A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

Island Eats

Posted date:  July 15, 2006

I was recently on Ko Samui. This was actually my first time there despite having lived in Thailand several years! I’m not much of a beach person and initially wasn’t very impressed by the island, but after renting a motorcycle and exploring for a few days, the place really grew on me. The native Ko Samui people are among the friendliest I’ve ever met in Thailand, and the islands local cuisine was simply amazing.

I was on the island to do a story on the local cuisine for ThaiDay. That report will follow in the next week or so, but I was so excited about the food that I wanted to give a bit of a preview. Surprisingly, local food is quite hard to come by on Ko Samui. There are countless restaurants selling Japanese, German, English, Australian and Italian food, but there are only about six or so restaurants where local Ko Samui dishes are available. The most famous of which is almost certainly Bangpo Seafood (077 420 010), a low-key restaurant in the Maenam area. This place makes use of the more interesting local ingredients on Samui such as waay, a small octopus that is used fresh, or when out of season, dried:


At Pangpo Seafood waay is made into a thick stir-fry with coconut milk and fresh herbs:


Another unusual ingredient used by the locals is the eggs of the sea urchin. The raw roe is mixed with sour mango, chili paste, chilies and lime to make a yam, or Thai-style salad:


Fish also plays a big role, and ranges from tiny little “anchovies” deep-fried and served as an appetizer:


to larger fish, such as the one below, which as been coated with a mixture of coconut milk, fresh turmeric, black pepper and salt before being grilled over coals:


Coconut is Samui’s largest crop and large stands of the tree can be found across the island:


The extracted milk from coconuts seems to find its way into nearly every local dish, as I learned when I met with Sermsi Thongrueang, a native of Samui and a woman with reputation as a good cook. She taught me how to make khao man thua khiaow, rice cooked with coconut milk, dried beans and salt:


And even grated a fresh coconut


to make khoei jii, a very unique appetizer of shrimp paste, shallots, garlic, coconut meat and chilies ground up, spread on a coconut shell and grilled:


Another good use of coconut was at Sabeinglae restaurant (077 233 083), near Malai. The restaurant serves a kaeng khua, a thick, rich coconut milk curry topped with fragrant cumin leaves:


The main ingredient in this curry was an acquatic creature called het loop:


Sabeinglae also serves an excellent dish similiar to the coconut-milk stir fry at Bangpo, but using squid and lots of crushed black pepper:


Samui is also home to some fun markets:


The green pods above are known in English as “stink bean”, and are very very popular in southern Thai cooking.

Here’s the Muslim fishing village at Hua Thanon:


the source of much of the island’s seafood.

7 Comments for Island Eats

AAAh Koh Samui, my home. I miss it!
I love the salad, and my ex used to make me fried anchovies and fried fish, but I agree… true thai food was hard to come by in the resturants, you had to go to hidden allies to find the really good places. When I did though I didn’t forget where they were 😉
absolutley delicious!

The dried octopus are so impossibly cute! It makes me want to devour them.

lexi: Yes, real Thai food was very hard to find. It’s odd, isn’t it? Why do people travel so far to eat familiar food?

danielle: Haha… I wonder if the fresh ones are as cute. Unfortunately they were out of season when I was there.

Nice post on Koh Samui!

I must say that I share your opinion concerning foreign food in such places. AS a tourist, I wouldn’t want to eat anything else than Thai food if I go there! When travelling, one wants to discover and experience new things…

Austin, I think it has alot to do with people being afraid of what they don’t know and thai food sound and look odd to them (not the tourist influated thai looking food they serve in most resturants, but the real thai food) and I think it’s all changing. People want to try the real thai food, not just fried rice, but what I found out at many of the places I visited is that it’s between hard and impossible to find unless you know some thai or some locals who’ll take you out.
It’s sad really, because it was the best food I ever had!!!
They didn’t even have morning glory at most resturants!!! argh!

We’ll be visiting Koh Samui in December this year and am so pleased to have read your entry! The photo of the market is enough to entice me to visit it. Please would you tell me what days the market is open? Thanks!

mae: the market photo was taken a small but very active roadside market just outside of Naa Thorn (the main “city” on Samui). I can’t recall the name of the market right now, but it’s only about one kilo from the main pier along the road to Lamai and is open in the evenings.


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