After three flights from Istanbul, most of them spent awake trying to write an essay that would be due the day after landing in Thailand, we arrived at Koh Samui’s harbour – exhausted, sticky, and on the edge of being hangry, and started our three-hour wait for the ferry that would take us to Koh Phangan. Fortunately, a hot, steamy, spicy coconut soup with shrimps and lemongrass from the little café on the docks saved the day as the chilli kicked the life back into me (or at least enough to carry on typing). Our first plates of Thai food in Thai land, and it would only get better.
We soon figured our where all the best places are to get your grub in and around Thong Sala, Koh Phangan; and even though we didn’t always go back to these same places, sometimes we wish we had.
The Fat Cat
This place turned out to be our favourite breakfast nook, BY FAR. Besides being owned and run by two wonderfully warm Portuguese people who LOVE cats (and who moved to Koh Phangan with something like 14 cats), they have the best bread probably in the whole of Thailand. Two pieces of toast at The Fat Cat is so satisfying, all I need is a cup of their strong, black, quality coffee and I’m good to go.
Well that, and their perfectly fluffy banana pancakes, freshly squeezed orange juice, and pure, unsweetened watermelon shakes.
Nira’s Home Bakery
Nira’s is where to go if you want your croissant fix; or if you just want perfectly crunchy, perfectly chewy, perfectly cinnamon-y french toast and a tall glass of watermelon.
This cute little place is known for having absolutely incredible Thai food, but also for how long it takes to be served because there’s one sweet lady making the food to order. However, having to wait a while for your food is not something that bothers you that much at Jumpahom – not when you get to lounge out on Thai cushions, sip on ice cold beers, play a game of Jenga, and then hog the fan in a hammock after a long morning of snorkelling.
And then when the food comes, all that waiting (and playing and drinking and napping) is all so worth it. Best Tom Kha soup I had in Thailand. For sure.
It’s crazy to think that some of the best burgers we have ever had was on an island in the Gulf of Thailand. But it’s true. We held off on eating here, because we felt sort of indignant that one of the top restaurant on a Thai island is a burger place, only to regret not having eaten there sooner once we caved and decided to give it a try.
Giant Mojitos. Giant, juicy, out-of-this-world-delicious burgers.
Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar
The setting is half the war – and Fisherman’s is an absolutely beautiful restaurant that spills onto the white sands of the beach. Low-level tables and comfy chairs stretch out towards the sea, lit up by candles and glowing fire torches, for drinks before or after your meal (for which you can book a table in one of the two beautifully decorated Thai fishing boats on the beach). It’s a gorgeous place, with beautiful food, but it’s for sure a price range above all of the other Thai restaurants.
The vibrant colours of plates and plates of fresh sushi lined up; Barbecued meat on skewers spitting over on the griddles; Whole squids and birds sizzling on open coals; Fruit shakes in all the most vibrant shades of the rainbow; The sound of the juiciest watermelons and coconuts being sliced open; Big, fat man-sized spring roles, stuffed with fresh veggies and dropped into the bubbling oil; The wafting smell of spice, cooking meat, and sweet and sour oyster sauce; The steam of condensation rising as the vendor lifts off the lid of a deep barrel of coconut ice cream.
By day it’s a scrappy-looking parking lot in the heart of Thong Sala, but as the afternoon passes the vendors roll in and open up their carts and stands that eventually make up the Thong Sala night market landscape. Fresh coconut, fat spring rolls, chewy pad thai, the first time being exposed to the unbelievable Thai banana pancake (with Nutella, chocolate and/or fresh coconut) (and which one should eat as often as one can), and a bowl (or coconut shell) of coconut ice cream that I wanted to fall and die in.
All of our food dreams came true at the Thong Sala night market.
After passing Petty’s Place a bunch of times on the way to and fro Ko Ma snorkelling sessions, we finally decided to go give it a try one evening. Served by the man Petty himself (or maybe Petty was his mother whom he named the place after…?) who suggested that we try the pasta with tomato sauce – his mother’s recipe, made from imported Italian goods. It completely blew us away. The best simple red-sauce pasta dish we have ever had, ever. It took sheer self-control and will-power not to go back a bunch of times to just gorge on Petty’s pasta, reminding ourselves that we are in Thailand and should really be trying to eat as much Thai food as we can.
But dayum, Petty.
That Pasta, though.
After the excitement of the Thong Sala night market, we happened upon and stepped into Dots Shop & Coffee – the noises of the streets falling quiet behind us as we slid the door closed and let the AC wash over us. Dots is just a beautiful store that sells incredible cups of iced coffees, home-made lemonade, and hand-printed Thai design products by Ratha Handmade and others. It seems like a quiet coffee sanctuary, where you can escape the heat and the noise, but still watch the muffled island life go by through the large glass-pane walls. It also feels like Dots was tailored for remote-working, which we of course took advantage of.
Basically, if you are down with spicy food – you can’t go be disappointed by Thai food in Thailand. But even when you’re not, Koh Phangan has all the rest of the good stuff too (like the best bread, burgers, and red sauce in the world). In the end, all you have to do is to remember to have as much pad thai as you humanly can.