Photo: Trang cakes are famous!

Eat and meet



While it’s easy to stick to the traveller-oriented cafes near the train station, Trang’s outstanding food scene with heavy Chinese and Muslim-Thai influences is a joy to explore. At the curry shops, most dishes are usually served rad khao (“on rice”), but you can ask for them sai tuai (“in a bowl”) as well.

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Markets
A good place to start is the main night market, known as Centrepoint, where several Southern Thai khao gaeng (curry and rice) vendors sell 20 or more varieties at once. Fiery standards include gaeng neua (beef curry), kung sator pad prik (prawn with astringent “stink beans”), gaeng som (sour orange curry with fish) and gaeng tai pla (fish stomach curry) to go with several types of soup and turmeric-soaked pla sai, a slender fish that’s popular in the South and often served deep-fried.

Too many choices at Centrepoint, Trang's main night market.

Too many choices at Centrepoint, Trang's main night market. Photo: David Luekens

Other vendors in this lively market dish out nam prik kapi among pungent chilli pastes with steamed vegetables and Thai-style omelette fried with the distinctively sour flavour of cha-om (climbing wattle) leaf. Some spots have on-site tables with plastic stools and you can order by pointing. Fried chicken, khao mok gai (biryani rice with chicken), fresh fruit, roti and all sorts of Thai sweets, to name but a few, are also on offer.

On weekend nights, a second night market pops off in front of the train station and has more of a carnival vibe. While the food tends to be better at the main night market, this is a fun place to graze on grilled meats and prawns and endless deep-fried snacks. Along with clothes and toys, you’ll also find Japanese-Thai hybrid sushi and oysters on the half shell.

Explore the treats at the Municipal Market.

Explore the treats at the Municipal Market. Photo: David Luekens

By day Trang hosts a sprawling Municipal Market where you can check out fresh-cut pig’s heads, seafood and local fruit among the abundant produce squeezed into steamy surrounds beneath a giant pavilion. Head to the southwestern corner to find a provincial specialty: muu krob Mueang Trang, whole hogs marinated in herbs for hours and then slowly roasted over wood-fired pits. For 80 baht you get a good-size pouch of tender, fatty pork belly wrapped in its own golden, crispy skin. Yum.

Chinese-Thai and Southern Thai eateries
For a sit-down meal that won’t cost much, Kim Restaurant is a quality Chinese-Thai joint that sets out trays of curries, stir-fries and roasted meats served to stainless steel tables. The pla kaphang (sea bass) in a delicate ginger sauce was fabulous and unusually served in personal-size filets so that you don’t have to buy a whole fish. We’ve also heard that Kim is a top spot for roasted duck—and with their six decades of experience, we don’t doubt it.

Our <i>pla kaphang</i> (sea bass) in a ginger sauce at Kim's was excellent.

Our pla kaphang (sea bass) in a ginger sauce at Kim's was excellent. Photo: David Luekens

In a similar vein is Jay Wan, slinging the usual pre-made Southern Thai curries along with Chinese-Thai ahaan sang tham ("made to order") dishes like pak buung fai daeng (stir-fried morning glory) prepared in an open kitchen that fills the dining room with sneeze-inducing "wok breath". The flavours are great (try the sweet pork ribs), the owner speaks English and the boisterous chef keeps his wok sizzling until 2:00 in the morning.

Those requiring halal food, or anyone seeking out Muslim-Thai eats, should head to Mustafa for cheap and tasty curries and other dishes laid out in glass-fronted displays. The pad neua daeng (“red beef”) and pad pet gai (spicy chicken stir-fry) both hit the spot, and you’ll also find roti and mataba (meat-stuffed unleavened breads) that make for indulgent breakfasts.

The <i>pad neua daeng</i> and <i>pad pet gai</i> at Mustafa's hit the spot nicely, too.

The pad neua daeng and pad pet gai at Mustafa's hit the spot nicely, too. Photo: David Luekens

Strict herbivores aren’t left out of the fun thanks to Raan Ahaan Jay Sukkaphap and its good range of vegetarian dishes, including some Southern Thai curries, displayed streetside towards the east side of town. It’s one of several vegetarian eateries in an area that’s a focal point for Trang’s 10-day Vegetarian Festival, which comes each year in September with the usual piercing of skin by long metal implements.

While all of the above are good options, we’ve found that nothing beats the Southern Thai eats set out late afternoon in front of Yue Chiang. The humble cook does the best gaeng panang we’ve ever had—more salty than sweet with a nice burn and richness—along with delicious gaeng tae poe (rich and slightly sour curry with pork and morning glory) and pak mieang sai kai, an earthy local green leaf sauteed with egg. You’ll also find khanom (“sweets” or “snacks”) including sa-kuu sai muu, tapioca balls stuffed with a pork and peanut mixture. Try to get there by 17:00, as most curries sell out by nightfall.

Don't miss the Southern Thai eats at Yue Chiang.

Don't miss the Southern Thai eats at Yue Chiang. Photo: David Luekens

Cafes
Evoking the old-school Trang vibe, century-old Yue Chiang also sets the tone for Trang’s cafe culture by serving bitter wood-fired kopi, usually tempered with sweetened condensed milk, to marble-top tables that fill up with older Chinese-Thai locals at dawn. Before the curries come out, the hard-working owners offer muu krob Mueang Trang along with pat jang, a savoury sticky rice snack steamed in coconut husk with pork, egg and lotus seed fillings—a terrific padding for the strong brew.

For breakfast we usually end up at Kopi, an aptly named cafe open since 1942 next to the train station. Attracting travellers and locals, the spacious open-fronted eatery serves good kopi along with fresh-squeezed orange juice, dim sum, sala bao (steamed buns), jok (rice kongee) and bak-kut-te, a Chinese-style “meatbone tea” packed with needle mushrooms, goji berries and tender pork ribs. Stuffed with peppery Vietnamese and sweet Chinese sausages, the kai kata (egg skillet) is also a good choice. Closer to the clock tower on Phra Ram VI, Sii Ochaa is a similar cafe that stays open later.

Kopi with bak-kut-te at Kopi.

Kopi with bak-kut-te at Kopi. Photo: David Luekens

With more of a traveller vibe, 1952 Cafe grabs repeat customers craving the excellent smoothies, fresh coffee, ice-cold beer, Thai rice plates, pizza, pasta, baguettes and burgers—we can never resist the “1952 burger” with bacon and mushrooms. Prices run from 80 to 200 baht, but in addition to the fare you’re paying for a chilled-out ambiance that’s ideal for killing a few hours with a book or laptop in an air-con section or outside under an awning. In the evenings, the terrace overlooking the train station night market is a good place to catch up with some of the expats who call Trang home.

Finally, no visit to Trang would be complete without a slice of Trang cake. Available in coconut, coffee, pandan, orange, banana, and, our favourite, "three tastes,” the spongy cakes are sold all over town and provide the perfect cushion for kopi. If you happen to be here in August, why not gorge yourself during the annual Trang Cake Festival?

View of the train station market from Cafe 1952.

View of the train station market from Cafe 1952. Photo: David Luekens


Map of eating options for Trang

Legend
(1) 1952 Cafe (2) Centrepoint Night Market (3) Jay Wan (4) Kim Restaurant (5) Kopi (6) Mustafa Halal Food (7) Raan Ahaan Jay Sukkaphap (8) Sii Ochaa (9) Trang Municipal Market (Talad Tesaban Trang) (10) Yue Chiang

1952 Cafe Sathanee Rd (part of Sri Trang Hotel); Mo–Su: 08:00–22:00.
Centrepoint Night Market Just east of the clock tower on Phra Ram VI Rd; Mo–Su: 17:00–21:00.
Jay Wan Phra Ram VI Rd near Kasikorn Bank and Hotel 23 (sign in Thai only; look for the food display next to a fresh egg vendor); T: (094) 596 4645; Mo–Su: 17:00–02:00.
Kim Restaurant 15 Kan Tang Rd (just south of Kan Tang Soi 1); T: (075) 219 705; Mo–Su: 16:30–01:00.
Kopi Sathanee Rd (just south of the train station); T: (075) 214 225; Mo–Su: 07:00–17:00.
Mustafa Halal Food Sathanee Rd (just north of the train station); Mo–Su: Breakfast and lunch.
Raan Ahaan Jay Sukkaphap Phattalung Rd between Phattalung sois 3 and 5; Mo–Su: Breakfast and lunch.
Sii Ochaa 146 Phra Ram VI Rd (between the clock tower and night market); T: (084) 064 4214; Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Trang Municipal Market (Talad Tesaban Trang) On Rachadamnern Rd and accessible from the back via Phra Ram VI Soi 1 and Kan Tang Soi 1; Mo–Su: Morning to afternoon.
Yue Chiang Corner of Phra Ram VI Rd and Phra Ram VI Soi 1; Mo–Su: 06:00–18:00 (curries available only in late afternoon).

1952 Cafe
Sathanee Rd (part of Sri Trang Hotel); Trang, Southern Thailand
Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Centrepoint Night Market
Just east of the clock tower on Phra Ram VI Rd; Trang, Southern Thailand
Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Jay Wan
Phra Ram VI Rd near Kasikorn Bank and Hotel 23 (sign in Thai only; look for the food display next to a fresh egg vendor); Trang, Southern Thailand
T: (094) 596 4645; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Kim Restaurant
15 Kan Tang Rd (just south of Kan Tang Soi 1); Trang, Southern Thailand
T: (075) 219 705; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Kopi
Sathanee Rd (just south of the train station); Trang, Southern Thailand
T: (075) 214 225; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Mustafa Halal Food
Sathanee Rd (just north of the train station); Trang, Southern Thailand
Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Raan Ahaan Jay Sukkaphap
Phattalung Rd between Phattalung sois 3 and 5; Trang, Southern Thailand
Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Sii Ochaa
146 Phra Ram VI Rd (between the clock tower and night market); Trang, Southern Thailand
T: (084) 064 4214; Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Trang Municipal Market (Talad Tesaban Trang)
On Rachadamnern Rd and accessible from the back via Phra Ram VI Soi 1 and Kan Tang Soi 1; Trang, Southern Thailand
Almost free - most dishes under 50B
Yue Chiang
Corner of Phra Ram VI Rd and Phra Ram VI Soi 1; Trang, Southern Thailand
Almost free - most dishes under 50B
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