Thai cuisine is famous the world over for its bold and complex flavours, clashing spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter qualities in perfect balance. Just like the national cuisine of any large country, there are slight variations within Thailand, which is what gives us the extremely popular (in Thailand, at least) spicy papaya salad from the northeast and the delectable seafood you’ll find at Phuket beach resorts in the southwest.
It is only to be expected that the top Thai dishes in Phuket would be seafood-based. It is an island, after all, and the beautiful tropical seas around it produce a bounty of fish, prawns, squid, mussels, clams and the famous Phuket lobster. Thanks to the island’s unique history, with major international influences throughout, Phuket cuisine has some interesting surprises and special dishes to try for that really local flavour.
Tom Yam Goong
One dish that has spread far beyond the Phuket beach resorts and villages is the spicy tom yam goong. Possibly the most famous soup to come out of Thailand, it combines tangy tamarind paste, chillis and galangal with the sour flavours of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, salty fish sauce, sweet tomatoes and, of course, a few meaty prawns – the bigger the better!
Tom yam goong has a distinctly warm flavour and will definitely leave your lips tingling. However, it is not too filling, making it an excellent choice as a starter. It is, as with a lot of Thai cuisine, quite a social dish, frequently served in a large pot in the centre of the table so that everyone can help themselves.
Choo Chee Goong Nang
Choo chee goong nang is another prawn dish (“goong” is the Thai word for ‘prawn’, incidentally), though this one is not as well-known as the soup. This time, the prawns are deep-fried and served with a thick and creamy red curry sauce. With sweet coconut cream and milk to cool off the spicy curry paste and chillis, this is a lovely tropical main course – best enjoyed at a Phuket beach resort.
Another curry, and quite a well-known one around the rest of the country and the rest of the world, the flavour and even the name of massaman curry was strongly influenced by Persian traders, who visited the south of the Thailand in the 16th century. It is usually beef and potato-based, with a creamy, coconut-y sauce. Despite its name, it is not really that spicy and is quite a good dish for families to start their younger members on.
These and other dishes are widely available around Phuket, but are best enjoyed at Thavorn Beach Village. The Phuket beach resort’s flagship Old Siam Restaurant serves outstanding Royal Thai cuisine (which is like regular Thai food, but fit for a king!) right on the hotel’s private beach. This ultra-romantic setting alone makes the place pretty much unique and would be more than enough of a selling point, but the culinary team really puts their heart, soul and extensive experience into each dish, making it undoubtedly one of the finest Thai restaurants in Phuket.