A bit of Thailand island hopping proves that good food can be hard to find in paradise.
We leave the mainland for some island time. We score the mythical bungalow-by-the-beach on Koh Mook, a small island with a few resorts\bungalo joints and a tiny village. Paradise it may be, but it means we are going to have to suffer Thai tourist food, which is usually bland at best, and shabbily cooked at worst. We did find a few treasures though, we'll only show you the good bits...
The first thing we do is set off to a find a village that maybe has a restaurant or street stall. We find a village but no food. The village in Koh Mook is small and poor, though very friendly. Many folks are relocated tsunami survivors.
We lunch at a regular tourist joint, the Hilltop Restaurant which is ok. The highlight is dessert: pumpkin in warm coconut milk. It is made by the owner's daughter, still in her school uniform. It's so good the whole family tucks in, and neighbourhood kids (and resident naughty monkey) appear from nowhere.
Fish is usually the saviour when you're on a tropical island. This fish has been steamed with lemon and garlic. We sat at the Viewpoint Restaurant that overlooks the whole beach, a nice spot to watch the sunset.
More fish, a southern style fish curry with apple eggplants, pineapple and a good hearty hot kick.
If you're looking for a cool place to have a beer or ten, try Mookies run by the affable Alex. He explained much about the local ways, including the strange holidaying habits of the millions of Swedes on the islands. He also tells us things we don't want to know, such as how the impressive looking tsunami warning system doesn't work. We missed dinner we liked talking at his bar so much.
We leave Koh Mook for Koh Lanta, which is much bigger and has plenty of restaurants to cater for locals, such as this Muslim roadside curry and dessert shack along the main road near the New Coconut Bungalows.
We pick a few selections from the range of premade dishes in a glass cabinet. This food is rocket hot, it even blew the heads off the locals. Its a mix of chicken, prawns, green beans, apple eggplants and large slices of bamboo shoots.
Complimentary fresh fixins to go with the meal. Well, they were fresh at some time of the day.
Dessert time: pumpkin in coconut milk, this time it is iced. A sublime treat in 35 degree heat.
Iced stewed banana with a red syrup, it tastes as good as it looks, super sweet and refreshing. There were crunchy little berries in it as well.
We picked our accomodation at random in Koh Lanta. The lodgings at New Coconut Bungalows were ok but the ladies running the kitchen were simply amazing. We watched them cooking, prepping and laughing day and night. This big hunk of pan fried kingfish in red curry sauce was incredible and beautifully presented. This set us back a couple of hundred baht, about $8, which doesn't sound like much but is extravagent in Thai terms.
Tom yum goong - packed with fresh spices, wood ear fungus and prawnies. Oh yeah.
We stop at Ko Phi Phi on our trip back to Phuket. Ko Phi Phi is bizarre, the centre of the little tourist town is like a miniature, low-rent version Bali's Kuta. But where there's lots of tourists there's lots of local workers, and where there's lots of local workers there's local restaurants to feed them. Such as this joint.
It's a good old curry on rice noodles joint, cheap and spicy.
Pick your preferred curry from the pot.
The yellow curry is usually the least spicy, but still packs a fair bit of heat.
Alison is obsessed with anything that has those tiny pea-sized eggplants. This number is super spicy with a few little bits of beef.
Other options around here were big tourist buffets along the water front. Oh yeah, spaghetti in bain maries.
Sadly we only have on more night to go on this whirlwind tour, but we make it a doozy. We decide to pass on the buffets and head back to to Phuket.