Krabi is the gateway to Thailand’s palm fringed beaches and whilst the islands of Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi beckon, if you’re into food, you’ll want to set aside a bit of time to explore the mainland before succumbing to the languid pace of island life.
Krabi is a compact town- easy to explore on foot, making the discovery of small local restaurants and markets a breeze. You can tick off all your Thai food favourites here but you’ll also find dozens of spots to sample southern Thai cuisine- very different to the usual dishes you stumble across in Bangkok or up north. Put your togs on hold for a couple of days longer and hunt down these mouth-watering food experiences:
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1. Test your spice tolerance…
Southern Thai food is known for being ferociously spicy and vibrant with spices and herbs like turmeric, galangal and kaffir lime leaf. The spice is not the type that is at first intense then quickly burns out, it’s more the kind that starts as a slow rumble then continues burning until it’s an inferno, the effects of which can last, well, days.
If you’re hesitant about committing to a full spread at a restaurant, get a taste of the cuisine by visiting a curry and rice stall at a market. Here you can get a plate of rice and sample spoonfuls of gaeng som- a thin sour fish curry redolent with turmeric and chilli and khua kling, a dry meat curry rich with the flavours of coconut milk and kaffir lime leaf. The food is intense, the flavours clear and pure and well worth braving the chilli for!
Sample southern Thai food at: Khao Gaeng Curry Stall at the City Market, Soi 10 Maharat Rd, Krabi. Open daily 3:00pm to 8:00pm.
2. It’s all about the street food…
One of the best lunches in town can be found on the street. Khanom jeen (rice noodles and curry) vendors set up their giant pots of curry sauce and garnish their tables with bowls of fresh and pickled vegetables and herbs, ready for hungry diners to dive in. A slippery pile of rice noodles is coated with your choice of curry sauce (we’re fans of the minced fish curry) before you pick and choose from the platter of communal greens to add to your bowl.
This type of food is fun to eat- it’s all about varying textures, temperatures and flavours. Slurp your noodles and soothe the curry burn with slices of cucumber. Cleanse your palate with crunchy, raw long beans and ramp things up again with the sour twang of pickled mustard greens.
Eat khanom jeen at: the stall located on the corner of 4 Maharaj Road, Krabi. Open morning until afternoon
3. Breakfast with the locals…
Eschew your hotel breakfast for the local fare at Maharaj Market. This morning wet market teems with stalls selling seafood, produce, meat and general household goods but it also has a sizeable food centre. Long communal tables are flanked by stalls selling everything from fried chicken and noodles to sweets and drinks. Ponder what you’ll eat over a Thai tea, cha yen if you want it cold or cha ron if you prefer it hot. Both feature strong black tea sweetened with plenty of condensed milk.
If the amount of choice leaves you bewildered, the khao kha moo is always a winner- pork legs braised in star anise, soy and cinnamon piled on top of white rice doused in braising liquid. Melt in your mouth meat accompanied by blanched gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and sour chilli vinegar. Sure sets you up for the day!
Eat breakfast at: 69 Maharaj 7 Alley, Tambon Pak Nam, Amphoe Mueang Krabi. Open daily 6:00am to 1:00pm
4. Eat the best pad thai in the region
We had to add this for those of you who make it to Koh Lanta. If you visit this island and you don’t eat a Pad Thai, you’ve missed out. Nobody wants fomo least of all pad thai fomo so get your butt to Phad Thai Rock n Roll. What was once a couple of tables outside the front of Khun Jaeb, the owner’s, house, is now a large restaurant which you will find packed with people whatever time of the day you visit.
The quality of Khun Jaeb’s pad thai hasn’t changed over the past 7 years- it remains one of the best we have ever eaten. There’s no scrimping on ingredients here- vibrant garlic chives, crispy beansprouts, juicy prawns, egg and tofu are bound together in Khun Jaeb’s secret sauce- an alchemist’s concoction of tamarind, lime, fish sauce and palm sugar. And the noodles! Just the right amount, cooked to that perfect chewy texture. We’d return to Koh Lanta just to eat this.
Eat at: Phad Thai Rock n Roll, 208 moo5 Kantiang Bay T. Lantayai Amphoe Ko Lanta. Open 11:00am to 9:00pm daily.
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