Throwing around superlatives can be a scary thing, but I think I'm justified in this case. I've been to many, many restaurants in Thailand, and have eaten some pretty amazing food, but Bangpo Seafood particularly stands out in my mind. I knew something was special about it after my first visit over a year ago, and wrote quite a few good things about it, but have always been keen to go back and see if the restaurant was really was as good as I thought.
Well, after two recent visits, my initial impression was right, and I think Bangpo Seafood just might be my favourite restaurant in Thailand.
This informal beachside restaurant located on the northern coast of Ko Samui serves the local dishes of the island. This means lots of seafood, including some unusual ingredients such as waay, a type of small octopus, sea urchin roe and flying fish. Coconuts, a major crop on Ko Samui, feature in several dishes, including khaao man, rice cooked in coconut milk with a pinch of salt and dried green beans. This is the house carb, and apparently was how people on Ko Samui used to prepare their rice. And as with southern Thai food in general, veggies also play a large role, especially in khoei jii:
Shrimp paste pounded up with coconut meat, shallots, chilies and crab, smeared on the inside of a coconut shell then grilled over coals and served with local herbs such as young cashew tree leaves. This dish is given to everybody who walks in the door, and is far from being a throwaway appetizer. I'd be more than happy with a few of these and the previously mentioned coconut rice.
The first dish I ordered was plaa hoop ping:
Flying fish (plaa nok en) that is splayed, coated with a coconut milk/plack pepper/turmeric mixture, then grilled. The result is smokey, salty, oily--everything you'd want in a fish dish.
A Thai-style 'salad' of a local variety of seaweed, which included sour mango and cockles, and oddly, peanuts.
The owner didn't exactly have to twist my arm to convince me to try two of Surat Thani's famous oysters:
Served Thai style with accompaniments of naam phrik phao (a sweet/spicy chili sauce), lime, deep-fried crispy garlic and shallots, seafood dipping sauce and pungent krathin leaves. Despite how impressive they look, I found this the least interesting dish I ate at Bangpo Seafood. The oysters were simply too big, too tough, and had little flavour.
There was also plaa insee phat chaa:
Mackerel stir-fried with fresh herbs. Very oily, as you can see, but the mixture of green peppercorns, krachai (Chinese key--a ginger-like root), garlic, Kaffir lime leaves and fresh fish was outstanding.
And these are just the dishes I ordered. While I was wondering how I could possibly consume all this, the owner's wife brought out a couple more dishes for me to try, including tom som waay:
a soup of a kind of small octopus made sour by the addition of tender young tamarind leaves, as well as several tiny deep-fried fish that one eats in one go, head and all.
And you know what? Other than the oysters, it was all outstanding.
So if this isn't enough to convince you to hop on the next plane, I don't know what else I need to do. However, a brief word of warning: apparently in the same area there are a couple identically named restaurants serving inferior food. If you aim to go to this one, be sure to make certain that you're at Ta Khoe's (the owner, pictured at the top of the post) restaurant.
The entire photoset can be seen here.
Bangpo Seafood (Ta Khoe) 6/4 Moo 6, Mae Nam Ko Samui 077 420 010 lunch & dinner