Miss 16 and I balanced our bowls on our knees and watched crappy reality TV. Perfect.

To do ahead:

As with many meals designed to be prepared and sold on the street, this is a dish that once started, can be on the table in less than 15 minutes. The chillis and fish sauce that is served with this is best prepared in advance- it keeps for some time and the flavours become richer and more even as it settles.

My tips:

Have all your spices chopped and prepared to go. Mincing the garlic and chillis by hand rather than pounding in a mortar and pestle takes a little longer, but also gives a better flavor.

The verdict:

“Why haven’t we had this before?”

This one is a new favourite, that tastes and smells amazingly authentic.


The recipe: Crunchy Prawn Cakes with peanut and chilli sauce p80

Ok, I’m going to be honest here…I’m not sure that I’d be brave enough to try these from a Bangkok street cart…unless I had a recommendation from someone I trusted and the street cart had a seriously high turnover.

Anyways, these are a little like a Thai white bait fritter, but made with prawns and crunchy. The peanut and chilli sauce plus a cold beer makes this the perfect starter.

We followed this with the sea bass curry.

How the stylists say these should look
How the stylists say these should look

To do ahead:

The chilli and peanut sauce can be prepared in advance. You’ll also need to make the batter in advance- although as the rice flour swells, you might need to dilute it a little with lime juice or coconut cream.

The verdict:

Even though we left the skins and the tails on the prawns, Miss 16 was too squeamish to tackle the heads, so we cut them off. This made the cakes slightly less crunchy than they otherwise would have been.

how mine looked
how mine looked

The recipe: Southern Sea Bass Curry p 154

This is a thick, spicy curry that, despite the number of chillis in the paste (10 scuds plus another 13 dried birds eye chillis), and despite being seriously hot, is also rich, creamy and slightly sweet.

I couldn’t get the kalamansi lime, so combined kaffir lime leaves and lime juice as a substitute.

To do ahead:

The curry paste can be made ahead. The curry itself is also better if it settles for about half an hour.

My tips:

Don’t worry if the coconut milk looks like it’s threatening to split- it should be showing a hint of oil. We used barramundi, but Thompson also suggests using bass, kingfish or even prawns or scallops.

The verdict:

I’m considering using this recipe on the campfire on this years Eucumbene trip


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

One thought

  1. The minced beef recipe looks interesting and I love that it tastes authentic. I haven’t been to Asia for YONKS but even 10 – 15 – 20 years later if I smell really ‘authentic’ food I get taken back there in a heartbeat. When I lived in Brissy I used to cut through an arcade full of a variety of Asian cuisines and it was divine. I was reminded that when I lived in Cambodia I had a favourite very basic dish of beef and onions that I loved. My khmer was never good enough to really find out what gave it its taste…. alas. (At one point I had the dish breakfast, lunch and dinner!)

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