One of the chefs leading Thai food in America, Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker returns with his second cookbook, The Drinking Food of Thailand, a deep trip into regional drinking culture (co-authored by JJ Goode, with photos by Austin Bush). Hitting bookstores October 31, it is an homage to the lesser-known snacks and small plates typically served with adult drinks in Thailand — the Thai equivalent of buffalo wings and salted peanuts — methodically explained over 272 pages and 50 recipes.
In the introduction, Ricker says the recipes in The Drinking Food of Thailand are generally “easier” than those in his first cookbook, because drinking snacks tend to be less complicated. The recipes aren’t necessarily meant to make up a complete meal, although they could, so much as furnish spicy, citrusy bites for day drinking and such.
Think Hat Yai fried chicken and Thai-style barbecue beef skewers, as well as more funky regional flavors, mostly from Northern Thailand: fried pigs ears and chicken tendons, pork soup with steamed blood cakes, and Phat Khii Mao, aka the “Drunkard’s stir-fry.” Some dishes, like jok rice porridge, are good both for late-night or for a Thai breakfast.
Like Ricker’s first cookbook, The Drinking Food of Thailand goes into great detail. Ricker provides tips for finding rare Thai staples in America, so home chefs won’t be daunted by ingredient lists calling for things like dried shrimp and green papaya, and the chef also demystifies many useful Thai cooking techniques, like how to grill Thai-style and use one of the most ubiquitous tools in Thai cooking, the mortar and pestle (Pok Pok actually takes its name from the sound the pestle makes hitting the mortar over and over).
Ricker dedicates The Drinking Food of Thailand to “the people of Thailand to whom I owe so much.” The chef fully gives in to the urge to immerse readers in Thailand’s drinking cultures without dumbing down its flavors or stories. In the introduction to each recipe, Ricker describes the place where he first ate the dish and the people who shared it with him — often with photos of smiling eaters surrounded by empty beer cans piled sky-high.