Born in Bangkok, where she spent several years of her life, author Kay Plunkett-Hogge is, I think it’s fair to say, obsessed with Thai food. She has spent much of her life since those blissful childhood days living and visiting Thailand for work and for pleasure. Many who’ve met her call her ‘na farang hua jao Thai‘ – the foreign-faced girl with the heart of a Thai – testament to the depth of her connection with the country and its people.
For decades, Kay has collected recipes from across the the country, aided hugely by her fluency in the language and culture. She’s tweaked and perfected these, and developed her own for the ones that were kept secret, finally sharing her delicious body of work in Baan: Recipes and Stories from my Thai Home.
Translating the book’s title, ‘Baan‘, is tricky, since there’s not one single word in English which incapsulates it fully. Think of baan as your home and hearth, though it’s more than a literal reference to your physical house – it can also refer to your local community or village.
The 120 recipes in the book are not just those of Kay’s own home, however. She has elicited recipes from every corner of Thailand, from the tribal villages of the Tai Yai and Akha people in the remote mountains of the North of Thailand, to the fishermen of Coastal Ranong, and from stall holders, chefs and even taxi drivers all around the country.
The recipes have all been tested extensively in Kay’s domestic London kitchen, and they are readily achievable for ordinary home cooks. In recipes that traditionally include a hard-to-find ingredient, Kay suggests a suitable substitute. Occasionally where an elusive ingredient is central to the dish, she advises to skip that recipe unless you can get some. Recipes are practical and straightforward; this is very much about home cooking, not the food of fancy restaurants, making it perfect for simple suppers, as well as dinner with friends.
The book is structured by type of dish, prefaced by an introduction, and a guide on how to build a Thai menu or meal depending on occasion and how many you’re feeding. Dishes are presented in chapters covering Aharn Lan Snacks; Rice and Noodles; Curries; Soups and Braises; Stir-fried and Deep-fried; Grilled, Steamed and Baked; Yums, Laarps and Tums; Desserts; and Dipping Sauces and Relishes.
My mass of little paper bookmarks against all the recipes I want to make looks like a frenzied Mohican thrusting upwards from the book! I’ve tagged simple dishes like crispy pork laarp balls, marinated meat on sticks, Hua Kalumpee Tod Nam Pla (Cabbage stir-fried with Fish sauce), three variations on Stir-fried Pak Khana (Chinese Broccoli), Deep-fried Chicken inspired by Soi Polo Restaurant, and Kai Jeow (Thai Omelette), to familiar favourites such as Sai Oua (spiced Northern Thai sausage), Khao Pad (fried rice), Kow Soi (Chiang Mai curried noodles), Curries such as duck red curry, yellow curry, Penang curry, jungle curry, Pad Pak Boong Fai Daeng (Stir-fried morning glory), different regional versions of Laarp and Som Tum, and the wonderful Pad Krapow Moo (Pork Stir-fried with Holy Basil), and then there are the dishes that are wholly new to me, from Ma Hor (Galloping Horses) to Kai Pa Lo (Braised Pork, Eggs and Kale), and Nuea Tom Ken (slow-braised Ox Cheek), and so many more.
Many of the recipes are illustrated with photographs, simple images full of colour and temptation. There are plenty of photos from Kay’s personal photo album too, from childhood onwards, including Kay and her own rescued elephant Bo-That!
I love the personal nature of the book, with many of the recipe introductions sharing insights not only into the dish and how its made, eaten and enjoyed locally, but into Kay’s experiences in Thailand and the relationships she has built, both fleeting and long-lasting.
I have known Kay online for many years (courtesy of the huge London food community that exists on Twitter) and first met her in person back in 2012 when she was writing the 4th Leon cookbook, Family and Friends, in which there were four pages featuring my mum’s recipes (which had been on the Leon menu in the preceding year) and mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen. In the years since then, Kay and I have met at lunches and PR events, and we continue to chat online. I was particularly grateful for Kay’s list of restaurant recommendations ahead of our trip to Thailand last year, all those we tried were amazing.
With many books under her belt, including Make Mine a Martini, Leon: Family and Friends (see below), Heat: Cooking With Chillies, A Sherry & A Little Plate of Tapas, Adventures of a Terribly Greedy Girl, Aperitivo: Drinks and snacks for the Dolce Vita, and The Art of the Party, Baan feels like the book that many of the others were leading up to, a book that shares Kay’s culinary soul!
I’ll be sharing three recipes from the book with you soon for Kay’s Ma Hor (Galloping Horses), Pad Krapow Moo (Pork Stir-fried with Holy Basil), and Kai Pa Lo (Braised Pork, Eggs and Kale).
We have three copies of Kay’s Baan: Recipes and Stories from my Thai Home to give away to readers of Kavey Eats. The prizes include delivery to a UK address. Please click here to enter and for terms and conditions
Kavey Eats received a review copy of Baan: Recipes and Stories from my Thai Home. Published by Pavilion Books, RRP £20. Image credit: Louise Haggar.