ONE OF the best ways to soak up a new destination, is to eat and drink like a local (often with the locals!).
And that was just what Austin Bush did when he moved to Thailand 20 years ago on a scholarship to Chiang Mai University.
"During school breaks, I'd travel the country, going to remote places, camera in hand - an effort, I suppose, to wrap my head around the place where I was living," said Bush, originally from Oregan.
He said it didn't take him long to realise "that food is almost certainly the best way to learn about Thailand".
"I was both overwhelmed by and obsessed with Thailand's cuisine, but I also found food a way to improve my language skills, meet people, and learn about the culture."
And now the accomplished photographer and author is sharing his insights, in the stunning new book, The Food of Northern Thailand - a journey into the cuisine and culture of the country's northern regions.
Part coffee-table tome, photographic journal, history book and recipe collection, this beautiful hardback is a must for any fan of Thailand or cooking.
For the book, which is edited by Francis Lam, Bush visited restaurants, roadside stands, libraries, and people’s homes to collect recipes and stories.
"The book is not an encyclopedia of northern Thai food. The recipes included are not meant to define the cuisine, nor are they exhaustive," he writes in the book.
His hope, he says, is that the book serves as a snapshot of the culinary world of northern Thailand as it stands today, of the people, dishes, ingredients, and cooking techniques.
He said he wants it to appeal to people don't cook as well.
As such the book blends richly detailed photography and stories about the region's culinary history, native ingredients and life, as well as recipes that have never been recorded or shared in the English language before.
Known for its herbal flavors, rustic dishes, fiery dips, and comforting noodles, the food of northern Thailand is both ancient and ever-evolving.
In the book locals share their recipes for Muslim-style khao soi (a mild coconut beef curry with boiled and crispy fried noodles) or spiced fish steamed in banana leaves, or the intense, numbingly spiced meat “salads” called laap.
Bush has since worked as a writer and photographer for 20 years, contributing to more than 20 books for Lonely Planet and other publications. He also has a blog about Thai food, click HERE.
And if all that poring over delicious Thai recipes and photos has you hungry for more, Back Roads Touring Company has tours to Thailand and Cambodia.
Details of the eight-day tour to the temples of Thailand and Cambodia and the 13-day Wonders of Thailand tour are now out in the Back Roads Touring Co. 2019 Asia tour brochure.
For details go to www.backroadstouring.com or phone 1300 100 410.