If you’re exploring Phuket island and on the hunt for some local flavours, the local variety of the Thai curried fish mousse, hor mok, offers a cheap and easy taster. Usually served in small portions wrapped in banana leaf, hor mok is the perfect way to inject a little spice to your meal.
The Phuket version of hor mok is a mix of fish, chilli paste, egg and coconut milk, all blended up then formed into small rectangular morsels and set on a few Thai basil leaves. Each piece is wrapped in banana leaf and steamed before serving.
Variations of hor mok can be found all over Thailand and the dish is a little similar to otak-otak or otah found in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and fish amok in Cambodia.
Hor mok is usually served as an accompaniment to a meal, and you can slop a bit onto your rice or over your noodles to add a bit of heat to your lunch or dinner. Most seafood restaurants and kanom jeen shops around Phuket serve hor mok and, depending on where you go, the cost is between 15 and 25 baht per piece.
Some shops make more of an effort to jazz up the looks of their hor mok servings by topping them with a dollop of coconut cream and a chilli and kaffir lime leaf garnish, but most of the time you’ll find it in golden brown, looking a bit, well, unappetising. But its plain appearance is deceptive: each bite of hor mok packs a powerful punch.
The fishy-spicy taste is quite strong and best tried in small doses to acquire a sense of the flavours. Some restaurants like to serve their hor mok very spicy, so be sure to have some plain rice and water on hand.
We’ve never had a bad hor mok in Phuket, but some places are better than others. Our favourite hor mok spots are Kan Eang 2, a waterfront seafood restaurant on Ao Chalong; NC Restaurant, a popular haunt for cheap eats opposite the Royal Phuket City Hotel on Phang Nga Road in Phuket Town; and Natural (Thammachart) restaurant on Soi Phutorn in Phuket Town, which serves its hor mok as a set in rounded molds on a clay plate.
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left.