No trip to the Diamond City would be complete without a taste of khanom mo-kaeng, a sinfully sweet Thai custard consisting of egg and locally produced Palmyra palm sugar slow-baked in trays over charcoal. We’ve never understood why fried shallots are often sprinkled over the caramelised top of this dessert, though we welcome the addition of lotus seeds and durian. A great place to try it is Mae Lamiad, a hole-in-the-wall shop that sells its lone product in brown paper bags to keep the flies away.
A few doors down from Mae Lamiad is Nok Noi, a full-service Thai sweets shop that opens after dark to sell khanom mo-kaeng along with ba-bin (similar to mo-kaeng but made with sticky rice); tong yip, tong yor and fai tong (incredibly sweet little orange balls), and durian and banana bobbing in sweetened coconut milk or served with coconut sticky rice. Set out in a blaze of bright colours, the offerings are served to go or on site at a few footpath tables—pointing to what you want should overcome the language barrier. Sweets like these are also available at Phetchaburi’s markets and various other places, including some massive outlets drawing busloads of Thai weekenders along Phetkasem Road.
Food enthusiasts who are up early should take a wander through the venerable Rim Nam Market on the riverside, and the nearby Anamai Market. At both you’ll find local products like dried shrimp and fish and fresh fruits and cheap snacks, such as khanom beuang (sweet taco-shaped pancakes) and muu sap (deep fried strips of pork). Wash these down with a cool glass of lod chong (grass jelly in icy sweetened coconut milk) from a popular stall called Jae Nai in Anamai Market.
Just east of Anamai Market near the clock tower at the south end of Surin Rue Chai Road, a bunch of street vendors emerge in late afternoons to dish out gai tom nam pla (chicken boiled with fish sauce), khao kriab pak mor (steamed rice-flour dumplings) and noodle soup with boiled offal, to name a few.
For a less chaotic street food experience, head to the well-organised night market that comes to life under a broad pavilion with plenty of tables for dining on site (though keep in mind that different tables are for particular vendors). Here you’ll find all of the usual Thai street dishes, such as khao ka muu (braised pork shanks with rice), pad Thai and hoi tort (fried oyster omelette) along with Thai sweets and dizzying spreads of soups and curries in a back corner.
Beyond the markets, Phetchaburi boasts an outstanding selection of food served on the footpaths and in hole-in-the-wall shops downtown. Delights that we tracked down included coconut ice cream; deep-fried bananas; fresh durian (only in season from May to August); pad Thai with fresh prawns sizzled to perfection at Mae Paad; kuay chab (rolled noodle soup with crispy pork belly and offal in five spice broth) at Khun Fon’s 60-year-old shop; a mix of house-made pork balls, roasted pork and a delicious house chilli sauce in kuay tiao nam (noodle soup) at 30-year-old Pen Prik Pet; and made-from-scratch tort man pla (fish cakes) with their savoury tones and spongy texture at Tong Chiang.
Speaking of tort man pla, this is one of the foods credited to the Mon people who make up a significant slice of Phetchaburi’s heritage pie. Another Mon-influenced dish worth seeking out is khao chae (pronounced like “share” but without the final syllable), featuring savoury snakehead fish blended with spices and palm sugar, slow-cooked and rolled or pulled into small balls and strips before being served with rice in jasmine-infused ice water.
A good place to try it is Baan Khao Chae, which also serves fresh coffee and khanom jeen (sticky rice noodles with curries) out of a restored teak house across from Wat Mahathat Worawhihan. If you’re simply after a quality espresso and slice of cake in a comfy air-con setting that’s conducive to waiting out a rainstorm, head to nearby Pagoda Cafe.
For a proper sit-down dinner, Rabieng Rimnam has served great Thai food and fun times for more than three decades at a 120-year-old teak house draped in foliage beside the river. Fetching 60 to 100 baht a plate, unusual dishes like neua ob beer (beef roasted with beer) and yum huea plee (banana blossom salad) draw regulars who tend to be friendly to the foreign travellers staying in the dirt-cheap rooms upstairs or in nearby guesthouses. You’ll also find cool art and a great music selection in a setting that’s ideal for relaxed grazing with a few beers. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth stopping by to chat up the Thai owners, Nid and Tom, who speak clear English and offer motorbike rental and—if Tom is around—trekking tours to Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Anamai Market (Talad Anamai) East side of the river between Anamai Rd, Surinth Rue Chai Rd and Matyawong Rd; Mo–Su: Early morning to late afternoon.
Baan Khao Chae Corner of Suwanmanee Rd and Damnoen Kasem Rd (across from Wat Mahathat Worawihan); Breakfast and lunch.
Kuay Job Khun Fon Khlong Krachaeng Rd (south of Wat Phlap Phlachai); Mo–Su: 10:30–16:00.
Mae Lamiad Damnoen Kasem Rd (across from Wat Mahathat Worawihan; look for a picture of khanom morgaen on a red, green and yellow sign); T: (089) 140 8222; Mo–Su: 08:00–17:00.
Night Market Corner of Ratchawithi and Damnoen Kasem Rd; Mo–Su: 17:00–21:00.
Nok Noi Damnoen Kasem Rd (across from Wat Mahathat Worawihan and just north of Phra Song Rd; look for the colourful sweets on the footpath and a pink, green and white sign with Thai script); Mo–Su: 17:00–22:00.
Pad Thai Mae Paad Damnoen Kasem Rd (just north of Wat Mahathat Worawihan near the corner of Chisa-In Rd; look for the wok and eggs along the footpath); Mo–Su: 16:00–23:00.
Pen Prik Pet 173/1 Phongsuriya Rd (across from Wat Yai Suwannaram and just south of Phongsuriya Soi 7; look for blue stools around stainless steel tables); T: (032) 412 990; We–Mo: 09:30–15:00.
Rabieng Rimnam 1 Chisa-In Rd; T: (032) 425 707; Mo–Su: 08:00–24:00.
Rim Nam Market (Talad Rim Nam) Halfway between Phongsuriya Rd and Phra Song Rd on the narrow lane closest to the east bank of the river, directly across from Wat Phlap Phlachai; Early morning to afternoon.
Tort Man Pla Tong Chiang Ban Dai It Rd (just west of Wat Mahathat Worawihan; look for a sign with red Thai script and fish cakes pictured); T: (086) 032 3687; Breakfast and lunch.
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.