Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongest Friends
Clarkson Potter, 2017
I want to like this book more than I do. Or hate it less. Or not be the old crank who is the exact opposite of the target market for both Kris Yenbamroong’s book and restaurant.
Night + Market started as a L.A. drinking spot (with a focus on wine) that served pseudo-Thai food because the chef came from a Thai family, who happened to own a more traditional Thai restaurant next door. Yenbamroong created a menu of simple — let’s call them “Thai-influenced” — fusion dishes that went well with wine. It took a while but the place became astoundingly popular.
I’ve never been but I imagine the place to be bright, loud, and raucous. Maybe a little gritty but you’d write that off to being part of its charm. Maybe feeling like, despite the chef’s “Keep It Simple, Stupid” ethos, that there’s a sensory overload, that there’s just a bit too much going on.
Because this cookbook, for me, feels like there’s too much going on. While the recipes are clear and nicely laid out on a white background, and Yenbamroong has chosen very basic ingredients for most dishes so they’re accessible to anyone cooking from this book, the other parts of the book feel off-kilter. Sections of text that tell about the story of Night + Market all appear in white text on a coloured background (so nobody involved in creating this book really cares if the reader actually reads any of this stuff, right?) Tips and pairings with each recipe show up in either a purple or yellow (!!) font. Photos of the dishes look as if they’ve been taken with flash, making the food look shiny and over-exposed (and occasionally slimy). There’s also no metric measurements although that’s a small thing compared to overall readability.
If I look at only the recipes, sure, I want to cook (and eat) it all. Dishes like Thai Boxing Chicken, Corn Fritters (full of crab and collards, how awesome does that sound?), and Grilled Catfish Tamales (full of Thai flavours, of course) make me hungry just thinking about them. But the book design feels very much like I’ve already eaten and drunk way too much, and that I should maybe call it a night and head home because I’m too old for all of this.