Samui Wining & Dining
And There’s More

 

Why stick to a couple of favourite dishes when Thai cuisine offers so many more?

 

10Take a look at any list of visitors’ favourite Thai dishes and three always jostle for the top position. They’re like the Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal of the Thai culinary world. And neither the food nor the football teams look like being displaced anytime soon.

Now don’t get me wrong, phad Thai (fried noodles), tom yam goong (spicy prawn soup) and gaeng khiew wan (green curry) are excellent examples of Thailand’s long culinary heritage. And it’s clear that many people enjoy them immensely. But there are other options available and it often pays to change your habits and try something different. Put a little spice in your life, if you will. I’ve eaten in hundreds of restaurants around the island and tried more than my fair share of most menus. So here’s a list of ten dishes I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, and some of the places I think that do them very well.

Yum nuea is a grilled sirloin of beef salad which includes capsicum, chilies, Chinese celery, garlic, coriander, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. I’ve eaten it in the wonderfully air-conditioned Tom Yam Thai restaurant, which specializes in Royal Thai cuisine, at the Kandaburi Resort in the north of Chaweng. Ask for the beef medium-rare and enjoy the subtle blend of flavours and textures. It’s ideal as an appetizer or as a main course.

Gaeng phed gai is a delicious Thai red curry with chicken. Cooked slowly with potatoes, tomatoes, onion, ginger, red curry paste, coconut milk, palm sugar and tamarind juice, it’s not too spicy and is best eaten with some jasmine rice. Executive Chef Jintanha from Kirikayan Boutique Resort in Chaweng excels at these types of dishes and if you want to dine with a view of the sea, the mountains and the beach road then Chalay-Bun restaurant at Kirikayan is the place to go.

Mee krob is Thai for ‘fried noodles’ and I’ve tasted dozens of variations on this classic crispy-noodle creation traditionally tossed with a tangy sweet and sour sauce. One of my favourite places to savour it is at Daaraadat Restaurant at Punnpreeda Hip Resort in Bangrak, just along the road from ‘Big Buddha’. Most of the components are prepared ahead with the noodles tossed in the sauce at the last minute. And they do a great vegetarian version of it should you wish.

Hoy malang poo is perhaps a dish you won’t be familiar with but with which you should become acquainted. It’s Thai-style mussels delicately steamed with basil leaves, lime leaves and galangal. Appointed earlier this year, Chef Adisak, at the Tamarind Bar & Lounge restaurant at the Impiana Resort & Spa in Chaweng Noi, is outstanding. He’s worked in top-class restaurants and resorts around Thailand and Malaysia and his strength in depth and artistic flair bring a new dimension to this marvellous Thai dish.

Rad na is a noodle dish with a difference – and so is the restaurant that I like eating it at. Crispy egg noodles, rather than the ubiquitous thin rice noodles used in other dishes like pad Thai, are the order of the day. They’re wider and stickier and the noodles come with wok-fried vegetables and sweet and sour sauce. Executive Chef Jonny Goodall has them on his menu at the exclusively vegetarian Amala Restaurant at Prana Resorts & Spa in Bangrak. As they like to say down there, “It’s vegetarian with a twist,” and it’s superb.

Gai ka-min is chicken with turmeric, but it’s also the addition of lemon-grass, lime juice, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, green chilies and oyster sauce that makes this dish stand out. Krua Bophut is on the beach in Fisherman’s Village with fantastic views and an optional indoor restaurant that’s just as much a house of antiques as it is a restaurant. Exquisite cuisine, a great location and excellent value for money make it one of the best Thai restaurants around.

Pla kaphong is an outstanding dish of crispy sea bass with garlic and pepper. And Executive Chef Hans Engerer has put the Chef’s Table restaurant at Sareeraya Villas & Suites firmly on the culinary map with creations like this. Over the last 20 years he’s worked in London with the Chez Gerard Group, was Head Chef of Café Fish in London’s West End, spent time as the Production Head Chef at the Dorchester Hotel and also worked with corporate event planners like Tony Page, Alison Price and Anton Mosimann. The latter involved catering for the British Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and St. James’s Palace. Need I say more?

Sai thard thong is a selection of Thai appetizers that is ideal for sharing and getting a bit of a taste of what’s to come. I tucked into a plateful recently (on my own!) at Fair House Villas and Spa in Maenam. Executive Chef Santi Kittikhunphong (better known as Khun Ao) has a defining style which has taken The Bre-Eze Restaurant to new heights. He’s an expert in Thai, Chinese, French, Italian and Korean cuisines and his 35-year culinary career has taken him all around the world. Not to be missed.

Poo char is one of my favourite dishes. It’s marinated stuffed crab meat and minced pork in a crab-shell served with plum sauce and a sweet chili sauce. The Poolside Restaurant at Nora Chaweng Hotel on Chaweng Beach Road was the last place I ate it in. And it has something few others have – a Samui born-and-bred Head Chef. Khun Assarawut Ruangthong, or Khun Nang as he’s more commonly known, has lived here all his life and probably knows more about local seafood and local recipes than most.

Coconut crème brûlée is our final dish and is fittingly a mouth-watering dessert. Consisting of unsweetened coconut milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar, coconut rum, vanilla extract and sweetened fresh coconut it’s a delicious way to round off a meal. The exemplary Poppies restaurant in Chaweng does an excellent version and when I’m there it’s the one thing I know I’m going have and I plan the rest of my meal around it.

There’re so many wonderful Thai dishes that are often ignored and that’s almost criminal. Jump out of your comfort zone for a while and let the chefs of Samui show you what Thai cuisine is really all about.

 


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