Real Vegetarian Thai

Published on 21 March 2011 in , , ,

Some time ago I did a series of posts called Bods’s Cookbook Collection where I reviewed some of the cookbooks in my collection.

Complete with Amazon referral links, some cynics saw it as an amazing money making scam on behalf of yours truly, and my suggestion that I was just helping people find exciting new cookbooks, fell on death ears.

Undeterred I wrote some more reviews which subsequently sat in “unpublished mode” for a year. So in an attempt to increase the £0.00 raised from the initial post, here’s three more books…

It’s not long ago that the closest most people got to food from the far side of Asia was Chinese and little else. However in the last decade there has been an explosion, and without doubt the biggest arrival has been Thai food.

However for vegetarians Thai food poses a real problem due to the fact that most Thai recipes use fish sauce in the same way that we might use salt and pepper.

When I first started cooking Thai in our house, it was limited to a Red Thai Curry, using a paste from Sainsburys that was fish sauce free. Then they changed the recipe and that stopped that.

Until Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott was added to our book collection anyway.

Nancie is an American food writer who spent three years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s. Real Vegetarian Thai was a follow-up to an earlier book called Real Thai: Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking. Nancie adapted many of her recipes to find some things to fill the gap left by the fish sauce, by all accounts mostly using the simple substitution of vegetable stock and salt.

As you’d expect the book is split into many sections – including starts, snacks, soups and deserts – I must confess it’s been the curries that have dominated my cooking. Nancie provides recipes for several different Thai curry pastes which can be made up in advance very quickly with the assistance of that old friend, the food processor. Stored in an airtight jar (I use a preserving jar), I’ve stored mine in the fridge for months before now.

The book then provides a batch of different curries, and although the book states specific curry pastes to go with specific curries, I’ve often found an element of mix and match gives some great results – tasting just as good as what you’ll get in a Thai restaurant, and usually far superior to any shop bought Thai curry paste I’ve tried.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other brilliant recipes in the book but for some reason I’ve not done them. It’s perhaps because they tend to include vegetables and ingredients that I don’t normally have in stock like tofu and I’m not organised enough to get them in.

If I have one problem with this book it’s that it’s American and thus means measurement is done in cups. I’ve never understood the concept, especially when used – as in this book – for garlic and onions. Why not just say one medium onion? Who actually knows what a quarter of a cup of garlic is? I certainly don’t and even having used this book many times, I’ve still no idea.

The book also looks very plain – unlike most modern cookbooks, you won’t find full colour photographs to entice you to cook meals. I didn’t used to worry about such things, however there’s no denying that I tend to use books with photos more than those without.

Still, Real Vegetarian Thai is a must for anyone who wants real Thai food that’s vegetarian. It’s certainly deserving in its spot on my shelf.


  • Mark Hatton says:

    Thanks for the tip, Bods. I’ve been looking for authentic Thai vege recipes for quite some time.

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    I hope you like them! Just reminded me that I haven’t actually done anything from that book for absolutely ages…