MAENAM: A FRESH APPROACH TO THAI COOKING
When Covid-19 hit and many began pouring their anxieties into sourdough, I instead attempted to conquer this finely detailed, thankfully foolproof Thai cookbook by Vancouver chef Angus An.
The challenge was just as laborious. Panang curry of braised beef rib, with its multiple sub-recipes for freshly pounded peanut paste, hand-strained tamarind water and three fried garnishes, was a two-day project—but ultimately more rewarding. His case for “cracking” coconut cream into oil-separated curds has improved my cross-cuisine curry game forever. Chef An‘s restaurant Maenam, which opened 10 years ago, elevated our perceptions of what a Thai dining experience could be. In particular, it pushed the envelope in pairing spicy food with wine and cocktails, a subject nicely covered in the book. An’s cooking has expanded the traditional Thai canon with Western techniques (his method for emulsifying butter into a silky black-pepper-crab oyster sauce is brilliant). He modernizes classic flavours with playful inventions (uni ice cream sundae, anyone?). His mentor is David Thompson, author of Thai Food, the dense English-language bible of Thai cooking. Maenam, with its numerous tips, illustrated instructions, suggestions for easily sourced substitutes and focus on local ingredients, is more approachable, though no less intense. Last spring, I set the book aside after a few weeks, around the time Maenam opened for takeout, which was much better value given the time I’d invested. At the very least, this book might put to rest the outdated notion that Thai food should be cheap. —ALEXANDRA GILL
MAENAM: A FRESH APPROACH TO THAI COOKING Angus An, Appetite by Random House, $35