A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

Dinner in paradise

Posted date:  February 26, 2008

Haad Yao fried rice

I’m currently on Ko Pha-Ngan, a beautiful island in southern Thailand. At the moment, the water is clear, the weather sunny and I’m having a great time with old friends. There’s only one downside: the food is bloody awful. Actually, that’s a bit too strong. The food here isn’t unsanitary, or rotten or even that badly prepared. It’s just phenomenally bland. A boring, uninteresting approximation of Thai food for gastronomically timid foreigners. To make things even worse, every restaurant on Haad Yao seems to have the identical menu, and they staunchly refuse to vary from this. Among the more bizarre things that I’ve been served is something called Haad Yao fried rice (pictured above), rice fried with ketchup and chicken, and wrapped in a thin omelet. You can opt for the classic Thai dishes, but unless you’re a fan of limp, salty ‘kana with garlic’, greasy phat thai, or milky tom khaa, you’re screwed.

Our only saving grace at this point has been a streetside som tam and grilled chicken stall about three kilometres up the road.

Chicken grilling on Ko Pha-Ngan

The proprietor is from Buriram, and makes papaya salad just the way I like it: sour and spicy. If you go to the same area in the morning, you’ll even find, believe it or not, authentic southern Thai food such as khanom jeen. Unfortunately a taxi ride there (actually a seat in the back of a truck) costs more than the meal, so what would be a dirt cheap meal anywhere else in the country becomes an exorbitant splurge here.

In a couple days I’ll be crossing over to Ko Samui, home I’m sure to even more quasi-Thai food, but also the location of Bangpo Seafood, a beachfront restaurant serving authentic Ko Samui-style Thai food that, despite having eaten there only once, I still count as one of my most memorable eating experiences in Thailand. Can’t wait.

4 Comments for Dinner in paradise

I found pretty much the same thing on Samui (and across the other side of the peninsula at Ao Nang): that just to get a decent, local meal meant hiring a motorbike and taking off into the hinterland. If I hadn’t had your tips for Samui (and the location of Bangpo seafood – despite it having a few neighbouring imitators), I’d have left the island a very angry man.

Where the hell are the local workers eating when they can’t make it home?

don’t hope too much. we’ve recently been on samui for one week. the taxi “cartel” there seems to be extremely strong, it is nearly impossible to get a short distance ride in the evening within 300 or even 400 baht. thanks to your recommendation we’ve eaten at bangpo seafood. we tried about seven or eight dishes (we were two), it tasted good, intense, but compared to the following eating-experiences in bangkok and the north of thailand, it was only a bit more than average. but: as there seem to be no alternatives – like phil said above – it is maybe still one of the best choices on samui. we heard from locals, that there are two other recommended restaurants near bangpo seafood. when you come from east (airport), they are both before bangpo, at the same side of the street, one has a sign with something like “jin” in it. it sounded like a chinese name to me, but i don’t speak either thai or chinese, so i wouldn’t count on that. the other one is nearer to bangpo and has a lot of huge pick-ups parking besides. sorry that i can’t remember more details, but they are all within two or maximum three kilometers east of bangpo seafood.
we would like to come to samui again, but the food there is really, really disappointing. (although we ate very good – and expensive – in the french-thai restaurant of our hotel (napasai) at the north coast of samui – but we recognised that too late: when we ate poor southern curries in bangkok…)

Austin —

Thanks again for the great blog, but what happened to the older archives when you changed the format just recently??

True about the crap food on Ko Pha-Ngan. I had one of the worst pad thai of my life there. My girlfriend (Thai) was so angry she practically threw the plate back at the staff.

However, over on Thong Nai Pan Noi there is a restaurant run recently taken over by Khun Pong that has amazing food. The chef is Burmese and her Burmese curries and salads are fantastic (Thai dishes too!). A rare treat.

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