A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

What to eat in Hat Yai

Posted date:  September 18, 2009

 Bak kut te at Koh Tee Ochaa, a Chinese restaurant in Hat Yai

Hat Yai is a large, rather unattractive town in southern Thailand. It’s by no means a destination, but because the city serves as a crossroads to many places farther south, I’ve spent quite a few nights here over the years. Fortunately there are worse places to be stuck, particularly if you count eating as one of your hobbies. The residents of Hat Yai are a mix of Thais, Chinese and Muslims and they have provided the city with an interesting restaurant scene. Just in case you happen to find yourself stuck in Hat Yai at some point, I’ve put together a short list of the places that have caught my attention over the years that I’ve been going there.

My favourite single dish in Hat Yai has to be the dish above, bak kut teh, as served at Koh Tii Ocha, a Chinese food court-like restaurant in the centre of town. The name of the dish is Chinese, but EatingAsia claim the dish has its origins in Malaysia. The dish is served with your choice of meat and offal (and typically an entire clove of garlic) and sides of rice and paa thong ko, deep-fried dough with a sweet coconut jam dip. The broth is dark, rich and evocative of the dish’s Hokkien name (bak kut teh is generally translated as “meat bone tea”). Koh Tii Ocha also serves Hainanese chicken rice, wheat noodles and rice porridge.

Koh Tii Ochaa (Google Maps link)
134-136 Th Niphat Uthit 3, Hat Yai
074 23 4243
Breakfast & lunch

Khao yam is a type of rice “salad” popular in southern Thailand. Rice is cooked with dork anchan, a type of flower, giving it a purplish/gray hue, and is topped with finely sliced herbs, flowers, fruit, ground dried shrimp, thin rice noodles and a thin fish-based sauce. One of the better versions in Hat Yai is served by a Muslim woman who  prepares the dish a couple blocks away from the train station:

Khao yam, a rice 'salad' that is a common breakfast in southern Thailand

Muslim Khao Yam (Google Maps link)
Thanon Rotfai, Hat Yai
Breakfast & lunch

Another tasty Muslim breakfast is roti, crispy pancakes, served southern-style with a curry dipping sauce. There’s a string of Muslim restaurants along Th Niyomrat, including Tamrab Muslim, which does a good roti kaeng:

Roti and curry in Hat Yai

Tamrab Muslim (Google Maps link)
Cnr Th Nipatuthit 1 & Th Niyomrat, Hat Yai
Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Chicken, marinated in dried spices before being deep-fried, is a specialty of Hat Yai that has a reputation across Thailand. Many locals claim that Daycha, a restaurant with a couple branches in town, serves the best version. You can order it with sticky rice and a plate of som tam or chopped and served over yellow rice:

Fried chicken served on yellow rice, Daycha Fried Chicken, Hat Yai

Daycha Fried Chicken (Google Maps link)
Th Chi-Uthit, Hat Yai
08 1098 3751
Lunch & dinner

Hat Yai has a huge Chinese population, and Chinese food is ubiquitous, cheap and generally quite good. One of my favourite places to eat is Sor Hueng, a khao tom place with several branches serving mostly Chinese and Chinese/Thai dishes, with a few local dishes thrown in as well. Most dishes are made ahead of time and all you have to do is point to whatever looks tasty:

At a branch of Sor Hueng, a Chinese restaurant in Hat Yai

Sor Hueng 3 (Google Maps link)
79/16 Th Thamnoonvithi, Hat Yai
08 1896 3455

Hat Yai also has two pretty good night markets. The most famous is located north of the centre of town and is a great place to sit down to a dish of the local deep-fried chicken, a southern-style curry, a dish or khanom jeen, or some local seafood:

Frying up curry crab at Hat Yai's evening market

Hat Yai’s Night Market (Google Maps link)
Th Montri 1

Another night market, located slightly closer to the centre of town, specialises in take-away southern Thai eats:

Curries at Hat Yai's evening market

Hat Yai’s Night Market (Google Maps link)

View Thai Eats in a larger map

7 Comments for What to eat in Hat Yai

I don’t go to Hat Yai very often, but when I do, I always enjoy the food too! We always have Khao Yum.

JB Hotel has always been great for Chinese food – not sure if it’s still the case. I was there a year or so ago and had suckling pig with black pepper sauce – it was divine – the best I’ve ever had!

The Khao Yam you mention looks and sounds like Nasi Kerabu, from the Kelantanese Malays, but I can’t help but think that the snake beans and bean sprouts seem like typical Thai ingredients.

I had a quick look on Flickr, and there’s numerous examples 🙂

Great photos! Keep ’em coming 🙂

We didn’t manage to try bak kut teh in HY, and I regret it. BTW Singaporeans claimed to have invented it as well.

Alpha – I’ve never had nasi kerabu without bean sprouts, and quite often with snake beans. In KL and in Kelantan.

Used to go to Hat Yai when I was little with my parents and relatives. My hometown is just 45 mins from the Thai Boarder, so, it was quite a popular destination for us at one point.

Alice: Not familiar with JB, will have to check it out next time. There certainly seems to be a lot of good Chinese food in Hat Yai.

Alpha: After Hat Yai I was actually in Kota Bharu and ate a few dishes of nasi kerabu. I found it certainly very similar, but not identical to khao yam. The colour of the rice, although not as purple in khao yam, is also from the same flower, called dork anchan in Thai.

Robyn: It’s the best bak kut teh I’ve had in Thailand, and reckon it’s due to the huge number of Singaporeans and Malaysians who visit Hat Yai.

mycookinghut: Where is your hometown? Kota Bharu?

Greetings from Malaysia !! Nice blog & pictures which makes me drool… I just started photography few months ago and your pics really gives me alot of ideas on how to capture a food pics and makes it loos delicious.

BTW : You should try the original Bah Kut Teh in Klang , a port city about 45 minutes from KL, Malaysia ..its where it originates.

Cheers and Good day :)-

Thanks for sharing.

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