POK POK The Drinking Food of Thailand - Andy Ricker with JJ Goode
by Nick Harman - Thursday November 2, 2017 2:11 pm
You don’t need us to tell you how delicious Thai food is, but there’s a food subset that’s less well known outside Thailand. Food to snack while you drink with. Chon!
Andy Ricker is a bit of star in the USA where, he created the restaurant Pok Pok in Portland (pok pok is the sound a pestle and mortar makes) and now has a small empire of similar restaurants. He travels to Thailand a lot and we mean a lot.
He is a bit of similar character to Anthony Bourdain in that he uses the word ‘shit’ in his books a lot and likes to cultivate an image of himself as a bit of a rogue, someone who parties hard and hangs out in dodgy bars. He probably has a few tattoos as well. Bourdain, unsurprisingly, endorses the book on the back cover. Post punk thunder buddies for life.
So the writing style is a bit on the macho side, but well-tempered by his co-author JJ Goode so that it never quite slips into self-parody in the way that Bourdain’s often tends to.
Drinking food is known as ‘aahan kap klem’ in Thailand, its trademarks are salt, sour, spicy and chewy, all the things you need with a cold beer on a muggy and hot evening in Bangkok. Think crispy red-skinned peanuts stir-fried with lime leaf, garlic, and chilies and kai thawt - dry-fried Thai-spiced chicken wings.
Some recipes, where you put live shrimp in a jar and douse them with lime juice and chilies and watch them ‘dance’ before eating them, might be a bit too authentic for some of us. However, a slice of mango dunked in a salt-chili dip sounds fantastic; you know that’s going to be so, so, addictive as the beers, or the fearsome Thai rice whiskey, go down.
None of these dishes are a meal on their own, all are intended to be part of a selection. Fried food features strongly, such as fried minced pork patties, Thai style fried chicken, fried papaya salad and fried sour pork ribs.
Featuring anecdotes and recipes, stories and insights from the Thai cooks who taught Ricker along the way, everything in the book, bar the shrimp and the fried pig brain and perhaps the tom leuat muu (pork soup with blood and offal), sounds too tasty for words while the photos, attractively grimy and not horribly over sharpened, bring an immediate rush of nostalgia for anyone that’s ever been to Thailand and gone off piste.