Where to eat and drink: That Phanom

That Phanom: Where to eat and drink

Though you won’t find much Western fare or fast food, That Phanom offers plenty of tasty street food, some terrific handcrafted sweets and one very good cafe.

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A great option for breakfast and lunch is Sister Cafe, located in front of That Phanom Place on Highway 212. They do a phenomenal Vietnamese-style kai kata, skillet-fried eggs with Vietnamese and Chinese sausages. Throw in a khanom pung yuan (mini Vietnamese-inspired pork baguettes) along with a big mug of fresh coffee and you’ve got a very satisfying way to start the day. Offering an English/Thai menu with photos, the young staff also serves tasty Thai rice plates, salads and a couple of Western items like steak and French fries.

A breakfast to die for at Sister Cafe. : David Luekens.
A breakfast to die for at Sister Cafe. Photo: David Luekens

If you avoid meat, stroll just east of Sister Cafe to a tiny ahaan jay (vegan food) shop that’s marked by a bunch of yellow banners. Open for breakfast and lunch, the shophouse eatery dishes out rice with cheap vegan curries, stir-fries and meat substitutes from half a dozen pots that make it possible for you to look before you order. Just give a shout if no one’s around when you arrive.

That Phanom punches above its weight on the market front. The surprisingly large night market occupies an entire block just north of Phanom Phanarak Soi 9 and a five-minute walk from the Phra That. Similar to the night markets in Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan, it comes alive with a mix of prepared foods, fresh produce, clothing and other non-edibles. You’ll find all of the standards, like kuay-tiao nam (noodle soup), som tam and khao man gai (chicken rice), though on-site seating is minimal.

Pack an empty stomach. : David Luekens.
Pack an empty stomach. Photo: David Luekens

A bunch of street food vendors also set up around the car park of Wat Phra That Phanom, and across from the fresh market on Phanom Phanarak Soi 4. The latter is a great place to score som tam with grilled chicken or whole river fish and sticky rice. While there, check out the many stalls selling elaborate flower garlands and baisri (decorations made out of banana leaves that look something like Thai-style Christmas trees) sold as offerings to the Phra That.

If you prefer to kick back at a table and watch the Mekong churn by while you dine, head down to the riverside road for a whole freshwater fish at one of the many restaurants located opposite the riverfront walkway. After that, sweet tooths should not miss Raan Tuk Kata Khanom Boran, a shop near the river on Soi 8 that sells delicious handmade kalamae. Steamed in banana husks, the traditional Thai sweets are made from rice flour, palm sugar and undeveloped white watermelon seeds, naturally dyed purple from boiled butterfly pea flowers.

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David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.