Island Eats

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:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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And even grated a fresh coconut

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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:

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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:

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

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

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Samui is also home to some fun markets:

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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:

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the source of much of the island's seafood.