My wife and I wanted to learn how to make excellent Thai food. We had tried 2-3 other Thai cookbooks, and made some tasty dishes out of them, but never anything that came close to what we could get at a decent Thai restaurant. Ken Hom's book has changed all that, and is probably the last Thai cookbook we'll ever need. It has all the classic dishes that we were looking for, especially curries and various fried rice dishes. The instructions are basic and easy to follow, with helpful photographs along the way. We're pretty experienced home cooks, but I think someone who was a beginner would be able to make the recipes work, as long as they followed the directions.
And the food! Nothing we've made has disappointed. We've tried 6-8 dishes so far, and everything has been excellent. Honestly, we would have tried more dishes by now, but some of what we tried was so good we just couldn't wait to make it again. We have been especially impressed that the real flavor or Thai food is there--these taste like things we'd order in a good restaurant, and not like something we've made out of a cookbook. That's all the more impressive given that we have had to use some of Hom's suggested substitutes for ingredients we just couldn't find (e.g., lime zest instead of kaffir lime leaves). The red pork curry and classic fried rice were simply outstanding, both an A+; the weakest dish so far has been the tom kha gai, which I'd probably give a B/B+. But we'll be making that one again, even so. As for spiciness: we like our Thai food very spicy, and I find Hom's recipes to be a little bit tame; but it's very easy to just add a little more chili pepper, as desired. Again, every time we decide to cook Thai food, it's a debate between trying another new dish and going back to something we already know we love.
Be advised, the book is published by the BBC, and we had a little trouble finding it in the US. But we had been cooking out of a library copy, and after we'd renewed it too many times we decided we had to have our own; believe me, it was well worth the effort.