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:
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:
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:
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:
Sor Hueng 3 (Google Maps link) 79/16 Th Thamnoonvithi, Hat Yai 08 1896 3455 4pm-3am
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:
Hat Yai's Night Market (Google Maps link) Th Montri 1 6pm-late
Another night market, located slightly closer to the centre of town, specialises in take-away southern Thai eats:
Hat Yai's Night Market (Google Maps link)
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