Eating our way around Thailand – Part One

Published on 2 August 2023 at 18:46

As part of the blog, I’ll be sharing places and dishes that stand out to us.  So, strap on your bib, some pants with an elastic waistband, and let’s get our eat on!

One of the things I was most excited about experiencing on this trip is the food. Thailand is well known for the quality of its national dishes, and there is no shortage of options no matter where you visit. They have mastered taking a small amount of fresh, local ingredients, mixing them with different blends of herbs and spices, and creating a wide variety of dishes from spicy stir-fry to creamy curries.

When we eat out at home, Thai is one of our go-to options, but you do wonder if the way it is prepared in New Zealand is authentic or altered to fit the local pallet like Indian and Chinese foods often are. When I first visited Thailand in 2019, I was extremely reserved and nervous about trying new dishes, and from which places I ate from. I was only coming for a week and spending that week in bed (or the bathroom) was something I was determined to avoid at all costs. Although I am not a fussy eater, when I was small, I chose to stop eating anything that lives in the ocean which does make it tricky in a land where seafood is abundant, and many dishes include ingredients that contain fish products. When planning this trip, I came across several YouTubers based in Thailand (check out The Roaming Cook) whose advice had me keen to put myself out there and be little more adventurous this time.

Since we are traveling for three months, we do need to find a balance between reasonably priced local dishes and taking the opportunity to visit some well-regarded establishments in each area. After all, I do also love a well-presented meal and hunting out dishes and spots that are unique in some way. As part of the blog, I’ll be sharing places and dishes that stand out to us. 

Street Vendors & Night Markets

Located, well, everywhere.

A fun and cost-effective way to eat in Thailand is to visit the local street vendors, who have found creative ways to provide tasty and affordable snacks – like welding a grill to the side of a scooter so they can BBQ all variety of meats, sea creatures, and even insects from any street corner in town. Beat that Uber Eats! And, because they are everywhere, the smells of barbecue, fish dishes, and spice greet you at every turn as you wander throughout the streets at all hours of the day.

I love eating out and was excited to find that at least 1-2 nights in each town there is a night market where different vendors all gather in one spot. They can be quite small affairs in regional towns, but in tourist hot-spots they can be gigantic – see our previous post on Phuket Old Town as an example. You can wander along trying lots of small bites – kinda like a create-your-own-tapas evening. However, we have found that the trade-off is that the variety of many small bites can mean your dinner will add up to more than a single dish prepared at a local restaurant.

Let’s check out some of the great spots we’ve found so far to have a sit-down meal in Phuket…

MaMa Jin in Karon

Located on Patak Road, Highway 4028, Karon

MaMa Jin came recommended to us by our friends Dan and Anna who spent a few months in Phuket last year and gave us some terrific tips from their time here. This restaurant is set on a main road but away from the busy tourist spots around the beach, which makes it a slightly hidden gem. It is a traditional Thai restaurant with little “nice-to-haves” that make your experience special. You are greeted by friendly staff and quickly offered an ice- cold towel from the freezer to clean your hands and wipe your brow. We really appreciated this gesture as we visited at lunchtime, and it was super-hot. The dining area is beautifully decorated, is open-air, and cooled by fans. The menu is extensive with Thai and International food and the pricing is very reasonable.

Even after a week of eating plenty of Thai meals around town we can attest that the food here is incredible. We ordered three dishes to share: chicken Penang curry, BBQ pork ribs and pork wonton (we know them as dumplings), which were so good that we ended up ordering another plate as they were so delicious. Mama Jin is worth a visit and still a highlight.

WeCafe – Rawai Beach

Remember our return longtail boat trip with Lam Lam from Coral Island? After our near-death experience at sea, we needed a stiff drink, we stumbled across We Café which is set along beach road in Rawai. The café setting is relaxed and right next to the beach and there is an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy the sea breeze, or you can sit inside and enjoy the luxury of the air-conditioned dining area. Our first visit here was for that well deserved stiff drink; I needed it to settle my nerves. I had a sneak peek at the menu at the dishes coming out of the kitchen for other patrons and they all looked delicious.

The menu features a selection of Thai and international cuisine, as well as coffee, fruit drinks and a range of beers, but what made this menu stand out was the build-your-own salad options. Anyone who knows my husband well will know he loves a good salad and when we travel, he starts to crave them after a week of rich food. We Café offer an extensive variety of ingredients; so, as we had already eaten well on Coral Island, we made a note to come back later in the week for lunch.

Tony went with the choice of a healthy salad which he loved, Linda enjoyed (yet another) seafood dish, and I had the avocado bruschetta with buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and balsamic glaze, it was outstanding. The food was fresh and tasty. I understand there are three branches in Phuket so we will keep an eye out for when we return after our Ao Nang visit.

Raga Coffee – Rawai

I love coffee so when researching cafes to visit around Rawai I came across Raga Coffee and Homemade Bakery so quickly added this to the list of places to visit when in Phuket.

From the road you would never know this café exists. You will find Raga on Wiset Road, between Chalong and Rawai. There is a sign out on the roadside and there is plenty of parking out front. 

What makes this place unique is that as you step off the main road and into the cafe grounds, it’s like entering a green and tropical paradise. A wee Garden of Eden. You enter this gorgeous setting which reminded me a little of a Tuscan villa, and the owners have designed the gardens to blend with the existing nature; trees provide shaded areas, there are flowing waterfalls, and ponds teeming with fish. 

We stopped in for breakfast and were impressed by the handmade cakes, deserts, and croissant selection. I would suggest that this is the best place to revisit for a morning or afternoon tea just so that you can try those delicious looking homemade treats.

Raga has a great menu with Western and Thai dishes. We enjoyed our western breakfast, fantastic coffee and had a cheeky chocolate croissant stuffed with Belgium milk chocolate, so much so that even Tony the chocolate monster found it (almost) too rich. All our dishes were tasty, and the food is fresh, high-quality, and best of all, affordable. 

We really enjoyed our meals and our relaxing morning at Raga.

So, that is the first edition of special eating spots around Phuket. I will continue my eating adventure and will note any special places in other provinces as we continue our travels.

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Comments

Elizabeth Jones
10 months ago

Food looks amazing...

I do like Thai food so need to be eating more of that me thinks.

Enjoy every minute of it guys
And who knows ... Sandra you may be a little closer than you think about eating things from the sea.

Xx

Stephen Douglas
10 months ago

Got my stomach rumbling reading that one. Great to see you’ve found a top-shelf variety of local standouts and some doing a decent job of international treats. Right - off to make a ham sam for lunch.

Linda Barnard
10 months ago

Food was delicious best seafood and really economical on the pocket enjoyed all the food in Thailand

Carlize
9 months ago

Yuuuuuuum! I bet you're taking notes on the cooking and can't wait to taste your future Thai-inspired gastronomy. Xxx Keep on munching.