Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood

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9780684862729: Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood

Thai cuisine, regarded by many as one of the best in the world, is known for its original combinations of spicy, savory, sweet, and tangy flavors, and its seafood recipes display this culinary artistry to its purest extent. In Dancing Shrimp, Kasma Loha-unchit shares with us her ingenious techniques for preparing all types of fish, mollusks, and shellfish according to the traditions of her native cuisine. The more than 100 recipes in Dancing Shrimp show the full range of the Thai palate, with curries like Salmon Poached in Green Curry Sauce with Baby Eggplants and Thai Basil; stir-fries like Spicy Southern-Style Stir-Fried Squid; salads like Hot-and-Sour Shrimp Salad with Roasted Chilli Sauce, Lemon Grass, and Mint; steamed dishes like Steamed Fillet of Sea Bass with Ginger, Green Onions, and Sesame-Soy Sauce; soups like Spicy "Broken Fish Trap" Soup; and many more. Thai people, as Kasma reminds us, are warm, welcoming, and playful, and this is evident in the food they prepare. While a dish like Shrimp Cooked in Turmeric-Coconut Sauce might taste sweet on the tip of the tongue, you also will be warmed and surprised by the heat that slowly emerges from the chillies. There is also a real reverence for the bounty of the sea and earth; many of the fish recipes call for a whole fish, and the cooking techniques, such as steaming a fish wrapped in a banana leaf or poaching it in a spicy sauce, preserve the full flavor. Along with the recipes, Loha-unchit provides cooking tips, inspirational ideas for adapting the recipes to different techniques or ingredients, and warm, revealing stories of her homeland. With her charming personal tone and detailed cooking instructions, she guides cooks simply and easily through techniques that may involve unfamiliar fishes or herbs but never fail to result in a mouthwatering delight. As every recipe reflects her years of experience in teaching Americans to re-create the exquisite flavors of Thailand on their own, Dancing Shrimp is suitable for beginning and experienced cooks alike.

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Review:

More than a cookbook, Dancing Shrimp is both a rumination on how Thai food--the original fusion food, says author Kasma Loha-unchit--developed as a cuisine and a very thorough manual on how to properly prepare fresh fish, crustaceans, and mollusks in the Thai tradition. Filled with 125 tantalizing and sometimes challenging recipes, Loha-unchit covers not only basic cooking tenets but explores how to create dishes that balance the Thai people's love of the five primary flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy.

Many of the recipes feature flavors not common in Western cooking, but Loha-unchit teaches you how to create a savory meal in which the disparate tastes work in harmony. In addition to the recipes, there are chapters on Thailand's seafood culture, how to select and prepare seafood, preserved foods and flavoring ingredients (like fish sauce, a staple item), and techniques and equipment. For those unfamiliar with fish sauce or shrimp paste, she explains how they are made, her favorite brands, and where you can purchase them (there's a store index in the back).

The recipes themselves are mouth-watering: Hot-and-Sour Shrimp Salad with Roasted Chilli Sauce, Lemon Grass, and Mint, Curried Mussels on the Half Shell with Flaked Crab, and Ginger-Tamarind Fish Soup, to name only a few. Though some of the recipes may seem daunting at first, Loha-unchit reminds us that "the wide range of variables makes Thai cooking exciting and Thai food both a simple and complex blend of invigorating flavors." After all, it's hard to resist Garlic-Black Bean Pan-Fried Red Snapper. Be sure to serve with a big pot of sticky white rice. --Dana Van Nest

About the Author:

Kasma Loha-unchit, a native of Thailand, has taught Thai cooking in her own home-based cooking school in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1985. Her first book, It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions, and the Joys of Thai Cooking, won the 1996 IACP Award for Best International Cookbook. As an active proponent of introducing her native cuisine to Westerners, she writes a monthly column for the San Jose Mercury News and leads cultural and culinary tours to Thailand twice a year.

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