In Maenam, chef Angus An shares his West Coast-infused style of Thai cooking

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The recipes in Maenam include snacks, noodles and one-bowl meals, soups, salads, stir-fries, curries, desserts, condiments and cocktails — and range from quick dishes to more involved preparations. An’s fine arts background shines through, not only in the design of the dishes, but in the lighting for the photoshoots with photographer Darren Cheung, his choice of props and the tabletops he built by hand. Helpful process photography details how to prepare lobsters, crabs, and Thai curry pastes from scratch with a stone mortar and pestle.

Thai cooking typically involves relying on your intuition — tasting as you go and depending on your senses to build flavour, An explains. To aid cooks who may be unfamiliar with cooking the cuisine, he includes plenty of sensory cues. The success of a dish rests on knowing what to feel, listen, look, smell or taste for. In his recipe for nahm dtok (grilled beef salad), for example, he notes: “The dressing should be aromatic with the toasted chili powder and taste hot, sour and salty. Mix in more sugar to balance the flavours if needed, but it shouldn’t have a detectable sweet taste.”

Terroir affects the flavour of ingredients, An underscores: Thai basil in Thailand, for instance, is much stronger than its North American-grown counterpart. Tasting and adjusting, rather than simply following quantities listed in a recipe, is essential. “You can make (Thai food) a thousand different ways, season it a thousand different ways, but at the end of the day it has to taste a certain way and it has to taste balanced,” says An. “I want people to try to cook more with their senses and more with their intuition, which is basically what Asian food is about.”

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