Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native

Joining the locals for lunch at Bang Kao Seafood in the south of Samui.

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This month’s recommended local Thai restaurant is rather special. For one thing, it’s probably the oldest continuously run restaurant on the island. Secondly, the food, especially the fresh seafood, is fantastic. And thirdly, and by no means least, the owners just got married on the 1st of March (the restaurant will be closed on the 1st and 2nd of March).

      Bang Kao Seafood is now run by Khun Jongrak and his new wife, Khun Sirinapaporn. Before that Khun Jongrak’s brother operated it for a while. And more than 30 years ago, his mum opened the restaurant for the local villagers and the very occasional backpackers that somehow managed to find it as they wandered around the island. Nowadays, it’s much easier to find and many locals and long-term expats regard it almost as a second home. To get there is quite straightforward: follow the ring-road past Lamai and through Hua Thanon and you’ll come to a left-hand turn signposted as the 4170. There’re also signs here for the Tiger Zoo and Aquarium. After another five kilometres, you’ll come to a crossroads where you turn left and follow this road for 800 metres which will bring you right to the restaurant and the beach.

       It’s a beautifully serene part of the island with wonderful views of Koh Taen and Koh Matsum in the background. And you can take a nice stroll along a very quiet stretch of beach and hardly see another soul. At the entrance to the restaurant you’ll be greeted by Khun Sirinapaporn and two of their pets. A brightly coloured parrot that likes to squawk and a cheeky little monkey that has far too much energy. Both are very friendly and children can pet them quite happily. The little monkey is very fast and can leap from the ground up onto your shoulder without any effort. It does seem to love long hair and pretty much anything that’s shiny, including bald heads (you’ve been warned).

       Most of the restaurant is covered, giving plenty of shade. And along with half a dozen tables inside, there’re several more on the beach. Ban Kao Seafood opens at 8:00 am and closes around 8:00 pm and serves both Thai and Western-style breakfasts. You can start the day with a nice fry-up with juice, toast and coffee for 140 baht or go Thai with a big bowl of rice soup with pork or a filled omelette, each being 70 baht. They have a steady stream of customers throughout the day and the menu has something for everyone. Delicious spicy Thai salads are around 90 baht, coconut milk and spicy lemongrass soups are 85-130 baht and there’re plenty of noodle dishes and various curries for 50-90 baht. And there’s a whole page of Thai favourites, like sautéed chicken, pork or seafood in a choice of styles. And there’s an excellent fried rice dish with local crab. Khun Jongrak is a keen fisherman and the restaurant has a range of whole grilled fish on offer depending on what’s been caught that day.

       In addition, they have a range of sandwiches and pasta dishes (85-95 baht) and a few Western creations that go down well with the expat community. Top sellers are fish and chips (170 baht), chicken Maryland (170 baht) and a big mixed grill for just 180 baht. And beers start at just 50 baht a bottle. When we were there recently, our photographer, Khun Grit, and I tried out four dishes. We had a huge plate of prawn tempura with a sweet chili dip; a whole snapper with sweet and sour that just fell off the bone; a succulent green curry that had a lovely creaminess to the sauce; and a spicy seafood salad that had just enough kick to it to make you want more. All four of the dishes were fantastic and we cleared the plates, although it did take some time as the portions are generous.

       You can actually make a day of it down here as they also run boat tours over to the two neighbouring islands some 20 minutes or so from the shore. Leaving at 10:00 am you take a traditional long-tail boat to Koh Taen where you can explore the island, go snorkeling and try your hand at fishing. And then it’s over to Koh Matsum for a picnic lunch on the deserted beach (no-one lives on this little island). After another swim and snorkel around the reefs, it’s back to shore for 3:00 pm. This great excursion costs just 1,200 baht per person (1,000 baht without the fishing) and that includes all the gear you need, a picnic lunch and soft drinks. And if you do catch some fish, they’ll happily barbecue them for you for free back at the restaurant.

       It’s also possible to stay over for a night on the other island, Koh Taen, which they can arrange for you. The island just has a small group of fishermen and their families living on it and one restaurant. There’s no electricity except for an hour or two in the evenings, no cars, no motorbikes, no loud blaring music and no dogs. But you do get miles of deserted beaches to yourself and peace and quiet. And on one side of the small island there’s a mangrove forest with a well-built boardwalk running through it so that you can get close to nature.

       Khun Jongrak and Khun Sirinapaporn are wonderful hosts that make everyone feel very welcome. Their restaurant serves delicious food at great value for money prices and the views are simply beautiful. Go out of your way to stop by the restaurant and relax for a while. And do congratulate the newlyweds, they deserve every blessing.

 

Johnny Paterson


 


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