The definitive guide to Thai seafood
One of the best things about island hopping in Thailand is the amazing seafood. If you know your kung from your kang you can eat like an island king without breaking your budget, if not then don’t sweat it – we’re here to help.
How to order
The best seafood is served whole because it’s meant to be shared in true Thai family style. Dig in with your friends and get messy. Use your hands to peel crab and shrimp, then wash every spicy bite down with a cold beer.
What to order
Local Phuket Lobster or kung mungkorn is on the top of every reputable seafood menu. It’s mostly caught around Phuket, or farmed in neighboring islands. There are several kinds of lobsters but you’ll likely see Seven Colored Phuket Lobster, around 1,800-2,500 THB per kilogram depending on size.
Shrimp is all over Thai food – in stir fries, curries, baked with noodles or dried and added to Som Tum. But at the beach go for Mantis Shrimp, or kang (1,800-2,000 THB per kilo). These juicy, large, flat headed creatures are like a cross between shrimp and lobster and they taste great fried in the shell with crispy garlic.
Large, juicy Tiger Prawns, freshly grilled in the shell, are around 650 THB per kilo. Peel the tail and dip the meat into spicy seafood sauce. But we’re not interested in just the meat. In Thailand it’s customary to suck the gooey brains out of the shrimp. Called mun kung, it’s the rich, oily head of the shrimp.
Pu maa, or Blue Crab, is another island highlight, around 250-450 THB per kilogram depending on size. Eat them whole, freshly steamed. Pull apart the crab and use your hands or a shell cracking utensil to open each piece. Dip the meat in green Thai seafood sauce but don’t be shocked if you find eggs. It’s a delicacy (so are fish and squid eggs) and you just won the prize!
Order a whole Snapper, Grouper or Sea Bass steamed with lime and chili broth (neung manao) or deep fried (tod). The standard deep fried options are: fish sauce with sour mango salad, crispy garlic, or chilli sauce. One fish will usually cost around 250-400 THB, and that’s enough to share with a group.
Fish eggs will make an appearance in an authentic Thai seafood meal whether you like it or not. Kaeng Som Kai Pla Reeow Cheeow is a beachy take on the typical Thai tamarind based soup, Kaeng Som, (not to be confused with the spicy Southern version). The island addition? Large grape-like fish eggs from the ocean dwelling Giant Catfish.
Order squid steamed in spicy lime and chili broth (neung manao again). Or grilled with spicy seafood sauce, which is a perfect snack. At night on Thai beaches you’ll see bright green lights on the horizon. Those are squid boats, using bright lights to attract the delicious tentacled sea creatures.
Local clams are a must. Thai mussels can’t really stand up to imported European or New Zealand ones, so give them a miss. Instead order Hoy Lai Pad Prik Pow, saltwater clams stir fried with chili paste and basil. Or try local oysters, hoy nang rom, served on ice served in shell or out, with condiments of lime, chili, deep fried onions and that ubiquitous spicy seafood sauce.
Where to find the best seafood
Look for a busy place, and even better, find one away from the main beach for lower prices and a more local crowd. Here are a few of our favorites:
Fisherman’s, Koh Phangan
Sabieng Lae, Koh Samui
New Heaven, Koh Tao
Laem Hin Seafood, Laem Hin, Phuket
Lemongrass Restaurant, Koh Phi Phi
Lae Lay Grill, Krabi
Read more Food articles:
Five must-try island food classics
Beachside snacks we can’t live without
Flaming Lips: The spiciest Thai curries ever
Phuket Town: The weird wild world of Southern Thai cuisine
How to eat like a local on the Thai islands
Unexpectedly amazing non-Thai restaurants from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan