You might be forgiven for thinking that this oversize cookbook belongs on the coffee table rather than in the kitchen, in the same way that you might assume the Issaya Siamese Club restaurants - in Bangkok and Hong Kong - serve watered down versions of the hot-spicy-sour-sweet cuisine that Thailand is known for.
You'd be wrong on both counts. The dishes served at Issaya (the original in Bangkok is No 39 on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list) might have moved from the street into lavish surroundings, but all of the vivid flavours have been retained. And the cookbook, with its lovely photos, is a reflection of Ian Kittichai's cuisine.
The chef, whose full name is Pongtawat Chalermkittichai, started cooking with his mother, who ran a food cart in Bangkok. He then worked at high-end restaurants such as Claude's (in Sydney, Australia), French Laundry (in the Napa Valley, California) and El Bulli (in Spain).
The presentation of the dishes has been slightly updated, but they are still recognisably Thai (an emphasis on appearance has always defined the cuisine). And don't fret about Kittichai using the modernist techniques he learned at El Bulli - there's not a sphere or foam in sight. Even the slow-cooked dishes are made the old-fashioned way - in a pot on the stove over a low flame, rather than in an immersion circulator, while the ice creams are untouched by liquid nitrogen.
Within these pages are recipes for green curry paste; red curry paste; Thai ceviche-style salmon; spring rolls filled with soy sauce-marinated bean curd, jicama, Chinese sausage and spring onion; Chiang Mai sausages with northern Thai chilli dip; banana blossom and heart of palm salad with crispy shallots and roasted peanuts in chilli jam dressing; grilled beef salad; claypot-baked multigrain rice; crispy tofu in a sweet chilli peanut dressing; pork rib noodle soup; seared scallops with pork belly relish; deep-fried soft shell crab with salted egg sauce; and jasmine flower flan.
Issaya Siamese Club Cookbook - Innovative Thai Cuisine by Chef Ian Kittichai
Text by Joe Cummings