Graduate Author Book Review: The Thai Soup Secret
BOOK REVIEWED BY MALLORY ACOSTA, NTPHave you ever taken a trip somewhere and fallen in love with the local cuisine? Whether it be the ingredients, the spices, the preparation method, or a combination of all these magical factors—eating in a new place can be an inspirational and sensory delight that you never forget. More often than not, once you return home it proves nearly impossible to recreate the flavors and dishes that made your palate sing abroad when you’re in your own kitchen. After visiting Thailand, author Craig Fear, experienced this cultural culinary enchantment as he relished the presence and taste of traditional Thai soups that were served at every meal. The soups he returned home to in American Thai restaurants hardly even resembled the traditional dishes he enjoyed during his stint as a local. Years later, after becoming a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Craig realized that the soups he fell in love with were not only delicious and dynamic, but they were also incredibly nourishing and a powerhouse food packed with healing benefits. Fueled by his passion for the traditional Thai soups of his travels and his newfound appreciation for just how nutrient dense they can be—Craig set out on a journey to teach others how simply authentic Thai soups could be prepared in their own kitchens and how much health could be gained by enjoying them at home. In his book, The Thai Soup Secret: Transform Your Health with Thailand’s #1 Superfood, Craig uncovers the mysteries behind making traditional Thai soups and proves that it really is a quick, easy food to make yourself without relying on the cheap imitations restaurants serve. Taking the reader through six core “secrets” of Thai soup, he highlights some key elements of these recipes that fellow NTA graduates will appreciate including the healing properties of real bone broth, the digestive benefits of what he terms the “triple gem” ingredients of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, and the need to use a traditional fat such as coconut oil, palm oil, or lard. While his chapter on using white rice and natural sugars in his recipes might not align with everyone’s philosophies, he does provide sound justifications for why he includes them with a nod to the traditions of many Eastern healing systems and cultures that have utilized these ingredients for centuries. Whether or not these ingredients work with someone’s lifestyle choices and bio individuality is up to every individual to decide and the recipes can certainly still be deliciously made without them. One of my favorite aspects of this book was learning about the different preparation methods used in Thailand to prepare soups. The differences between our more western tradition of a long-cooked bone broth and the Thai-style short simmered broth were fascinating and I was very curious to taste the difference. I also loved discovering how to prepare and offer different accompaniments with each soup so my guests could tailor their servings to their exact tastes! The chapter with recipes specifically for “drinking broth” were also inspirational as my family enjoys a warm mug of broth—but I had never really thought about all the fun ways I could season and flavor it. My husband is an enthusiastic Thai soup fan and was anxious to see if we could really make it at home as simply as Craig made it seem—so we decided to put this book to the test with one of the most classically served Thai soups in America, Tom Kha Gai. While Craig includes some wonderful traditional soups that you can’t find outside of Thailand that I am excited to try, we decided the best way to really test the success of these recipes was to measure it against a soup we have tried before. I was also drawn in by the story behind where Craig learned the recipe as it is my dream to enter the kitchens of local families around the world to just see how they cook and learn from their wisdom! Perhaps the most humorous discovery I made when preparing the Tom Kha Gai was that Craig’s claim of all his ingredients being widely and readily available was too true! I journeyed out to the nearest Asian grocery store thinking that would be the only place to find lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and bird’s eye chiles. I was quite disappointed when I came away with kaffir lime leaves and nothing else—but I decided to swing by a nearby standard grocery store just to see what I would find since I rarely shop there. To my delight, everything except bird’s eye chiles was there—so you really can find nearly everything to make these soups without going to a specialty store! For those of you that live in food deserts or very small towns, Craig does provide some great online resources for ordering ingredients too. Armed with everything but the spice, which truthfully was ok with me and my passenger (I am pregnant!), I set to work making my own Tom Kha Gai. I did opt to serve it with some violet rice to make it a bit more substantial of a meal for my family—and making the rice was the most time-consuming part! The soup was composed in layers, adding new elements to the simmer at each stage, and was complete in under 20 minutes. The smell permeating my kitchen from the “triple gem” infused coconut milk broth base was pure bliss and I was intrigued to taste a soup where the vegetables were just briefly simmered as I usually start a soup by sautéing the vegetables for a good 10 minutes—so this preparation method would certainly retain more nutrients than my normal habit! I served up the bowls with the rice on the side and offered lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and coconut sugar as toppings for each person to customize their soup to their preference. Since fish sauce was not a condiment I had on hand and I wasn’t keen on keeping a bottle of it around just yet, I opted to just add some good sea salt to my soup in addition to lime juice, cilantro, and scallions. My husband passed on the salt and went for the coconut sugar, lime juice, and sprinkled in some chile powder to account for our lack of bird’s eye chilis—so we both created very different tasting final versions of the same base soup! Although I was a bit surprised that the smell of the lemongrass, kaffir lime, and galangal came across much more potent than did the actual flavor, the soup was delicious, somewhat light, and easily better than what we have had in restaurants! The real test will happen when I travel to Thailand myself and see how this recipe compares with what the locals serve up—but for now, I will take Craig’s adventures as a credible source and trust that any Thai family would be happy to see this soup appear on their table throughout the day and I am confident your family will too! Next on my list to try is one of the fusion recipes included in a special chapter of the book that mingles the flavors of Thai ingredients with the traditions of other cultures. Given the summer heat we are experiencing right now—I think the Thai Mango Gazpacho will be my next culinary trip in a bowl! Whether you are looking for creative ways to get more broth in your life, or, you want to experience authentic Thai flavors in your own kitchen—The Thai Soup Secret will be a great source of inspiration and delight to all your senses. Grab your copy at Amazon.com and enjoy the tastes of Thailand without the plane ticket! For more information on Craig Fear and his “Fearless Eating” journeys, be sure to check out his blog at www.fearlesseating.net.
ABOUT THE AUTHORCraig Fear is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who specializes in helping others with chronic digestive issues. Craig was part of the first graduating NTP training class on the east coast in 2008. He struggled with his own digestive problems for many years, which inspired him to become an NTP and start his practice, Pioneer Valley Nutritional Therapy, in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 2009. Craig’s dietary philosophy is firmly rooted in traditional foods. He believes in real food from small-scale sustainable farms and the pioneering research of Dr. Weston Price as a starting point for what to eat and why. He started his blog, Fearless Eating, in 2011 (www.FearlessEating.net), wrote his first book, The 30 Day Heartburn Solution, in 2013 (and plans to write many more), and created an online digestive e-course, Fearless Digestion (www.FearlessDigestion.com), in 2014. He lives in Northampton, MA where he works with clients around digestive health. He has authored three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and his most recent release, The Thai Soup Secret.
HOW TO GET YOUR COPIESThe Thai Soup Secret: Transform Your Health with Thailand’s #1 Superfood by Craig Fear, NTP Published 2017 Recipes for 40 easy to make restorative broths. Over the course of several trips, author Craig Fear sampled, photographed, and collected dozens of recipes for re-creation in western kitchens. “Besides being geared towards health and wellness, these recipes are also designed for people with busy schedules and a basic kitchen set up. All the recipes are broth-based with simple, easy-to-follow instructions. I have you covered every step of the way.” – Craig Fear, NTP Buy Your Copy Here
Fearless Broths and Soups by Craig Fear, NTP Published 2015 60 simple recipes for healthful broths and soups. Wonderfully written, incorporating stories from Craig’s journey and his sense of humor, all while encouraging readers to use what they have in their kitchens and create their own fearless broths and soups. Buy Your Copy Here
The 30-Day Heartburn Solution by Craig Fear, NTP Published 2015 It might surprise you that one of the most over perscribed medications are anti-acid medications, and they may be completely unnecessary for most people. Infact, it might be making their digestive problems worse! Craig’s book provides solutions, resources and an explanation about how to heal your heartburn in 30 days. Buy Your Copy Here