Everyday Paleo Thai Cuisine by Sarah Fragoso
When this book was first recommended to me, I had never heard of Sarah so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had a look through the comments and feedback on Amazon and can say that I was really impressed with what people had to say. I’ve always loved food with spice and flavour so finding a cookbook that combined Thai and paleo sounded pretty awesome!
The book is made up of 288 pages and is broken down into two main sections. The first one is about the ingredients, the tools and then the recipes, whereas the second section is about Thailand, Sarah’s visit there and what to expect from the culture, which is an added bonus if you were planning on visiting there.
The main body of the book is broken down into the following sections; Introduction, Thai kitchen essentials (The ingredients and tools of Thai cuisine), Essential condiments and curry pastes, appetizers and salads, fried rice noodles and dishes, curries and soups, stir fry and seafood and desserts. The section after all the recipes is where Sarah discusses her visit to Thailand and is broken down into the following; Meet the team, planning our trip to Thailand, Thai culture and what to know before you go, the adventure begins, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khao Lak, the gulf of Thailand, back to Bangkok and returning home. The last few page of the book includes two recipe indexes, one where the recipes are broken down by food type (e.g. essentials, condiment’s and curry pastes, curries and soups and desserts) but are shown in photographs of the main dish, whereas the other index is the usual written A to Z of recipes.
The Thai kitchen essentials section gives a brief bit of background to Thai food then discussed in great detail the types of fresh herbs and vegetables commonly used in Thai cooking. This is particularly helpful as it gives you an idea of what each ingredient brings to a dish (e.g. spice, warmth or sweetness etc). It also lists substitutions for some of the ingredients (and which ones are sadly not worth subbing and why). It also lists the best places to find some of the ingredients e.g. amazon or the direct company website which I found particularly helpful as I was able to compare them to brands that I was able to easily source in the UK. It also discusses the merits for purchasing certain ingredients ethically such as palm sugar and palm oil. It also gives an insight into the tools and gadgets that you’ll likely need, giving an understanding of them and what kinds of recipes you’ll need them for.
There is a section within the ‘Thai kitchen essentials’ that discusses rice and noodles, which although aren’t paleo, it explains the traditional Thai versions and how they can be incorporated into a Paleo diet (however it does point out that they are best avoided if you are autoimmune). At the beginning of the book there are two ‘recipes’ that give you some great tips for cooking rice, but don’t worry – if you aren’t able to eat rice there is a section later in the book called fried rice, noodles and egg dishes. All the recipes are easily made with rice or cauli-rice (for those who don’t tolerate rice) and are simple to follow.
The condiments and curry paste section of this book is really handy because it gives you all the basics you can make for most Thai dishes – everything from coconut milk to sweet chilli sauce. It’s really helpful because you can easily make these and store them in your fridge for future use (not just in Thai dishes but to add some flavour to other foods). It also gives you the recipes for green, red and yellow Thai curry paste, so if you were unable to purchase some ready-made you could always buy the ingredients and make it yourself (storing any leftover mixture either in the fridge or the freezer). Recipes include Jasmine and sticky rice, garlic infused vinegar, beef marinade, oyster sauce, dried chili dipping sauce, cucumber relish and sweet chilli sauce.
The Appetizers and Salads section include a wide range of dishes that can be made as sides or starters, and they include spring rolls, garlic fried prawns, grilled pork or chicken, papaya salad, Pomelo salad, Thai seafood or ground meat salad, spicy snow mushroom salad and green mango salad.
The fried rice, noodles and egg dishes section is really great because it gives both rice and noodle options as well as substitutions if you are avoiding these items. For example the Thai fried rice recipe includes the recipe and ingredients list for how to make it with rice and with cauli-rice. The stir fried rice noodles recipe does the same – it tells you how to make the recipe using rice noodles and a substitute (in this case it uses green or napa cabbage).
If you thought that you couldn’t get any tastier then you’re in for a surprise as there is also a curries and soups section which is separate from the main dishes and includes red, yellow and green curry, Massaman curry, duck curry with fresh fruit, Panaeng curry, spicy northern curry, southern sour curry, sweet and sour chicken and coconut soup, creamy hot and sour prawn soup and sour and spicy prawn with Lemongrass soup!
The next section includes stir-fry and seafood recipes and are relatively quick and easy to prepare. They include sweet basil leaf stir-fry, crab and yellow curry stir-fry, stir-fried pork with curry, shrimp stir-fry with curry, sir-fired Pak Miang, stir-fried mix vegetables, deep-fried fish with Chu Chee curry sauce, deep-fried fish cakes and fish with Tri-flavoured sauce.
Finally we have the desert section of this book, which is the smallest section with just 5 recipes; Fried banana, coconut pancakes, bananas in coconut milk, mango sticky rice and pumpkin recipe however, for me I found this a bonus as I had assumed that it was just meals.
What I Like
Most of the recipes in this book are meals (savoury) which I really like because it means there are plenty of ideas for weekly meals. It’s a great book for those who love takeout food, as it’s something that can be missed when you go paleo (Paleo takeaways sadly just don’t exist!). Once you try any of these recipes you’ll become addicted to trying a new one each weekend. There really is something for everyone, from really fragrant and spicy (creamy hot and sour soup) to mild and simple (Deep fried fish with Thai herbs – which is really delicious!). I have tried the red, green and yellow Thai curry; the deep-fried fish with Thai herbs and the Cashew nut stir fry. All were delicious and have become favourites in our household. One of the best bits about these meals is that they freeze really well, I’ve made the Red/ yellow and Green curries (with a variety of meats from chicken to venison) and they all froze fabulously! This is really important in my household as it means on the days when I struggle with my health (which is most days) but want something to eat while the hubby is at work – I can just bung a portion in the microwave and eat it once it’s cooked through.
Any Down sides?
So, what are the cons with this book? The main and only real gripe I have with this book is the use of ingredients, which isn’t really the books fault. Any Thai cookbook will call for these ingredients – the difficulty is that some of them are more difficult to find if you want them to be paleo friendly. For example many fish sauces, tamarind pastes or curry pastes all have added nasties sugar or are heavily processed and the ones that are suitable (e.g. the red boat fish sauce) are REALLY pricey or just really hard to find! (I almost fainted when I saw how expensive the red boat fish sauce was!) So if you want to try any of these dishes it can take a bit of prep initially before you’re able to get cooking.
However, that said there ARE ways around this, which I discovered when I started to source the various ingredients. Where you live can help or hinder your ability to source the ingredients, for example if you live somewhere where there are an abundance of Asian or Indian shops, chances are you’ll be able to find most of the fresh ingredients that you need (coriander, Lemongrass, chillies), so I would highly recommend you go check these places out. It’s more likely to be the things like the shrimp paste, coconut aminos (used in place of soy sauce), fish sauce and curry pastes that can be difficult to find (nasties free that is!). I sourced all of the brands recommended in Sarah book (through the internet) and checked out their ingredients – then I looked on Ocado (a UK-based online shop) and found that there were a lot of (other brands) available that had the same ingredients that were also paleo friendly. I also checked out the options on good old Amazon because whenever you search an item on there, they’ll always show other brands or similar items. For the UK I would say that Thai Taste is a great brand and is quite easy to find, not to mention decently priced. I used their green, yellow and red massam curry paste and their shrimp paste (they also do a coconut milk too). I also found that online food shops have a better range of fresh ingredients (especially Ocado and Tesco) so it can sometimes be easier to do a food shop online rather than going into the store, as the store can sometimes be out of stock and it then feels like a wasted journey.
A small tip once you manage to find the ingredients you need, to help make it last longer is to freeze it – I bought some (snack sized) food bags and put tablespoons of tamarind past into each one then froze them (remember to write down what it is and the date you froze it). That way if you don’t use up the entire packet once you’ve opened it, it will stay fresh for longer. You can also freeze fresh lemongrass, chilies, shrimp paste, coconut aminos and fish sauce. You can use ice-cube moulds to freeze liquid in – once frozen, pop them out into a freezer bag and keep frozen. With these tips in mind, it means that storing and having the right ingredients to hand is much easier.
Overall I would say that this book is well worth 4 out of 5! The reason for this is because it’s full of meal ideas that are exciting, flavorsome and most of them are really simple to make. I would have given it a whole 5 but I am aware that it could be difficult to source some of the ingredients which may put people off. This would mean you would need to make some of the pastes yourself which involves a lot of prep and that’s before you have even started thinking about cooking the dish! Another factor is specialty diets, those who are low carb, FODMAP or AIP would probably struggle with this book at most recipes use a number of spices, seeds, egg and other ingredients that these diets aim to cut out. However, that is by no means a fault of the book – it’s just one of those things that I thought needs mentioning. For those who are able to eat these foods or don’t follow a special type of paleo diet I would highly recommend buying it. It’s the perfect way to keep meals exciting, ideal for weekends especially for replacing take-away meals and even perfect for entertaining as many of the dishes can be prepared partly in advance.
You can purchase Everyday Paleo Thai Cuisine from Amazon for £22.99 (June 2016)
Other Cookbook Reviews
For other cookbook reviews take a look at the following posts…
Chef Pete Evans
The Ketodiet Cookbook
Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind
** The review above is my own personal opinion and I purchased the book myself **