It was not that long ago when the idea of “Thai food” was still wildly exotic and not well-known. Fast forward to this era and you will rarely meet anyone unfamiliar with a few of the country’s most iconic dishes. Pad Thai, for example, is quite typical and familiar to most diners. If heading to Thailand, though, you can expect much more than the classic Thai restaurant fare. Below are several suggestions for locations to dine when on a holiday in Thailand.
As an article about Thai cuisine in Culture Trip explained, “Thailand is simply bursting with culinary delights, ranging from the traditional to the cutting edge, and Thai cuisine has become popular the world over. With every major international city providing its own version of Thailand’s cuisine, the best is still to be found on Thai soil.” The country is large, and so the three or four options below are barely a drop in the proverbial bucket, but they are each considered standout options in their part of the country. The dishes served at these establishments represent the very best of the traditional blend of hot, spice, sweet and sour that is the heart of Thai food, but many also offer fusion dishes to satisfy even the most finicky palates.
The Red Moon is on the island of Koh Samui and in the center of the fishing village of Bophut. It is noted for its remarkable hospitality and sense of warmth and welcome, and it is famous for its fusion cuisine that takes Thai food classics and merges them with traditional French gastronomic cuisine. The owner is French and his desire was to mirror European traditions into the rustic Thai style. The most popular items on the menu are also quite unique to a Thai restaurant and include “beef fillets with mashed potato and truffle oil, red tuna tartar, and fried ice cream.”
And while on Samui, it is a good idea to head to what many deem “Samui island’s most interesting yet laidback beachfront dining,” at the Sala Samui Resort. As the resort’s website explains, their team of food experts “believes that dining is not just a meal, but also a journey of flavours and culinary creations from both Thai cuisine and western dishes. With this in mind, the resort offers three Koh Samui dining outlets.” They include the SALA Samui Restaurant serving three meals daily and combining Thai favorites with international dishes; the Beach Bar that sits on the sands of Choengmon Beach; and Pangaea focused on Italian dishes.
Located in Phuket (the largest island in Thailand), it is, as one expert noted, “One of the restaurants that preserve the traditional, and Royal, and some family recipes as well… one of the most well-known names in Thai cuisine.” In fact, the Phuket restaurant is a branch of a chain of Blue Elephant eateries found in many areas of the world. The Phuket branch is important to visit for its location in the Governor’s Mansion.
This is a pure Thai food restaurant and when looking for the iconic presentation of a specific dish, this is the source. Popular dishes include seng wa goong pla duk foo, gaeng masaman kae, khao yam, yam makua doi kam (a specialty of the restaurant that stacks up vegetables with seafood), and the iconic gaeng boo bai chaplu kab sen mee that includes crab, coconut milk flavored with curry, and a magical blend of spices.
As one of the more “high end” Thai restaurants (and cooking schools) it is an experience from beginning to end thanks to its location in a gorgeous mansion.
If ambiance and gourmet meals appeal, another Phuket location to consider is Black Ginger, a Michelin listed restaurant.
Part of the Phuket Pearl Resort and elegantly designed, the restaurant is (according to Michelin), set “a stunning traditional house from Thailand’s North,” where it “offers diners a unique and beguiling experience, with more than a nod to the Ayudhaya period.”
As an example, diners are carried across a lagoon, hazy and lit with unique blue lights, by raft where they disembark at the bar and are greeted with a cocktail. The dining room serves up dishes that are a blend of Phuket specialties and classic Thai favorites. The chefs emphasize fresh and local ingredients, and specialties include som tam, tom yum and phanaeng curry, and according to the restaurant’s website, “Those seeking a RARE southern delicacy should try the crispy prawns with battered cha-plu leaves, drizzled with sweet chilli sauce. It would be a mistake to pass up the roll-your-own fresh spring rolls, served with delicate crabmeat, succulent pork, chilli purée, honeyed tamarind and fresh herbs.”
Dessert includes the house signature dessert of rice flour dumplings in coconut milk, but there are also jack fruit and black sticky rice sweets, banana gelatin, and more.
Some other “must try” options include a long list of hotspots in Bangkok. For example, Eat Me is a Middle Eastern and Pacific fusion restaurant that blends Thai favorites with truly alternative ingredients. There is also Bo.Ian, which takes Thai food up to a more adventurous level and emphasizes only the season’s freshest ingredients. Traditionalists will want to head to Feuang Nara for its ambiance and classic dishes, while those eager for a bit of Indian street food in a gourmet and refined setting will appreciate Gaggan. Le Vendome is all about French food and a more traditional setting where chandeliers and uniformed waiters set the scene.
Restaurants in other parts of Thailand that often fall under the “highly rated” umbrella include Anchan Vegetarian in Chiang Mai, Suay in Phuket, Nuch’s Green Ta’Lay in the Suratthani area of Koh Samui, and the Green Garden in Nakhon.
Thai food is more than just Thai food, and when traveling in this beautiful land, you’ll want to try these highly recommended spots serving blends of many cuisines or refined and perfect versions of some of the country’s favorites.