Phuket Town: The weird wild world of southern Thai cuisine

One of the best things about Phuket is the food. Now that you’ve sampled the island classics and snacked at the beach, get to know the island’s local, southern food. Fresh seafood, strong spices, fermented flavors, crunchy vegetables and stewed meats. For locals, it’s a world away from bland Bangkok cuisine.

Lok Tien

This little food court is on the corner of Yaowarat and Dibuk Roads, right in the heart of Old Town’s gorgeous Sino-Portuguese architecture. Don’t be fooled by the humble plastic chairs and aluminum tables, they dish out some mean local delicacies here. Seemingly grumpy waitresses will flash a big ‘ol smile when you start to ask questions about the dishes. Watch the older gentleman speedily preparing fresh Por Pia Sod by the dozen as you enjoy your lunch.

  • Por Pia Sod (ปอเปี๊ยะสด): Fresh spring rolls filled with pork or shrimp.
  • Bamee Hokkien (บะหมี่ฮกเกี้ยน): Yellow noodles with slices of fish cake and spring onions.
  • Oh Ao (โอเอ๋ว) A sweet, icy dessert found only in Phuket.

The Old Town neighborhood.

Nam Yoi

This friendly little restaurant is up the road from Phuket’s historic Old Town, and it couldn’t get farther from the beaten path. It’s a small, family style Thai restaurant, but the flavors that come out of the kitchen would make Anthony Bourdain proud. We recommend you let the friendly owner guide your choices.

Recommended dishes:

  • Som Tum Pu Ma (ส้มตำปูม้า): Spicy Thai papaya salad with crab
  • Pak Mieng Pad Kai (ผักเหมียงผัดไข่): A spinach-like veggie sautéed with egg, garlic and chili.
  • Hed Krang Mok Jone (เห็ดแครงหมกโจร): Local mushrooms stir fried with lemongrass and spices.
  • Sataw Kapi Pad Kung (สะตอกะปิผัดกุ้ง): Bitter beans with shrimp, pork and shrimp paste.

Hed Krang Mok Jone at Nam Yoi.

Phuket Pochana

This local restaurant is popular with Phuketians in search of a morning dim sum feast. Phuket style dim sum is small, light and bite size. The ingredients range from shrimp dumplings with minced pork to fish cakes with fresh corn. The owner set up shop here about eight years ago and he’ll happily give you a helping hand with the menu.

Recommended dishes:

  • Kai Kra Ta (ไข่กระทะ): Baked eggs with chili, minced pork, toast and spring onions.
  • Jok (โจ๊ก): Rice congee with pork, egg, ginger and coriander.
  • Dim Sum (ติ่มซำ): Steamed dumplings, meat, veggies and seafood in a myriad of combinations.

Baked Eggs at Phuket Pochana.

Tu Kab Khao

Tu Kab Khao is a recent addition to the Old Town food scene, but it’s already getting busy. The retro-chic bar could be one reason. Another reason could be the ridiculously good food. (We especially love the spicy curry.) The stylish, upscale setting, without those upscale prices, is another attraction.

Recommended dishes:

  • Nam Prik Kung Sieb (น้ำพริกกุ้งเสียบ): Shrimp paste with fresh vegetables.
  • Mee Hoon Kaeng Pu (หมี่หุ้นแกงปู): Spicy crab curry with rice noodles.
  • Mu Hong (หมูฮ้อง): A rich, spiced pork belly stew.

Mu Hong at Tu Kab Khao.

Read more Food articles:

Five must-try island food classics

Beachside snacks we can’t live without

Flaming Lips: The spiciest Thai curries ever

The definitive guide to Thai seafood

How to eat like a local on the Thai islands

Unexpectedly amazing non-Thai restaurants from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan