tom kha gai

I could sum up the review of Russ Crandall’s new cookbook, Paleo Takeout, in just three words: BUY IT NOW. You could just quit reading now and jump over to Amazon and order your copy… but first take a second to scroll to the end of this post and check out the sneak preview recipe for Tom Kha Gai so that you’ll have something delicious to make and eat while you wait for your book to arrive!


UPDATE: Congratulations Kathleen F.! Check your email for directions on how to verify your entry.  If you are reading this post before June 29, you can also enter to win a copy at the bottom of this post. Simply post a comment telling me which recipe you are most excited about and then verify your entry using the Rafflecopter widget. Entries will close at midnight on Sunday, June 28 and a winner will be randomly selected and notified on June 29. [Open to US residents only.]

But seriously. You want this cookbook. It is unlike anything else in the paleo-sphere and raises the bar of quality in paleo cookbooks to a new level (and it was already pretty high to begin with!). I was thrilled to get an advance review copy and we have spent the last two weeks drooling over it, cooking from it, and enjoying every bite.

The whole food court is covered

Paleo Takeout includes over 200 recipes that recreate all your favorite takeout dishes and some you probably don’t even know yet are your favorites! The book is divided into four major sections and dishes run the gamut of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Filipino, American, Italian, Mexican, and Greek. You can see the full recipe list here and read below for my thoughts on the recipes we’ve tried and others we are excited to make soon.

Chinese Kitchen

Russ’s recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken is found in this section (as well as on his blog here) and he says is the recipe that started this whole project. Initially, he was going to create an much shorter e-book that focused on recreating classic Americanized Chinese takeout dishes, so it is no surprise that this section is packed full of yummy favorites. So far we’ve made the previously mentioned sweet and sour chicken as well as the fried rice and the hot and sour soup, both of which I documented on Instagram!

My husband is looking forward to trying the kung pao pork and I can’t wait to make my old humble but tasty favorite, beef with broccoli.

Japanese and Korean Favorites

We had the privilege of traveling to Japan last year to visit friends who are stationed over there with the Navy. Our trip was short and we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the local cuisine (and language barriers lead us to ordering using the “point and hope for the best method” sometimes!), but we did have a few delicious dishes that I was excited to see in this section. So far we’ve only had time to make the Japanese curry (S&B Oriental Curry Powder is the only unusual ingredient in this one – otherwise you probably have everything in your refrigerator or pantry already) but I can’t wait to make my own miso soup so I can recreate the traditional Japanese breakfast, and the okonomiyaki – a cabbage filled pancake that we enjoyed at a street fair the very first day we were in Japan.

We haven’t tried any of the Korean dishes yet, but are looking forward to the bulgogi and the different types of kimchi.

Southeast Asia and Beyond

So far, this is our favorite section. The first recipe here is the coconut soup tom kha gai, which I am thrilled Russ gave me permission to share with you even before the cookbook is officially released. You only need a couple specialty ingredients for this one (I’ve put links in the recipe to Amazon, for your convenience) and it is paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) friendly with just one minor modification.

From this section we have already made the Thai red curry, the butter chicken, and the chicken tikka masala. I know I will be making all three of these again, but probably not for a long time because there are so many other tasty dishes here that we can’t wait to try. That includes pad thai, massaman curry (which is apparently not of purely Thai origin, but is an interpretation of a Persian dish… see, this cookbook is going to make you smarter too!), the “faster pho,” and the grilled chicken adobo.

American Classics

This section is a great representation of the American melting pot of cuisine. You’ve got your pizza, your wings, your burgers, and the great American chicken as sandwich, as nugget, and even fried in a bucket. I can vouch for the deliciousness of the pizza and one of the wing variations (there are 20!) and look forward to making the Italian and Mexican American dishes here soon, but my absolute favorite recipe so far is the gyro meat, also well documented on Instagram. I’d buy this cookbook for that recipe alone!

But what about convenience? I don’t have time to cook!

Honestly, is ordering takeout really that fast and convenient? It might be easy to just pick up the phone and let someone else do the cooking, but it isn’t necessarily faster. In the back of the book, each dish is categorized by how much time it takes to make. If you choose one of the “fridge to face in 30 minutes” dishes (Szechuan beef, Thai green curry, even calzones!) or reheat one of the “make-ahead deliciousness” dishes (sweet and sour chicken, burrito bowls, meatballs) you could batch cook and stash in your freezer, you will likely be chowing down in less time than it would take to find your menus, decide what to order, pick up the phone and wait while they put you on hold, drive to the takeout shop or wait for them to bring it to you, and then unpack the order and make sure they didn’t mix up what you asked for. And then what? You sit down and eat food that was mass produced from the cheapest possible ingredients, kept on a steam table or under warming lights for who knows how long, and is likely now lukewarm and soggy.

Consider the alternative scenario… You select a recipe from the huge array of choices in Paleo Takeout, use the healthiest and best ingredients your budget allows and select the options to customize the dish to meet your specific dietary needs, follow Russ’s very clear and easy directions, and then feel great about serving your family a dish that is healthier and probably cheaper than the restaurant takeout version and doesn’t sacrifice flavor in the least.

In fact, if your experience is like ours, you’ll find that many of these dishes taste even better than the so-called “real” thing. I don’t know why that should surprise us – after all, the restaurant versions are scaled for ease of production and economy, and often rely on huge amounts of salt, MSG, sugar, and cheap fats to fool our taste buds. Fresh food made from quality ingredients is always going to be more delicious and satisfying. Plus, I enjoy the food quite a bit more when I know that it is safe for me to eat and that it supports my principles of eating mostly organic produce and meat from animals that have been raised in a humane and sustainable manner.

A few words on ingredients… True, the recipes in this book call for specialty ingredients that are not in most typical American pantries. I happen to live in a city that has a lot of local international markets and could probably get everything locally, but before I reviewed the book I wanted to make sure that I could recommend it even to people who might not have that available to them. Fortunately, in the era of Amazon, virtually everything you need can be ordered online and in your hands in just a couple of days. Russ has even put together a complete shopping list here if you want to just stock your pantry in a single click!

But what about my healing diet?

One of the things I really love about this book is the flexibility built right into it. Take noodles, for example. Noodles are a key element in many of these takeout classics and would therefore make them inherently non-paleo, right? Wrong. In actuality, every dietary restriction is accommodated, from rice noodles to spiralized vegetables to kelp noodles to sweet potato noodles. That means that you can make the noodle dishes whether you are eating a “safe starch” paleo diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), the low-FODMAP diet, following a Whole 30, or even on a strict elimination diet like the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP)!

Additionally, Russ has created an exhaustive and impressive guide to modifying the recipes for both the Whole 30 and for AIP, which you can check out here. These modifications make over 90% of the recipes Whole 30 compliant and 80% AIP-friendly!

Modifying for SCD or low-FODMAP will require you to have knowledge of your own restrictions and some dishes will still be off limits, but you will still find many that you can make and enjoy!

Now, on to that sneak preview recipe I told you about…

Tom Kha Gai recipe from Paleo Takeout

5.0 from 5 reviews
Tom Kha Gai (with AIP Modifications) and a review of Paleo Takeout
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • SOUP BASE:
  • 4 cups Chicken Broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves, roughly torn, or grated zest of 1 lime
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 inches galangal or ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb total), thinly sliced
  • 1 (14 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 6 oz mushrooms (straw, enoki, shiitake, oyster, or white; see note)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • juice of ½ lime (1 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp coconut palm sugar or honey (optional - omit for Whole30)
  • sea salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
  • TO GARNISH:
  • large handful of fresh cilantro, stems included, chopped
  • Thai Chili Oil (omit for AIP)
Instructions
  1. Combine the soup base ingredients in a stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Strain and discard the solids, returning the broth to the stockpot.
  2. Add the chicken to the broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-­low and simmer until just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and mushrooms and simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes, then add the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Taste and add salt and more fish sauce and lime juice if desired.
  3. Serve garnished with cilantro and Thai Chili Oil.
Notes
If using shiitake mushrooms, remove the stems before cooking—they are too tough to eat.
Optional ingredients to consider when adding the mushrooms: Chinese cabbage, bell pepper, and carrots.

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