We ate at a series of beach front restaurants during our time lounging in Khao Lak, Thailand and I debated doing a separate post for each restaurant, but the fact is – I spent more time relaxing and enjoying the unwinding part of the trip than taking terrific photos of all the food I ate. Yes, I did manage to capture a fair amount of the food – though much of it not well. There was something about this part of the trip – the lazy, relaxing, book-reading, not a care in the world time – that made me want to just sit back and soak up the joy of it all. So I’ve decided instead to do a mash-up of food pics, quick reviews, and overview of the delicious foods we ate while staying in Khao Lak. It’s easier on me, and I promise it will be much more enjoyable for you!
One of the things I loved about our time in Khao Lak was that relaxing. We had been traveling for a week by the time we got there and had nothing planned other than enjoying the beach, the company, and a good book. While we stayed at Le Meridien, we were pretty disappointed with the food options there. Luckily for us, the beach was filled with teeny tiny little huts where families were cooking up delicious food for a fraction of the cost we would have paid at the hotel – with the same great views!
Now I must confess, I ordered a lot of the same things everywhere. I liked to try different pad thais, different green curries, different spring rolls. I was sure since this was just a series of little family restaurants that everywhere we were going was serving really authentic Thai food. But the problem is, I’m not entirely sure what “authentic” Thai food tastes like now. Each and every item was different. The green curry at one place tasted completely different from another. Some was spicy, some wasn’t. So while I can tell you what my favorites were, it’s hard to know exactly what constitutes “authentic.” Guess I’ll just need another trip to do more “research” into the matter!
We ended up at the beach at the end of May – just as the high season was coming to an end and the rainy season was starting. Little did we know that this also meant some of the huts shut down for the season. The first night we ate at a really cute little place (of course they all were…) called Krua Thai. They were the only hut on the beach to have tofu. Tofu! It was like music to my ears. By the next night as we were walking by, we noticed it was completely gone. It was a mirage – as if it never even existed in the first place. But I’m glad we got there before it disappeared – the pad thai here was one of my favorites on the beach. (And after some investigating in the daylight we did see some sign that it had been there, that we hadn’t just dreamed up the entire thing…)
We had a similar experience at my favorite lunch spot – this one was to the left of the hotel (while everything else was to the right) – except we had a bit more warning. We stopped in for lunch twice, on the second visit they let us know it was their last meal and they were all packing up for the rest of the season to avoid the rains and the lack of tourists coming their way. Which was really too bad for us, because this restaurant had an amazing green curry and probably the best massaman curry I’ve ever tasted. (The green curry pictured here was Jackie or Luke’s – who ordered with meat- but we had gone back to try it vegetarian and it was amazing).
So we bought the rest of their beer off them for about 4 dollars, lamented the loss of our favorite green curry and massaman curry spot, and headed back down the beach with full bellies and slightly lowered spirits. Which were, of course, turned around pretty quickly. I mean, we were in paradise and it’s pretty hard to stay down too long – even in the face of a couple rainy days.
One of my other favorite Thai foods is the papaya salad. My favorite came from Mama’s – another lovely little shack we stumbled to one night. We were trying to be a bit better with our portions – as we’d been stuffing our faces for a few days. So we ordered the salad, pad thai, and a tempura vegetable app to share. Well…it turned out to be a ton of food (one of the common themes of the trip it seems). All were delicious, but the papaya salad really stole the show.
We spent the last three nights of our trip at the same restaurant – Sabai Sabai. The first time we went for dinner I fell in love with a pineapple curry that was one of the best and unique dishes I’d ever tasted. Slightly sweet but with a kick that hits the back of your throat after swallowing, it was quite a pleasant surprise. (I just wish I had photographed it better!)
What kept us going back to Sabai the next two nights after the initial one was the friendliness of the owner. It was just him, his brother, a cousin, a wife, and their daughter. Everyone was treated like family – and it really felt like you were being welcomed into an old friend’s house. Each night we were greeted with a smile, and fresh complimentary veggie spring rolls – one of the ways to my heart is, of course, free food.
But beyond the food was the hospitality. There was a curfew in place while we were there because of the ongoing military coup. The owner made us feel comfortable and safe – even when breaking curfew. We ate and drank by candlelight after curfew and he insisted on driving us back to the hotel himself (even though it was a short walk). We met a German couple who had gotten engaged that day, and we all celebrated by sharing a bottle of Thai rum the owner was generously serving up over ice with ginger ale. It was such a celebratory and welcoming feel, we couldn’t help but continue to go back.
One of my favorite traditions we learned about on the Thai trip was lighting of paper lanterns. Basically, you get this giant lantern, light a round piece in the middle on fire, and set it off into the sky with a wish you’ve made. On our last night, the folks at Sabai Sabai heard it was our last night, and brought us over our own lantern with a thank you & good luck message on it. I can’t think of a better way to end such an epic journey than with sending off a wish and a promise that someday, I’ll be back…