Updated: Sep 7, 2021
The selection of books below focuses on acclaimed chefs and cooks who have deep roots in Thailand, either because of a familial connection or a life long commitment to studying Thai cuisine and traveling / living in Thailand. These books are a fantastic starting point on your Thai cuisine journey.
THE CHEF: David Thompson
While Chef David Thompson (Nahm (former), Long Chim Perth, Long Chim Sydney and Aaharn Hong Kong) is most definitely not a Thai national (he is Australian), he has been considered for years to be one of the top authorities on Thai cuisine and the history of Thai cuisine. In fact, during the History of Thai Cuisine section of my culinary program in Bangkok, our lecturer recommended David Thompson's books as the only resources available for further reading on Thai culinary history in English. He has lived and traveled extensively in Thailand, researching cuisine and history along the way, thus developing a very deep knowledge and expertise in Thai cuisine.
In addition travel research, David Thompson explores Thai cuisine through his impressive collection of funeral books. In Thailand, it is common for families to give funeral attendees gifts as keepsakes to remember their lost loved one, often the keepsake is a book encompassing the essence of the person. The books will include favorite Buddhist teachings and philosophies, personal stories and if the deceased was an exceptional cook, one would expect a recipe or two. This practice is believed to have started with Rama V in the 1800s, after the tragic deaths of his first wife and his daughter. The Royal Palace produced 10,000 books to memorialize the beloved Queen, Sunandha Kumariratana, and gift to mourning countrymen. The practice peaked in fashion until the mid 1900s, and has decreased in recent times. Chef David Thompson is said to have a collection of over 500 of these types of primary resource materials, which he uses to explore the history of Thai cooking. Sources: Altaabscura and Random Times
THE CHEF: Nuit Regular
Chef Nuit is the executive chef and co-owner of Pai Northern Thai Kitchen, Sabai Sabai, Sukhothai, and Kiin, all located in Canada. Nuit has been recognized by the Royal Thai Government for the authenticity of her Thai cooking and was granted the prestigious Thai Select Premium certification, an award granted by the Thai Ministry of Commerce which guarantees the authentic Thai taste of Thai of food products and Thai restaurants in Thailand and overseas.
Chef Nuit is from Northern Thailand and her cookbook is a treasure trove of Northern Thai recipes. If perhaps you've traveled to Northern Thailand and fell in love with the local cuisine, this is the book for you! Additionally, if you love Thai food and want to expand your knowledge of regional cuisine, this is a fantastic resource. The recipes are very traditional and don't make allowances or modifications for the Western palate, which is something many of us have been looking for in Thai cookbooks. This book is for you if your approach to Thai cooking is: don't give me a Thai recipe developed for what you think my palate wants, just give me the actual recipe and I'll take it from there!
THE BOOK: The Principals of Thai Cuisine
THE CHEF: Chef McDang
Chef McDang was born into the Royal Family of Thailand. He was educated in the United States at Georgetown University, where, after watching Julia Child on American TV, he discovered his love for cooking and sharing Thai cuisine. From there he turned his professional attention to the culinary arts. In 2010 he published a cookbook called The Principals of Thai Cookery, which is considered by many to be a keystone resource on the topic. The recipes in this book are intended for those of us looking for Thai recipes translated into English. The recipes don't offer substitutions for foreigners and haven't been developed for the Western palate. These are the recipes people are cooking in Thailand every day.
THE CHEF: Pailin Chongchitnant
Pailin is probably the most famous Thai Chef Youtuber, and with good reason. Her channel and cookbook offer authenticThai recipes that manage to stay accessible to Westerners without being watering down. Pailin was born and raised in Bangkok, and educated in Australia where she perfected her English and caught the cooking bug. She started her Youtube channel while attending culinary school in San Francisco in 2009. She now has two channels and has amassed over 1 million subscribers. In addition to authoring the cookbook "Hot Thai Kitchen," and host of TV series One World Kitchen on Gusto TV. Chef Pailin is currently working on a new cookbook. Follow her social media to stay up-to-date on the release!
THE CHEF: Kay Plunkett-Hogge
Born and raised in Bangkok, Kay spoke Thai before she spoke English and has spent more than half her life in Thailand. Baan is a true homage to her childhood, to the delicious recipes that she was raised on and a cuisine and country that she loves.
Baan features over 120 recipes that Kay has collected from all over Thailand from friends, acquaintances and street-stall holders, all gathered over around 30 years of travel, and all of them tried and tested back in London. Kay demystifies Thai food, providing clear and concise recipes and revealing the shortcuts, kitchen hacks and ingredient substitutions that make delicious and authentic Thai cookery achievable in an ordinary Western home.
THE CHEF: Leela Punyaratabandhu
From 2008 to 2021, Leela wrote about Thai cuisine on her cooking blog, SheSimmers.com which was named the best Regional Cuisine blog in 2012 by Saveur Magazine. Also in 2012, Leela was named by the Chicago Tribune one of the seven new food writers to know. Leela’s writing has appeared in CNN, Wall Street Journal, Serious Eats, Food52, TASTE, and Dill Magazine. In 2017, she was named one of the 100 Greatest Home Cooks of All Time by Epicurious. In Both Leela's Books, "Bangkok" and "Simple Thai Food," the recipes have been tested and tweaked to ensure that even the busiest cook can prepare them at home. With chapters on key ingredients and tools, base recipes, one-plate meals, classic rice accompaniments, and even Thai sweets, Simple Thai Food is a complete primer for anyone who wants to give Thai cooking a try.