When it comes to tasty cuisines, few countries do it better than Thailand and its spicy, aromatic flavours. Phuket is no exception, and this sun-kissed tropical paradise combines its multicultural past with a range of unique local produce to create one of Thailand’s most delectable cuisines.
1. Tom Yum Goong
Arguably Thailand’s best known dish, Tom Yum Goong is an aromatic delight courtesy of the countless fragrant herbs and spices lurking enticingly within. With lemongrass, lime leaves, shallots and local favourite galangal packing a spicy punch for a base, it’s the ‘goong’ – or prawns – which lure most visitors to ravenously devour what is one of Thailand’s most flavoursome dishes.
2. Roti Nam Geang
A genuine local favourite, Roti Nam Geang is a spicy counterpoint to the relatively sweet 'roti' – or flatbread – found elsewhere on the island. Influenced by the Muslim spice trade and the flavours preferred by the first wave of Hokkien and Tamil migrants who once called Phuket home, Roti Nam Geang comes with a spicy curry and is served up in delicious chicken, beef or fish variations.
3. Pad Thai
A dish which hardly needs an introduction, Pad Thai is famous the world over. So ubiquitous is it even in Thailand, that it comes in countless variations. At its core, Pad Thai is always a stir-fry dish consisting of rice noodles, egg, chilli and tofu with a variety of accompaniments which often include prawns or chicken. It’s particularly popular at roadside cafes in Phuket, where it forms an ideal quick-fix beach lunch.
4. Massaman Curry
A signature dish of southern Thailand, Massaman is said to have been brought to Thailand by a Persian trader in the 16th Century. Beloved by the island's sizeable Muslim population, this typically beef-based dish is revered for its coconut milk-infused flavour and the soft potatoes which soak it up. Finished with chopped roasted peanuts or cashews and an assortment of spices, it’s a favourite in Phuket.
5. Pad See Ew
A Chinese-influenced dish similar to Pad Thai, the ever-popular Pad See Ew is a fried noodle course infused with soy sauce. Often cooked with thin strips of meat, particularly pork, this typically dry stir-fried dish is popular throughout Thailand and remains a firm favourite on restaurant tables all over Phuket.
6. Oh Eaw
A traditional summer favourite, the wonderfully-named Oh Eaw is a refreshing shaved ice concoction which combines the unique flavours of banana jelly, beans and a sweet syrup to create the perfect hot-weather dessert.
7. Homok Talay
You can’t get much more authentic than tasting Thai food served up in a traditional banana leaf, although Homok Talay is still somewhat of a mystery dish for some. A melange of fish, vegetables and delicious curry spices – all of which are pressed into the leaf to form a kind of spicy mousse – the dish is sometimes ignored due to its strong flavours.
8. Por Pia
A mild alternative to the spice-laden spring rolls which on occasion bring unsuspecting visitors to their knees, Por Pia are freshly made fried spring rolls usually served with an apricot dipping sauce. They’re less spicy than their more traditional counterparts, making the dish particularly popular with tourists.
9. Gai Med Ma-Muang
A stir-fried chicken dish which makes the most of Phuket’s ample supply of cashew nuts, Gad Med Ma-Muang is a sweet, subtly spiced dish packed with nutritious vegetables. It’s a great starting point for visitors eager to taste traditional Thai food without succumbing to a spice overload.
10. Fish and Chips
Fish and chips in Phuket? That’s right, this traditional English dish is widespread throughout the island, owing to the prevalence of English and Irish residents who have settled all around. That means authentic fish and chips restaurants are never too far away, serving up the perfect beachside meal to accompany a stunning late-afternoon sunset.
Words by Mike Tuckerman