With six days abroad in Thailand, Juliana Mare sampled the very best in authentic Thai cuisine and shares her exciting food journey through the best and worst of Koh Samui.
I’ve never had a high threshold for chilli, in fact the ‘Lemon & Herb’ seasoning from Nando’s borders on the uncomfortable side for me.
I spent a week in Koh Samui and not one to pass on authentic, local cuisine, tasted Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, Green Curry, chicken dukkah, minced chicken salads and more, all of which, set my taste buds alight.
Let me start by saying there are very different types of spicy across the world. Western spicy (what I now consider to be mild) which involves tossing a few small shakes of black pepper over your meal, European spicy, which is a few finely sliced home-grown chillies tossed throughout your pasta and then there’s Asian spicy, which is so rich and potent that it marinates every component of the dish for an overwhelming punch that clears your sinuses and makes your mouth tingle.
Think you’re safe with a salad in Thailand? Think again! Whether your salad standards of carrot, onion, cucumber and cabbage are tossed with minced chicken or seafood, the same uniquely Thai flavours of lime, pepper and coriander come through in the dressing.
The citrus gives sweetness to offset the heat of the spices but there never seems to be quite enough although these are much more delicious and exciting than any regular salad you’d get back home.
When in Thailand, it’s a given that you’ll eat Pad Thai. Or in my case, four different Pad Thai’s in six days. I thought my local Thai restaurant served up a
decent dish but the flavours seem so much more concentrated in the authenticity of Thailand itself. Crisp bean shoots and crunchy ground peanuts rest beside an inviting pile of rice noodles, marinating in the most delicious glaze. Seafood or chicken were always my choice of meat but really, the noodles on their own are my favourite part.
Of my four Pad Thai’s, the best came from a small restaurant along Chaweng Walking Street owned by a cheerful Frenchman. Served by a waiter who later laughed at me for failing to crack and de-shell a Blue Swimmer Crab, this lunch only cost me $3.12AUD. It’s a very small price to pay for a meal that puts my local Thai restaurant (which charges $14 for chicken Pad Thai) to shame.
The price of the food in Thailand still amazes me and makes me question whether I ever want to eat out again in Melbourne. One of the standout food moments of my trip was receiving the bill at the end of my meal at Anantara Resort and discovering that my vodka and Coke cost the same as my main meal. I don’t know what’s more surprising – the cheap alcohol or the cheap food. Either way, Thailand really is a foodie’s dream location!
By far the best food bargain in Samui, is the seafood. With my seafood loving Father’s voice in my head telling me to seize every opportunity for lobster and crab, I obliged one day for lunch and ordered three Blue Swimmer Crabs, which only set me back about $9AUD.
I chose to have them steamed and the flesh was perfectly juicy and soft. Paired with a citrus and (very) chilli dipping sauce, I knew this meal would be the envy of my family back home.
Thai cuisine also involves a lot of meats and vegetables on skewers. Barbequed until they’re perfectly chargrilled, my favourite was prawn skewers from our buffet dinner at the YL Residence.
Cooked in the shell, which has been sliced open and butterflied, the prawns were still tender and infused with that wonderful smoky flavor that comes with barbequed meat. This was easily the best way I’ve ever eaten prawns and I’ll no longer be satisfied with the standard ‘raw with lemon juice’ that I’m accustomed to.
The only disappointment and a dish that I would highly recommend to avoid, is the balls of fish meat on skewers. You know that feeling you get when you look at imitation crab that’s vacuum-sealed in the fridge at the supermarket? Multiply that feeling by ten and imagine instead of that meat sitting in a fridge, it’s been lying on a bed of ice in the humid Thai heat for an unknown period of time.
Every skewer, noodle dish, salad and seafood meal was perfect.
Just beware the fish ball skewers.