Dining Out in Thailand
One of the most popular vacation spots in Southeast Asia is Phuket, Thailand. Not only are Phuket beaches world famous, the island also has great Thai food, with the largest concentration of cafes and restaurants in Phuket Town, a picturesque district in the provincial capital.
Introduction to Phuket Town
Phuket Town is a historic district in Phuket City, the provincial capital of Phuket, Thailand’s largest island and most popular vacation destination.
Many of Phuket Town’s streets – such as Thalang, Phang Nga, Krabi, Dibuk, and Yoawarat – are lined with Sino-Portuguese shophouses and colonial mansions dating back to the 19th century. with wealth created in Phuket’s then booming tin-mining industry.
Many of the heritage structures in Phuket Town have been renovated in recent years, now housing government offices, museums, and shops as well as restaurants, cafes, bars, and coffee houses.
Many of the laborers working in Phuket’s tin mines were Hokkien (or Hakka) emigrants from Southern China. Their cultural influences in Phuket remains strong to this day, and that extends to the island’s culinary landscape.
Restaurant Crawl through Old Phuket
I asked some local foodies at Phuket Foodies OFFICAL to recommend some cafes and restaurants in Phuket Town that they thought visitors to Phuket shouldn’t miss.
Their recommendations follow. Restaurants are listed in alphabetical order.
- Blue Elephant – 96 Krabi Road, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 76 354 355. Hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm; 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm. Serves lunch, dinner, and drinks, focusing on royal Thai cuisine. Featured dishes include Massaman lamb curry, tangerine duck salad, and green chicken curry. The restaurant runs a cooking school. I took a class at their outlet in Bangkok, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
- China Inn Cafe and Garden Restaurant – 20, Thalang Road, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: Hours: 10.30 am to 6.30 pm. Serves lunch, dinner, drinks, and coffee, with a multi-cuisine focus. Recommended dish: prawns wrapped in crispy noodles.
- Flavor Phuket Old Town – 66 Yaowarat Road, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: 66 84 843 1613. Hours: 6 pm to 11 pm. Serves dinner and drinks, with a focus on Belgian and European cuisine.
- Khun Jeed Yod Pak – 31 Phangnga Road, Tambon Talat Yai, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 83 392 8112. Hours: 9.30 am to 8.15 pm. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a focus on Thai fast food.
- Kopitiam by Wilai – 18 Thalang Road, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 83 606 9776. Hours: 11 am to 5 pm; 6.30 pm to 9 pm. Serves Chinese and Thai food. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks. Famous for Phuket Style Baba-Nyonya (Peranakan) Food.
- Maimorn Cuisine – ground floor, Central Floresta, Wichit, Phuket Town, Phuketk Thailand. Tel: +66 86 952 7340. Hours: 10 am to 10 pm. Serves lunch, dinner, drinks, and coffee. Famous for Phukt lobster, stir-fried crab with lime sauce, phad Thai, stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, stewed pork belly, fried shrimp with tamarind sauce, and naam-prig goong siab. For dessert try the the durian with sticky rice and coconut milk.
- Natural Restaurant – Bangkok Road 62/5 Soi Phutorn, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 76224287 or +66 762214037. Hours: 10.30 am to 23.30 pm. Serves Thai and international dishes. Famous for deep fried soft skin crab, fresh oysters, and tom yam kung.
- One Chun Café n’ Restaurant – 48/1Thepkrasattri Road, Talat Yai, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 76 355 909. Hours: 10 am to 10 pm. Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks, with a focus on Thai food.
- Raya Restaurant, Muang Phuket – 48 New Dibuk Road, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 76 218 155. Hours: 10 am to 10 pm. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a focus on Thai food. The curry crab is recommended.
- Smokin’ Fish – 156/49 Phangnga Road, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: 66 76 609 331. Hours: 5 pm to 10 pm. Serves dinner with a focus of steaks, burgers, salads, and pasta.
- Suay Restaurant Phuket Town – 50/2 Takuapa Rd, Talat Nuea, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 87 888 6990. Hours: 5 pm to 11 pm. Serves dinner and drinks, with a focus on Thai food. Famous for tuna tartar Esarn style, steamed salmon in rice noodle with yellow curry, and lamb chops and foie gras. For dessert try the mango sticky rice spring rolls with black sesame ice cream.
- Surf & Turf by Soul Kitchen – 115 Phang-nga Road, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Tel: +66 89 104 7432. Hours: 6 pm to 10.30 pm. Serves dinner with a focus on New Age Western fusion food.
A reader in Phuket, who would prefer to remain anonymous, messaged me the following inside information that might be of interest to budget-minded foodies: “Another point maybe worth including is that Raya and One Chun have basically the same menu, and operate from a shared kitchen. Raya attempts fine dining service, One Chun doesn’t, and the prices are lower last time I went.” Thanks, buddy, for the tip!
Phuket Town Street Markets
Some of the best food throughout Thailand can be found on the streets and alleys of cities and towns, and Phuket is no exception.
Not only is the food served at street stalls good, it’s downright cheap! And if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy watching it prepared before your very eyes!
Here are two of the most popular street markets in Phuket Old Town.
- Phuket Walking Street – a 350-metre stretch of road lined with Sino-Portuguese shop houses comes alive on Sunday with stalls selling souvenirs, local handicrafts, and snacks. There is sometimes live entertainment. Thalang Road, Phuket Town, Phuket. Open Sunday from 4 pm to 10 pm.
- Phuket Indy Market – Relatively small, Phuket Indy Market has vendors selling their own creations along with the usual street market fare. Limelight Avenue, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand. Open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 4 pm to 10 pm.
What to Order in Phuket Town
As an island in the Andaman Sea, Phuket is a paradise for seafood lovers, and you will find freshly caught fish, prawns, lobster, crab, oysters, squid, and other types of seafood on the menus of eateries across the island.
In addition to standard Thai dishes such as Tom Yan Goong and Phad Thai, Hokkien culinary influences remain strong in Phuket. As a result, Hokkien-inspired dishes can be found on the menus of many of the island’s restaurants and cafes.
Keep in mind that there are significant regional differences in Thailand, and chefs in Phuket can have a heavy hand with chilies, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I adore spicy food and once ordered a dish with three chilies next to it on the menu. The waitress asked if I would like the chef to tone it down a bit, and I said no.
She warned me that “Phuket spicy” was hotter than “Thai spicy” and urged me to let her ask the chef to reduce the heat, but I insisted that I liked spicy food.
OMG! The dish WAS, in fact, very delicious, but the level of heat defies description. I have NEVER tasted a dish that spicy before or since.
Ten of my personal favourite dishes follow: the first five dishes reflect Hokkien influences; the last five can be found on menus throughout Thailand, but I particularly like the way they are prepared in Phuket.
Look for these dishes on the menus of cafes and restaurants in Phuket Town.
Moo Hong Phuket
Stewed pork neck with black mushrooms and bok choy sauce, a.k.a. Moo Pork Phuket, was highly recommended by the server at Yai Yai Kitchen at the Proud Phuket Hotel in Northern Phuket. I must say, it tasted MUCH better than the description on the menu, and I absolutely loved it. Make sure to order some rice to soak up that pungent gravy!
Gaeng Klew Wan Moo
Green curry with crispy eggplant, red chilies, and basil leaves, a.k.a. Gaeng Klew Wan Moo, is usually made with either chicken, pork, or fish. I tried the chicken version at Yai Yai Kitchen, and I loved it. Always make sure to order rice, because there is LOTS of gravy.
Pla Tom Som
A Southern Thai sour soup with sea bass that has been seasoned with tamarind, Pla Tom Som had a rich flavour. I sampled it at Yai Yai Kitchen, and I loved the flavour of the broth and velvety texture of the sea bass.
Thai springs rolls filled with meat, prawns, vegetables, and rice noodles wrapped in crunchy wrappings that are fried to crunchy tastiness. I learned how to make this mouth-watering dish at the The Andaman Kitchen at the Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach. Light and fresh, it would make the perfect snack or appetizer.
Mee Sapam is a fried noodle dish made with Hokkien style egg noodles, which are thick and yellow in colour. Named after a village on the Southern Thai island of Phuket, Mee Sapam can be made with seafood, chicken, beef, or pork – or with just vegetables. I leaned how to make this dish at The Andaman Kitchen at the Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach
Tom Yam Goong
Tom Yam Goong is a sweet and sour soup made with coconut milk, red chilies, mushrooms, herbs, and other spices. There are numerous variations. Made with seafood, it is called Tom Yam Talay, made with chicken it is called Tom Yam Gai, made with pork ribs it is called Tom Yam Kradook. I particularly liked the tom yam goong I sampled at Yai Yai Kitchen, which was topped with a giant tiger prawn. Just wish they would remove the shell before serving it!
Popular across Southeast Asia, satay is hard to beat thanks to that yummy peanut based dipping sauce. It usually comprises chunks of chicken, beef, or pork, which have been cooked on skewers. The sauce of the mixed satay I sampled at Yai Yai Kitchen was so good, I ordered more to consume at my hotel room that evening. It went very nicely washed down with a glass of ice cold Chardonnay!
Green Papaya Salad
Green papaya salad is popular across Thailand, and the version I tried at Phen’s Restaurant Bar and Coffee in Northern Phuket was to die for.
Pineapple rice, a.k.a. pineapple fried rice, usually includes scrambled eggs, pork floss, crumbled peanuts, and other ingredients. The version I tried at at Sea Beach Bar and Restaurant in Northern Phuket was delicious.
Yam Nuea Yang
I learned how to make Thai style grilled beef salad, a.k.a Yam Nuea Yang, at Yai Yai Kitchen. It was light and refreshing, a perfect and easy-to-prepare meal.
What to Wash It Down With
Thailand has some yummy drinks those mouthwatering Thai dishes. Pictured clockwise from left: Thai style iced milk tea, fresh coconut juice, mango smoothie, and Thai-style iced lemon tea.
What to Have for Dessert
Roti pancakes are very popular at resturants in Phuket Town. The dough is a mix of flour, egg, condensed milk, sugar, and salt.
The filling can be pineapple, mango, or other types of fruit. Sometimes they are topped with thick coconut milk or ice cream on top.
Roti pancakes make an excellent snack or dessert. The best ones are sold by street-side hawkers.
How to Get There
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