Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native

Joining the locals for lunch at Samui Paleang restaurant.


18Going Native articles are about finding small local venues that you, the tourist, may not normally come across. Their prices are unbeatable, and eating at them you get a true sense of what it's like to dine as a local. Today's restaurant opened just a couple of months ago, so this is fresh, local knowledge that you can enjoy, thanks to the extra vigilant Wining & Dining team, who keep their eyes peeled for new and interesting restaurants. Many tourists that come to Samui feel it's a risk to just explore the island willy nilly, in case they don't come across anything - or worse, get lost. But if you've got a tried and tested personal recommendation, and directions to boot, you can't go wrong. And that's where we come in.

    An unassuming façade is very common for Going Native venues, and this month's pick, Samui Paleang, is no exception. But at least in this case they've got some English signage – which is not always the case. Whilst the restaurant's name itself may not be in English, there are some proudly displayed, roadside 'specials' chalkboards that are. Samui Paleang is located on the main ring-road between Chaweng and Chaweng Noi, near the northernmost turn off to Chaweng Beach Road, close to Bangkok Hospital Samui. An orange sign and adjoining car park will help you spot it. It's got a traditional dried palm leaf roof, which further enforces the local theme.

      The décor inside is super-local too, with concrete floors and plastic and wooden tables and chairs. A lot of local venues see the benefit of incorporating ample greenery in their interior spaces, and Samui Paleang is no exception. Potted plants of all shapes and sizes are dotted around the restaurant, adding ambience and a natural vibe. Running through the centre of the floorspace is a fish pond, complete with rocks and leafy features. It's all open air and cooled by a lovely natural breeze - as is the case with most local restaurants - so you get a real sense of place.

       But it's not all about the rustic elements here, they've also got a big flat-screen TV mounted on the wall for those all important TV fixtures that customers couldn't bear to miss, as well as speakers set up for music - be it ambient or for a party. Hanging on the wall behind the TV are assorted pictures of the Thai royal family, and a big one of the King - a feature very typical of local venues to show respect. By these tributes, is a fully stocked, double-door fridge filled with soft drinks and beers. Each table comes already equipped with two bottles of water and napkins, all the essentials for someone arriving on a scorching hot day on Samui.

       An open kitchen allows you to see the chefs cooking up your orders, and on the roadside section of it are large glass boxes displaying fresh fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that the cooks will be using to rustle up your local Thai grub. The specials boards sit below them, resting on the pavement, and display the favourite dishes of the chef and owners - pad Thai, papaya salad, noodle soup and green curry, to name a few. This may be a local venue, but there's nothing too scary up there, it's mainly dishes you'll recognize. The chefs buy in the fruit, veg and fish fresh every day, so the specials menu reflects what was at the market that very morning.

       And then there are the prices. The average price of a dish at Samui Paleang ranges from 45 baht to around 79 baht, depending mainly on if it has meat in it, and if so, what kind. Something like 'Fillet of Snapper in Garlic Butter with French Fries' is a little more, at 149 baht, but that's still an absolute bargain.

       The main menu covers both Thai and Western dishes, a real mix, so there's something for everyone - even those who aren't keen on Thai food. An order of pad Thai comes with fresh juicy prawns and whole sprigs of spring onion, alongside crisp lettuce and shredded cabbage salad. A half lime is set on the side of the plate for you to add a squeeze of zest if you fancy it. 'Baked Chicken with Vegetables' is a nice and simple dish, perfect for those a little wary of spicy or overly adventurous foods. A pounded chicken breast is lathered in a sweet tomato dressing and served alongside broccoli, baby corn and carrot. The ever popular laab, serves up minced pork fried with shallots, garlic, deep fried basil leaves and dried chili, and is accompanied by fresh green beans, mint leaves and Thai basil. Shellfish also features on the menu. Baked mussels are on offer, which come with a powerful chili and fish sauce dressing for you to drizzle on them. Between the shells are lettuce leaves, and in the centre of the plate a hand carved cucumber.

       All the dishes at Samui Paleang are made from scratch and cooked to order. Fresh herbs and vegetables come with every dish and nothing is frozen. Needless to say, all the produce is local. As the restaurant is open from 11:00 am until 11:00 pm, you can come for some wake-up brekkie, a bite to eat at lunch, or for dinner and drinks in the evening. Whatever time of day you decide to come, although the atmosphere may change, the fact that you'll be getting a truly local experience always remain the same.



Christina Wylie


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