When I started working with Andy Ricker on his first cookbook, Pok Pok, I set about convincing him to simplify his recipes to appeal to the home cook. Sure, I thought, he can make duck laap (Isaan-style minced meat salad) and khao soi (a northern Thai curry with noodles) at his restaurants, but mere mortals can’t fix them at home. Yet no matter how hard I pushed, Ricker wouldn’t adapt the dishes. And he was right.
One reason he gave for his refusal is that recipes aren’t just instructions: They’re records of how food is made. Since Ricker’s cooking aims to replicate the dishes he fell for during almost two decades of traveling in Thailand, his recipes help tell the story of the cuisine he loves. His main reason, however, is more straightforward: Despite my assumptions, you really can make real-deal Thai food at home. It just takes a little extra effort. I now know this to be true, because I’ve prepared every last recipe in the book.
Here are three misconceptions I had, and tips on how to get past them.