Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native
Joining the locals for lunch at Kao Hom Restaurant in Bangrak.

 

Going NativeThey say, ‘When you want excellent local food, follow the locals’. And if you did that on Samui’s north coast, you’d end up at Kao Hom Restaurant.

 

It’s in Bangrak and if you come out of the Big Buddha temple and turn right it’s about 500 metres from there on the left-hand side, opposite Nara Garden Beach Resort. There’s been a restaurant on this site for a long time but three years ago Khun Lek took it over.

 

She’s from Samui and had a restaurant with the same name in Hua Thanon for many years before locating here. Many of her old customers have followed even though it’s on the other side of the island. And Bangkok Airways have a resort nearby that’s used for their staff and they are regular visitors. One of their senior vice-presidents hosted a formal event recently for local dignitaries and chose Kao Hom as the venue to impress her guests. It’s also the restaurant of choice for many Korean and Chinese visitors who tend to turn up by the coach-load and can be particular about what and where they eat.

 

There’s plenty of parking on the roadside and behind the restaurant. And it’s set back from the road with lots of plants and trees around it. It’s open on all sides which allows a cooling sea breeze to blow through and it’s covered by a huge thatched roof. Bangrak beach is just across the road as is one of the ferry terminals for boats to Koh Pha-Ngan and Koh Tao. And about two hundred metres from the restaurant is one of the island’s busiest markets. Fresh fish is delivered here by local fisherman every morning and there’re dozens of stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables – very handy if you run a restaurant.

 

When you get to Khao Hom, just take a seat and one of the team will bring a menu over. There’s easily seating for one hundred people inside the restaurant and in the bamboo salas around it if you prefer a bit of privacy. At the back is an open kitchen that you can look into and that tells you they have nothing to hide. It’s open from 8:00 am until late in the evening and they do a brisk breakfast trade with both Thai and Western options. The menu is in English and there’re a dozen pages to browse through. Many of the dishes are southern-style recipes and if you go to the back page there’re half a dozen ‘Samui Specialities’ and several other very local dishes peppered throughout the pages.

 

It’s worth taking your time over the menu; it would be easy to miss something. The dishes aren’t listed in the order you might expect (breakfast, starters, main courses and desserts) but then Thais don’t eat like that. On the first page there’s a list of the fresh seafood available and it’s priced by weight. If a whole grilled fish is what you fancy it’s best to ask what they bought that day from the market. Usually they’ll have sea bass, red snapper, mackerel, black and silver pomfret, sand whiting, mullet and crustaceans. On the next page there’s a delicious salted squid, hot and sour local crab and a dish they call spicy fried ‘ehedheub’ (150 baht). I’d never come across the dish or the name before. It’s actually mushrooms that Khun Lek believes are only found on Samui at certain times of the year and she collects them herself. If they are found elsewhere it would probably need a fungi expert to confirm it. As such, they didn’t know if there was an English word for them so the name is a transliteration of what they’re called in Thai. They’re cooked in red curry and coconut and if they’re available you should wish to give them a try.

 

On the next couple of pages there’re good selections of what are called ‘one plate dishes’ (50-60 baht) which are a protein, a sauce and rice. For instance, you could have seafood with chili and basil, pork with garlic and pepper or sweet and sour chicken. These are popular around lunchtime because they’re quick to make and very good value for money for locals who work in the area and are on a break. The rest of the menu is filled with soups (80-150 baht), spicy salads (80-150 baht), curries (110-150 baht), stir-fries (120 baht) and beef, chicken, pork and seafood dishes made in a whole manner of ways. For something a little different, look out for the wild boar with papaya, the hot and sour frog with chamuang leaves, oyster roasted curry, stir-fried squirrel, the yellow curry with fish (very spicy but packed with flavour) and fried mantis shrimp, which are caught nearby.

 

On the back page there are more Samui-inspired creations (95-150 baht), such as spicy seaweed; spicy oysters; spicy urchins, slate crab salad, slate crab and shrimp with coconut cream and fermented bean sauce with shrimp and coconut cream. Some of the dishes do have a kick to them and quite a few may be too spicy for the average Western palate. If you do have a low tolerance for spicy food just ask them to recommend a few dishes that are milder or ask them to make a particular one without as much spiciness.

 

Kao Hom has a great reputation and is known all over the island. The portions are generous, the prices very good and there’re lots of local dishes you won’t come across at many other restaurants. This one is definitely worth going out of your way to find.

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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