Marcy got me a cook book for my birthday this year, and I’ve been cooking up something from this book at least once (sometimes two or three times!) a week since I got it. I haven’t had so much fun cooking in years, and that’s saying a lot.
The book is “Pok, Pok” by Andy Ricker. Andy has traveled, eaten and cooked throughout Thailand which inspired his chain of “Pok, Pok” restaurants in Portland, OR, all of which inspired this cookbook. So far I have found all the recipes excellent, and not difficult once you find a good Asian market from which to source the ingredients. I can tell you that you will NOT have 90% of the ingredients required in your pantry, and building out that pantry is one of the first things you have to start to do along with acquiring some new kitchen utensils. The good news is that none of the stuff is expensive (the rice cooker I bought from Amazon at $30 is the most expensive item I’ve bought so far). I now have an entire rack of specialized sauces in my basement refrigerator – two kinds of soy sauce, two kinds of fish sauce, oyster sauce and “seasoning” sauce. I also have such exotic things lurking in my refrigerator as lemongrass, green papaya, dried shrimp and red and green Thai chilis, and have things like palm sugar, toasted rice powder and dried Thai chiles in the pantry!
I love pork, and in particular the best cut of pork for my money is ribs. I have finally gotten my summertime rib cooking down to a science and can turn out three or four beautiful racks on my backyard grill which I’ve learned how to use as a smoker.
However, last weekend I tried Andy’s recipe for Thai ribs. No doubt these would have come out even better done on the backyard smoker (he recommends using a charcoal-fired grill), but the weekend temps were in the upper 20’s and it snowed all day, so I was not going to fire up the grill, opting instead to use Andy’s instructions for doing these in the oven.
I’ve done a lot of recipes over the years, and most of them turn out pretty good right out of the gate. However, anyone who has seen my recipe file will know that I always seem to want to do something differently, whether in terms of ingredients or technique. Not this time, sports fans…
I gotta tell you – Best! Fucking! Ribs! Ever!
Marcy and I ate two ribs with Andy’s grilled-meat dipping sauce, a scoop of stir-fried brussels sprouts, a mound of sticky rice (recipes for both also from Andy’s book) and we agreed that we’d just eaten a meal that we would not have complained about had we plunked down $100 for it in a restaurant. Of course, I think we each tucked away a couple more of those ribs before we were done!!
The ribs were first marinated and then glazed during the last hour of cooking with a mixture of honey, ginger, sesame oil and Thai thin soy sauce. The dipping sauce, which starts with lime juice, and includes crushed lemongrass, Thai fish sauce, palm sugar, cilantro, toasted rice powder and powdered freshly-toasted dried Thai chilis was a perfect tart/spicy complement to the sweet/salty glaze on the perfectly done (tender but chewy) ribs.
I’m hoping that as I get more comfortable with the ingredients and techniques that I can start making these dishes without devoting an entire afternoon to making this stuff.
If you have fun cooking, you have to pick up Andy’s book and give some of this stuff a try. One warning though – when he tells you how many chilis to add to the recipe, remember this is a guy who has probably spent years in Thailand, and I’m sure his palate is more attuned to them than ours are. I routinely cut the quantity in half to suit MY tastes, and I like it hot!