Great Thai seafood
Bang Po is a true food destination thanks to the many local-style seafood restaurants strung along the beach road. Around a dozen large eateries all look quite similar and have almost interchangeable names, all with sea-view tables set up under simple metal roofs beside the beach.
We had a good experience at Bang Po Seafood Takho, which came recommended by food writers, Austin Bush and Robyn Eckhardt. With tables set over sand and scents from an open kitchen wafting into the sea breeze, the family-run place is ideal for dining at a relaxed pace.
Thais and foreigners receive the same menu and the staff never questioned our ability to handle dishes like spicy seaweed and green mango salad with arke shells. All diners start off with crisp veggies and grilled shrimp paste mixed with grated coconut meat, a house specialty, presented complimentary on a piece of coconut shell.
From there we rolled through a small but fresh plate of kung che nam pa (raw prawns with sour-and-spicy sauce) along with stir-fried clams with chilli paste and another local specialty: tom som waay (or wai). This sour soup with young tamarind leaves features finger-size pieces of octopus native to the area. The springy strips were unlike anything we’d tried before, though next time we’ll go for them in a coconut-milk soup with lemongrass. We finished off with pla kaphong neung manao, a whole sea bass slowly steamed over a ceramic charcoal grill in a bath of fresh limejuice and garlic. Starting at 80 baht, Takho’s prices are reasonable for the quality.
Ko Samui has a reputation for excellent khanom jeen, fresh rice noodles accompanied by a selection of curries. We had good luck at Khanom Jeen Pla Khiao, a roadside shack near the seafood restaurants that offers a few types of curries alongside a huge spread of fresh and pickled herbs and vegetables that diners sprinkle on top – you can even carve out fresh sataw (stink beans) for a blast of their astringent flavour that many Southern Thais love.
We went with nam yaa, a rich and mild coconut curry that goes brilliantly with the soft noodles, crunchy veggies and roasted red chillies from cups set out on the plastic tables. We’ve also heard great things about Khanom Jeen Pa Maitree, located on a lane that cuts inland from the centre of Mae Nam.
Just west of the seafood restaurants, several low-key beach bars that also serve food are great for kicking back and perhaps strumming a guitar between sips of a beer or cocktail. King Busch Reggae Beach is the most obvious choice, with a line of bamboo tables set up beneath Rasta flags on the beach. We’d also stroll a little further west to The Fin, a smaller beach shack hosting live reggae bands from 18:00 to midnight.
Bang Po Seafood Takho: 56/4 Moo 6 (beach side of the ring road); open 10:00-22:00; T: (077) 420 010
Khanom Jeen Pla Khiao: Just east of King Busch Reggae Beach on the beach side of the ring road (sign in Thai; look for the open-fronted shack with silver pots on a counter and pink plastic stools around the tables); open 08:00-16:00
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.
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