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Book CoverReviews of It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking

by Kasma Loha-unchit

It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking by: Kasma Loha-unchit, Pomegranate Artbooks, May 1995 (224 pages, $29.95), Softcover, ISBN: 0876543565. Now out of print. (Try Amazon for a used copy.)

See also more information on It Rains Fishes.

What the Food Experts Say

Library Journal, July 1998

Not just a collection of recipes, this remarkable cookbook explains the relationship between food and life in Thailand, as well as its traditions and culture. Each recipe includes notes and pointers that will help both novice and experienced chefs.

– On page 55, July 1998, Library Journal

Cookbook Author Michele Anna Jordan

The book is one of the most delightful and informative books on food I have ever read.

– in her new cookbook  California Home Cooking: American Cooking in the California Style, (Boston, Massachusetts: The Harvard Common Press, 1997). Michele Anna Jordan is the writer and author of nine cookbooks.

Bay Area Expert Narsai David

In San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 1996.

Kasma's new book, It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai cooking instantly became my favorite book of Southeast Asian cuisine. Her approach is to lead the reader through a series of steps as if she were the most patient teacher. And in fact, that is exactly what she is. I developed a better understanding of the relationship of lime juice, fish sauce and hot peppers in Thai cooking after reading one page of her book. (See Exercise on balancing flavors.)

On KCBS-AM, August 2, 1995

Here are the legends, traditions and joys of Thai Cooking. I'm Narsai David to say this new book titled It Rains Fishes is first of all a really, really pretty book to look at. It has lots of full-page watercolors illustrating it and more than that the design and layout of the book is just beautifully done.

Now I tend to look at cookbooks to read the ingredient list and find ideas; that's the primary function of a cookbook for me. But this cookbook I want to read from cover to cover because I believe I can learn what Thai cooking is all about, unlike any other book that I've seen.

Here's a section called "An Exercise in Balancing Flavors." You chop some garlic and either Thai chilies or jalapenos together with a mortar and pestle, then you add some fish sauce, then you taste it as a reference point. Then you add some freshly squeezed lime juice and you taste it again and you keep going through these stages so that you understand how the layers of flavor are built up. Now when I look at these ingredient lists to the recipes, I just know these recipes are going to work and they're delicious.

– Narsai David

Seattle Restauranter Christine Keff

Flying Fish Logo

I think It Rains Fishes is one of the best cookbooks of all time. I think everyone should read this book!

– Christine Keff of Flying Fish restaurant at 2234 First Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98121, (206) 728-8595. Flying Fish is one of the leading seafood restaurants in Seattle where owner and chef Keff is dedicated to helping bridge the gap between Eastern and Western Cuisines.

New York Food Writer Lynn Fredericks

Both the Chef James Chew [formerly with Typhoon, in New York] and myself have been quite taken with Ms. Loha-unchit's writing. The entire spirit of the book, its reverential nod to Thai traditions and its many types of practitioners, from aged villagers to modern urban cooks come alive through her vision and enthuse the reader about everything Thai.

– Lynn Fredericks

Simply Seafood Magazine

Long-time cooking teacher and native of Thailand, Kasma Loha-unchit has written a wonderful book that tells a tale of the food and culture of Thailand. It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking is more than a cookbook. In addition to recipes, it offers information about some of Thailand's building-block ingredients and their significance in Thai society and lore. The tile itself is an example, referring to a myth that describes a time of plenty, when luscious fish"fall from the sky" during the rainy season. Among the many seafood recipes you'll find her Hot and Sour Squid Salad and Steamed Striped Bass with Chili-Lime Sauce.

Simply Seafood, Fall 1995.

Online Reviews

It Rains Fishes is a wonderful example of a cookbook that relates a nation's cuisine in terms of the culture that creates it. The book is as much a testament to the author's love of Thailand as it is a presentation of Thai recipes. You can enjoy reading it even if you never cook a single dish. But if you do choose to take it into the kitchen, you will find the recipes straightforward and obviously refined by many years of implementation by students. Perhaps the most valuable lesson is the author's description of how Thai dishes are put together, less by recipe than by balancing the five dimensions of taste (sweet, salt, bitter, sour, hot). One cannot recreate Thai dishes with a quarter teaspoon of this and an ounce of that. It must be done in the moment by taste. That very philosophy, along with the use of fresh local ingredients, underlies much of New American cooking. The book's downfall, then, is obvious – the availability of ingredients local to Thailand. If you live in an area with a good collection of Asian markets, you might have some luck. But if you rely on the "Asian" section of your local supermarket, you won't. It's pretty much that simple.

– Stephen Sykes, writing a customer review at Amazon.com. (Follow the customer reviews link.)

A beautiful book from start to finish.

– Kristin D. Lahmeyer, at Sally's Place, a great food, travel and wine resource.

More Than a Cookbook Kasma Loha-Unchit's cookbook has everything you'd expect in a cookbook, great recipes and a good index. But it has even more. It has stories and Thai traditions intertwined with the foods she's talking about. For people like me, who enjoy reading a cookbook before I even start to cook... you'll enjoy the wonderful stories and the beautiful artwork throughout the book. It Rains Fishes is a Julia Child Cookbook Award winner, and one look will tell you why. Kasma's stories and recollections made me care about the people she speaks of, and brought a new understanding of how cuisine and culture are inextricably entwined. . . . This is also one of the best Thai cookbooks to outline technique. In reading the 'Notes and Pointers', included with most recipes, one feels like a dear friend standing nearby was advising me. Kasma includes all of those Thai dishes that we've come to love - Pad Thai, hot and sour, curries, and more! This is a cookbook that will be savored in many ways, and I consider it the definitive Thai cookbook in my collection of over 1,200 cookbooks.

– Perry Lowell (Perry_Lowell_FM@msn.com), MSN's Cooking Community Manager.

The recipes are only part of the fun of this compendium of information about the land, people, and culinary traditions of Thailand.

– From Book News, Inc., 02/01/96.

So much more than a cookbook . . . Very detailed analysis of all the many flavors involved and information about each ingredients so that you gain a deep insight into the way Thai flavors come together . . . this aspect of the book alone make the book worth buying . . . I really felt I was getting a very complete lesson in thai cooking from a master. The author's love and spirit and mastery just pours from the page.

and

I enjoy cooking and entertaining and of the several Thai books that I own this has been the most useful and informative. Her enthusiasm for her food and people is habit forming.

– Selected from 11 online reviews at Amazon.com. (Follow the customer reviews link.)
The average rating of the 9 reviews is 5 stars out of 5.

See also more information on It Rains Fishes.

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