This week we're taking a closer look at Powell's Pick of the Month Pok Pok Noodles by Andy Ricker and JJ Goode.
Portland chef Andy Ricker is one of the best, both in terms of his food and his writing. While his recipes can be complicated, his encouraging tone makes them accessible. In Pok Pok Noodles
, his love of both noodles and Thailand shines through. Delicious, in every sense of the word! — Leah C.
Do you love Thai noodles? Like, really, really
love Thai noodles? And do you love to cook — we mean, really, really
love to cook? And while we’re at it, do you love knowing exactly what goes into your favorite Thai noodle dishes, or are you more of a “what I don’t know is delicious!” kind of person?
Just checking. Because lifting the cover of Andy Ricker and JJ Goode’s comprehensive Pok Pok Noodles
will deliver you to a land of meticulous instruction, extensive kitchen prep, and the occasional tablespoon of coagulated pig’s blood. With lengthy ingredient lists and beautifully staged photographs that highlight the many components of each recipe, it’s tempting to view Pok Pok Noodles
as an aspirational cookbook: read it from cover to cover for an educational history and how-to of Thai noodles, and then order takeout. Honestly, Ricker and Goode’s introductory chapters on noodle history, ingredients, and cooking implements and Ricker’s generous, often personal recipe intros are worth the price of the book. But do yourself a favor and put down that phone. Pick up the pig’s blood. Dive into the chin-dripping world of noodling.
If the precision of Ricker’s recipes is intimidating, it’s also reassuring, because it guarantees that even rookie cooks can turn out authentic meals. Ricker clearly has a deep respect for Thai cuisine and culture, and is careful to emulate rather than appropriate Thai culinary traditions. Unlike in many Americanized cookbooks on Asian food, you won’t find ketchup or brown sugar substituting for black soy sauce and palm sugar; likewise, the several pages of special ingredients listed at the beginning of the book stipulate when substitutions will yield poor results. Ricker wants the reader to take Thai food seriously both because it’s the respectful thing to do and because it’s the only way to ensure good eats.
Given the recipes’ many steps, it’s unlikely that you’ll be making Buu Op Wun Sen
(Crab and Glass Noodles in a Clay Pot) or the popular Phat Si Ew Wun Sen
(Stir-fried Glass Noodles with Soy Sauce, Pork, and Chinese Broccoli) on a work night. But on your next lazy evening at home, or maybe for your next intimate dinner party (each recipe yields just one portion, a la Thai noodle carts), pull out Pok Pok Noodles
, stick a card table and some plastic chairs on your front stoop, and open a one-night noodle shop. It’s cheaper than a trip to Thailand, and (almost) as rewarding.
Check out the rest of our Picks of the Month here