Best Southern Food in Phuket
- Best Southern Food in Phuket
- 1. Mee Gaeng Poo – crab curry noodles
- 2. Hor Mok Pla – curried fish mousse
- 3. Gaeng Som Pla – sour fish curry
- 4. Moo Hong – braised pork stew
- 5. Nam Prik Goong Siap – spicy shrimp dip
- 6. Tom Som Pla – sour fish soup
- 7. Gaeng Tai Pla – fermented fish belly curry
- 8. Kua Kling – dry curry
- 9. Pad Sataw – stink bean curry
- 10. Chakachan Talay
- 11. Khao Yam – rice salad
- Map of Phuket Local Restaurants
- More reading
Southern Thai food is a treat for those who love seafood and want to explore intense and spicy flavours. On a Southern Thai table, you’ll find dishes with such local ingredients as sataw (stink beans) or miang leaves that you’re unlikely to see in other Thai regional cuisines. The cuisine has also been shaped by a mix of Indian, Arabian and Persian cultural influences, as well as Hokkien Chinese.
Traditional Southern Thai food can be super spicy so get ready for a mega-fire in the mouth when trying some of these dishes. The list is much longer than this, but here are a few of our favourites that you can find in local restaurants around Phuket as a start.
1. Mee Gaeng Poo – crab curry noodles
Mee gaeng poo is a spicy curry crab dish served with rice noodles that offers a taste sensation with every slurp. The light yellow curry is creamy, more like a soup, and adds a nice bit of heat to balance out the sweet crab meat flavour.
Try to find a place that doesn’t scrimp on the crab, with bigger chunks of the meat better able to soak up all the complex flavours. The dish is often served with wild betel leaves and a side plate of fresh vegetables.
2. Hor Mok Pla – curried fish mousse
Hor mok pla is a curried fish dish that makes an enlivening addition to a meal with its creamy, spicy flavours. A mix of fish, chilli paste, egg and coconut milk are blended then set in small portions in clay pots or wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.
Hor mok is served in a variety of styles, from plain portions set on basil leaves to fancy little cakes topped with coconut cream and chopped chilli and kaffir lime leaves. Some places make them very spicy so be sure to test a small bit before you gobble down the whole thing.
Where to find Hor Mok in Phuket: Kan Eang 2 in Chalong, Laem Hin Seafood restaurant near Phuket Town, Thammachart restaurant in Phuket Town, Piang Prai at Bang Pae Waterfall and almost every seafood restaurant in Phuket
3. Gaeng Som Pla – sour fish curry
Gaeng som pla is one of those dishes that you’re bound to either love or hate – there’s no chance of feeling indifferent after a taste of this spicy and sour Southern Thai curry.
The curry paste used to make gaeng som is a pungent blend of dry fish, chillies, garlic, galangal and turmeric root. Any kinds of vegetables on hand can be thrown in, along with chunks of fresh fish. Unlike other Thai curries, there’s no sugar and little or no coconut milk used, ensuring that it has a maximum sour, spicy and salty taste.
4. Moo Hong – braised pork stew
Moo hong could be called Southern Thai comfort food for the warm and cosy feeling you get when you taste it. After simmering for hours in a sauce with soy, sugar, pepper and garlic, the pork is melt-in-your-mouth tender with a salty and slightly sweet flavour in a thick sauce.
Moo hong is a Phuket speciality, having been born from the blending of Thai and Hokkien Chinese cultures on the island over the past few centuries. It’s a must-try dish for anyone who wants to experience real Phuket food.
5. Nam Prik Goong Siap – spicy shrimp dip
This is a simple, fresh and flavourful dish that’s much beloved across Southern Thailand including Phuket. Nam prik goong siap refers to the dipping sauce that’s usually set in the centre of a big plate of vegetables.
The sauce is spicy and tangy, made with smoked shrimp, chillies, lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, shrimp paste and a touch of palm sugar. A mix of local green leafy veggies along with string beans, cucumbers, bamboo shoots and other healthy things to dip is served with the sauce for full all-sensory awakening.
6. Tom Som Pla – sour fish soup
Tom som pla offers a great intro to Southern Thai cooking with its strong sour flavour that you’ll not soon forget. A bold blend of turmeric, ginger and tamarind gives the soup its kick, while the fish used is usually mackerel but it could be sea bass or tilapia.
Tom som pla is considered a healthy dish that will help heal colds and coughs and aid indigestion. At the very least, it will certainly wake you up! For culinary explorers seeking some invigorating tastes, give this dish a try.
7. Gaeng Tai Pla – fermented fish belly curry
Gaeng Tai Pla is another spicy Southern Thai curry with an intensely flavoured sauce of fermented fish innards and chillies, shrimp paste, lemongrass and a zesty blend of herbs and spices. The dish originated in the deep south province of Phattalung some 200 years ago and was influenced by South Indian cuisine.
In the past, Gaeng Tai Pla was served with fish only, but these days you’ll find a mix of added vegetables like baby corn, carrot, winter melon and bamboo shoots. Brace yourself for a serious jolt to the taste buds when trying this dish.
8. Kua Kling – dry curry
Kua Kling is a Southern favourite that has a salty and spicy balance of tastes. The dish is usually made with pork, but sometimes with beef or chicken, which is stir-fried and tossed with curry paste until it has a dry texture.
The curry paste is made with such ingredients as chilli, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, shrimp paste and turmeric that ensure the dish has that strong and spicy Southern flavour. The meat is usually minced or chopped into small pieces, with chopped kaffir lime leaves added during the cooking process to give it a hint of tanginess.
9. Pad Sataw – stink bean curry
Beans usually add a subtle flavour to a dish but not so with the sataw, or stink bean, which is a powerful flavour force! The scent of the beans is a bit sulphuric with some undefinable strong aroma.
If you happen to be in Phuket and you see a tree laden with long green pods, or a cluster of these pods for sale at the fresh market, then congratulations, you’ve found your fresh sataw. The beans can be eaten raw, but they’re mostly cooked with curry – sataw with spicy red curry and shrimp is a favourite.
10. Chakachan Talay
Chakachan Talay, which means sea cicada, is a sea crustacean found on the northern beaches of Phuket, namely Mai Khao and Haad Sai Kaew and beached on the mainland past the Sarasin bridge. The sea cicadas are first peeled from their back shell and then deep-fried. It is crispy and goes well as appetizers or snacks with a beer.
11. Khao Yam – rice salad
Khao yam is the perfect dish to choose if you’re not sure what to eat since it offers a great balance of tastes and textures arranged on a plate. Khao yam is made with a Southern-style fermented fish sauce (Nam Budu), and the rice is sometimes coloured with something like butterfly pea to make it more eye-catching.
Set around the rice is a medley of herbs like kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass, chillies, dried shrimp, coconut flakes, green mango, cucumber, and perhaps some fresh vegetables like string beans or carrot that could be found in the fridge. Mix it all up and you’re ready to eat.