Bangkok by Leela Punyaratabandhu

Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Leela Punyaratabandhu is a glorious tribute to Thai cuisine. Leela is the voice behind the blog SheSimmers which she created in November 2008 in the memory of her mother, the cookbook addict, who inspired her love for cooking. Leela shares on her site that her mother's philosophy in life was based upon a statement attributed to Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536): When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes. Replace "books" with "cookbooks" and you'll get my mother. Oh, Leela we get your mother.

Bangkok is absolutely gorgeous and shares 120 recipes that capture the true spirit of the city - from heirloom family dishes to restaurant classics to everyday street eats to modern cosmopolitan fare. The author's first book, Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen, is wonderful but here in Bangkok - she has hit all the notes.

Stories of cook shops, Lumphini Park (which reminds me of Central Park in NY), dry noodles and more fill the pages that aren't splattered with beautiful photographs and tempting recipes. Crispy Angel Hair Rice Noodles with Beef and Chinese Broccoli Stalks, Braised Spareribs in Salted Soybean Sauce on Rice, and Egg Net Parcels with Pork-Peanut Filling are a few examples of the caliber of recipes here. I particularly love that Leela has included a fairly substantial Sweets chapter. It is always refreshing to dive into the sweet aspect of international cuisines that aren't known for their desserts.

Special thanks to Ten Speed Press for sharing this gorgeous Beef Green Curry with our members. Be sure to head over to our contest page to enter our giveaway. You want this book.


Beef green curry


1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon coarse salt (omit if using a food processor)
1 tablespoon finely chopped galangal
1 tablespoon paper-thin lemongrass slices (with purple rings only)
1 teaspoon finely chopped makrut lime rind
½-inch piece turmeric root or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon packed Thai shrimp paste
5 fresh green Thai long chiles, deveined and coarsely chopped
7 fresh green bird's eye chiles
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro roots or stems
5 large cloves garlic
¼ cup sliced shallots, cut against the grain


½ cup freshly extracted coconut cream, or ½ cup canned coconut cream plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil
½ cup coconut milk
2 pounds untrimmed boneless well-marbled chuck steak or rib-eye steak, thinly sliced against the grain on a 40-degree angle into bite-size pieces
2 teaspoons fish sauce, or as needed
1 teaspoon packed grated palm sugar, or as needed
4 makrut lime leaves, lightly bruised and torn into small pieces
Fresh green Thai long or bird's eye chiles, stemmed and halved lengthwise
¼ cup packed Thai sweet basil leaves

Here is the most satisfying and delicious beef green curry I've ever made. It's thicker than most versions, with just enough sauce to coat the meat-khluk khlik, as a Thai would say-and it is heavier on cumin. It has no vegetables-not even eggplants, allowing the beef to take center stage with the fragrance of the paste and the sweet, creamy coconut milk sharing the spotlight. The only perfuming herb is bruised and torn makrut lime leaves. Although the curry is intensely green it isn't very hot, as the veins of the chiles have been removed. But then I top it with fresh green chiles, vibrant and fragrant, reinforcing the fresh chiles in the paste as well as ratcheting up the heat. Finally, I drizzle some fresh coconut cream on top. This is beef green curry at its best. 

To make the curry paste, in a small frying pan, toast the coriander and cumin over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to a mortar, add the peppercorns, and grind to a fine powder. Add the salt, then, one at a time, add the galangal, lemongrass, lime rind, turmeric, shrimp paste, chiles, cilantro, garlic, and shallots, grinding to a smooth paste after each addition. Alternatively, combine all of the ingredients except the salt in a food processor and grind to a smooth paste.

To make the curry, put the paste and coconut cream in a 4-quart saucepan, set over medium-high heat, and stir until the fat separates and you can smell the dried spices, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beef, the coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar, stir well, cover, turn the heat to medium, and cook until the beef is no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce and/or sugar if needed. Check the consistency and amount of the sauce and add water if needed. For this curry, I like just enough sauce to coat the meat-like pot roast. Stir in the lime leaves, fresh chiles, and basil leaves.

The curry can be transferred to a serving dish and served right away with rice, or it can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated overnight and then reheated the next day (the flavor will be even better). When you serve the curry, top it with the coconut cream.

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  • heyjude  on  7/13/2017 at 4:51 PM

    Thai is one of our favorite cuisines. Love the "cookbook" quote.

  • mbbenham  on  7/13/2017 at 5:16 PM

    24 hour chicken matsaman curry sounds great...I'd try that first. Leela is a wonderful teacher and source on the hows and whys of Thai cooking, and her recipes are both authentic and delicious.

  • EmilyR  on  7/13/2017 at 6:13 PM

    My favorite Thai dish is usually a minty steak salad with coconut rice.

  • BethanyMeira  on  7/13/2017 at 8:58 PM

    My favorite Thai dish is gaeng pa (jungle curry)

  • sgump  on  7/14/2017 at 7:57 AM

    You've asked our favourite Thai dishes? Mine is likely tom kha gai (the chicken, galangal, and lemongrass soup in coconut milk).

  • Siegal  on  7/14/2017 at 8:40 PM

    I love pad thai

  • PennyG  on  7/15/2017 at 3:43 PM

    Pad Thai used to be my favorite Thai dish, but I have now discovered so many more lighter, fresher dishes - any Thai curry with a protein and veggies is great with me!

  • abihamm  on  7/15/2017 at 5:10 PM

    Love, love Pad Thai

  • mph993  on  7/15/2017 at 10:33 PM

    I would like to try the grilled sweet sticky rice with banana filling (Khao niao ping sai kluai)

  • monique.potel  on  7/16/2017 at 9:51 AM

    Love LOVE LOVE thai food i am certainly going to try the recipe above with green curry

  • ejsimpson  on  7/17/2017 at 5:42 PM

    I think I need this book! Too many yummy choices in the recipe selection. Like the green curry, the roast pork belly and the fried chicken with crispy garlic.

  • JenJoLa  on  7/19/2017 at 3:41 PM

    I'm a suckered for a good pad thai.

  • matag  on  7/19/2017 at 4:03 PM

    Love green curry

  • love2chow  on  7/20/2017 at 1:11 PM

    My favorite thai dish is chicken green curry with lots of eggplant served on noodles.

  • joanhuguet  on  7/20/2017 at 4:48 PM

    I love green papaya salad!

  • hirsheys  on  7/20/2017 at 8:31 PM

    khao soi - I could not stop eating it in Chiang Mai.

  • lhudson  on  7/21/2017 at 8:02 AM

    Pad Thai

  • lgroom  on  7/21/2017 at 1:06 PM

    I love green curry.

  • BMeyer  on  7/22/2017 at 8:18 AM

    Pineapple with sweet peanut-chicken topping [Galloping horses]

  • kitchenclimbers  on  7/27/2017 at 10:20 AM

    pad thai

  • meggan  on  7/28/2017 at 8:42 AM

    kao soi

  • LaurenE  on  7/28/2017 at 10:15 AM

    green papaya salad

  • SilverSage  on  7/29/2017 at 2:17 PM

    I could eat pad thai every week.

  • CRT  on  7/31/2017 at 6:22 PM

    Steamed dumplings with chicken peanut filling

  • RSW  on  8/6/2017 at 7:16 PM

    I have never had Thai food

  • paulabee  on  8/8/2017 at 11:02 AM

    favorite thai dish- probably pad ka prow, although lately stewed pork leg with preserved egg at my local thai joint

  • Jenamarie  on  8/9/2017 at 12:24 PM

    I know it's so cliche, but I do love a good pad thai with extra peanuts, tom yum soup and a thai tea!

  • annieski  on  8/13/2017 at 4:44 PM

    I am always ready to have a vegetarian version of tom yum soup. I love green curries and coconut rice, too.

  • t.t  on  8/13/2017 at 11:46 PM

    tom kha gai

  • thecharlah  on  8/14/2017 at 8:16 PM

    Green papaya salad is amazing

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