Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native
Joining the locals in Chaweng for lunch at Daeng’s Restaurant.


Going NativeEach month our photographer, Khun Grit, and I take a wander around the island. Our purpose is to drop into a local Thai restaurant that visitors to the island probably wouldn’t know about, and try it out for ourselves. They tend to be places that locals and expats who live nearby frequent, have traditional Thai fare and are good value for money.


Our travels often take us down to the south of the island and over to the west coast. However, this month we popped into a bustling part of Chaweng off the Beach Road and had lunch at Daeng’s Restaurant. It’s easy enough to find, if you are on the lake road with the Pizza Company, McDonald’s and Starbucks on your right and the lake on your left then continue on to the top of the road. At the mini-roundabout, turn right and it’s about 200 metres along on the right-hand side, 20 metres before a 7-11 store. You can park up on the opposite side of the road or there’s a little paved road down the side of the restaurant that you can get a car down and you can park up around the back.


Khun Daeng has owned and managed restaurants for more than twenty years in her native Chaiyphum in the north-east of the country and also in Bangkok, and for the last ten years, here on Samui. In that time, she’s had several restaurants in the same area and moved into this building nearly a year ago after her last restaurant was washed out in floods. There’re two aspects to the restaurant, one is traditional Thai and Issan cuisine with a few Western dishes thrown into the mix. And the other is a ‘5 Star’ chicken franchise. Over the course of a month she sells more than 1,200 whole basted and roasted chickens and ducks (140-200 baht) cooked on a rotisserie plus thousands of Thai-style snacks on sticks (20-25 baht) from this part of the operation. Mostly it’s take-away, although customers are more than welcome to sit down over lunchtime with many locals who often take half of it back to their workplace for an afternoon nibble.


Inside the restaurant there’s half a dozen tables with free water available. And they’ll bring over some glasses with ice for you. They also have bottled water and soft drinks (15-30 baht), tea and coffee (20 baht) and beers from 50 baht. Khun Daeng does all the cooking, and most of the talking, both in Thai and in English. And she seems very comfortable cooking on the wok, serving take-away chicken and conducting conversations with three different tables – all at the same time. If it’s busy, just take a seat and she’ll be right with you.


The menu is in English and there’re around 25 dishes on it, with many offering a choice of having the dish with chicken, pork, seafood or vegetables. Curries such as Thai green and red, Penang and massaman are 60-80 baht and are top sellers. And there is a whole range of stir-fry dishes with garlic and black pepper, fried basil and chilies, sweet and sour, oyster sauce and with cashew nuts (60-70 baht). As you would expect there’re also plenty of noodle dishes (50-60 baht) and traditional Thai soups (70-80 baht) any one of which is a meal in itself.


She also has classic, very spicy, Issan dishes like larb moo and som tam (40-50 baht) and prawn tempura (70 baht). And a couple of Western dishes that she makes for some of her regular expat customers. Cheeseburger and chips, roast chicken and chips and battered fish and chips are all 120 baht. And the latter has proved just as popular with Thai customers. “I’ve been making fish and chips for many years for British customers and a while ago some of my local Thai customers decided to try it, now they order it all the time and love dipping their chips in mayonnaise. There’re no cultural barriers when it comes to tasty food.”


Most days she’ll have some additional specials on depending on what she sees at the morning markets. Sometimes it’s whole fish or ribs with tamarind sauce and every day she makes deep-fried bananas and ice-cream for ‘Big Alan’, one of her very regular customers. He’s a personal trainer and pops in several times a day between training sessions and as he’s burning up quite a few calories during the day he can indulge himself in some sweet treats. None of the specials are on the menu as they change every day but you can simply ask about them. And if there’s a particular Thai dish you like but isn’t on the menu, again just ask and if she has the ingredients she’ll make it for you. Lots of her Thai customers have ‘off-menu’ items, although it’s more about making certain dishes just the way they like them.


Her son and daughter-in-law, Khun Ton and Khun Puuey, work with her and her eighteen-month old granddaughter, Lily, is usually running around as well. You can tell that family is very important to her from all the pictures and photographs on the walls. And she’s very proud of her daughter who is studying medicine at university in Bangkok, although she’s made to earn her keep in the restaurant in the holidays. Amongst the family photographs, snapshots of customers and pictures of past kings there’s one that stands out. It’s a photograph of Khun Daeng with the former world snooker champion, Stephen Hendry. He was playing some exhibition pool matches on the island a few years ago and she had the chance to play him and nearly beat him. She potted all seven of her balls in a row but missed the black and Stephen Hendry naturally then cleared up. It seems she’s just as accurate with a pool cue as she is with a chopping knife.


Daeng’s Restaurant is open from 10:00 am until 10:00 pm every day of the week. The food is fresh, delicious, delivered promptly and always with a smile and is good value for money. And that is the essence of a great little local restaurant.


Johnny Paterson


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