You know what’s great to eat in Phuket? The seafood.
This isn’t surprising considering Phuket is surrounded on all sides by the Andaman Sea. In fact, stay in any of its beautiful beach towns and you’ll be a fishing line away from many seafood restaurants, not to mention Italian pizzerias and sushi bars! Yes, Phuket can be touristy.
I love seafood so I didn’t mind getting my fill, but I was happy to find that there’s so much more to Phuket cuisine than just fresh seafood. Interestingly, traditional Phuket food is characterized by a blend of foreign influences, much of shaped during its time as a destination port in the China-India trade route. You just have to get off the beach and go to the Old Town to find it.
I stayed in three different areas during our visit and got to experience a range of Phuket’s cuisine. If you’re interested in doing the same, then here are eleven restaurants to try in Kata, Karon, and the Old Town.
WHAT IS PHUKET FOOD?
When doing research for this post, I came across this interesting article that described Phuket cuisine as a fusion of culinary influences. According to a Phuket-born chef, it was influenced mainly by Chinese Hokkien cuisine, then by Muslims from India and Malaysia. This explains dishes like khanom jeen, roti, and chicken curry.
But the influences don’t end there. As described, Phuket was once a port of call, routinely seeing traders from Persia, Arabia, Indonesia, and Portugal. Each of these traders brought with them spices, recipes, and cooking techniques that helped shape Phuket’s cuisine.
This confluence of cultures and influences is most apparent in the Old Town, which reminded me so much of Penang. The atmosphere was the same, the Sino-Portuguese architecture seemingly identical, and the food surprisingly similar. In fact, the food in Phuket Old Town reminded me more of the food in Penang than it did the food in Bangkok!
Only when I started doing research for this post did I learn the reason for the similarities. Like Penang, Phuket has a large Peranakan population, at least 70%. Hokkien settlers in Phuket integrated with local Thais and created a culture and cuisine that’s similar to Peranakan Malays, but unique and distinct in its own ways.
Peranakan food for me, is the ultimate in Asian fusion cuisine. It’s characterized by bold punches of flavor. At its heart, this is what you can expect from the food in Phuket.
PHUKET OLD TOWN
You’ll find great food throughout the island, but a taste of the real Phuket starts here in the Old Town. I’m more into authentic food experiences than beaches so this was easily my favorite part of Phuket.
1. One Chun Cafe & Restaurant
Before our trip, I did research only for local restaurants and One Chun Cafe was cited as being one of the best and most popular in the Old Town. It’s owned by the same family as Raya, which explains the high quality of its food and the restaurant’s charming interior.
One Chun offers many interesting southern Thai dishes on their menu, including this beautiful khanom jeen kang poo (THB 370) or crab yellow curry with khanom jeen noodles and fresh vegetables. I love crab meat and curry so I didn’t need to deliberate long. It’s one of the restaurant’s specialties and my single favorite dish to eat in Phuket.
I usually enjoy Thai curry with rice but One Chun serves them with balls of khanom jeen noodles, a thin rice noodle made from fermented rice. You ladle spoonfuls of the crab curry onto the sticky noodle balls and enjoy them with an assortment of crunchy raw vegetables. You’ll find chunks of succulent crab in a sweet and creamy coconut milk curry made with a generous amount of Thai basil.
Southern Thai curries have a reputation for being spicy but yellow is the mildest form. Don’t be afraid of this one if you’re averse to spicy food. It’s absolutely delicious, so much so that I needed to order an extra four balls of noodles to sop up the rest of the curry.
The restaurant is in an old house with brick walls and different types of vintage paraphernalia. It was packed when I was there for lunch so I didn’t get to explore the space, but a quick look around revealed a collection of vintage clocks and television sets, even an old cinema projector.
One Chun is located near the corner of Thepkrasatree and Dibuk Roads. It’s a Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.
One Chun Cafe & Restaurant
Address: 48/1 ถนน เทพกษัตรี ตำบล ตลาดใหญ่ อำเภอ เมืองภูเก็ต Chang Wat Phuket 83000, Thailand
Operating Hours: 10AM-10PM, daily
Expect to Pay: THB 370 per order of crab yellow curry
This was my second favorite restaurant in the Old Town. Like One Chun, Raya is a Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee that’s long been known for being one of the best and most popular restaurants in Phuket. They’re known for serving classic Phuket-style dishes like this delicious moo hong (THB 250) or slow-cooked pork belly stew.
How beautiful does that look? Moo hong is made by braising pork belly in a sweet marinade made with a slew of ingredients like garlic, black peppercorn, coriander root, soy sauce, and star anise. It’s cooked for over an hour, resulting in these incredibly tender chunks of pork belly that are sweet and garlicky with a nice peppery kick. It reminded me of Filipino pork adobo, but sweeter.
Moo hong has been referred to as Phuket’s signature dish so this is a definite must-order at Raya. I enjoyed it so much I wish I could have ordered more dishes, but I was here by myself after a full lunch at One Chun and snack at Lock Tien Food Court. Next time for sure!
As described, Raya and One Chun Cafe & Restaurant are owned by the same family. In fact, they’re just around the corner from each other! I didn’t know this at the time but looking back now, it makes sense. Both are more upscale restaurants serving great Phuket food in thoughtfully-decorated Sino-Portuguese mansions. Eat at both if you can.
Address: 48/1 Dibuk Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83000, Thailand
Operating Hours: 10AM-10PM, daily
Expect to Pay: THB 250-350 per serving of moo hong (pork belly stew)
3. Ko Ang Seafood
Like One Chun, I learned about Ko Ang Seafood from Phuket 101. According to them, this restaurant has been around for a long time and is known for serving great seafood in the Old Town, including more exotic delicacies like red ant eggs and palm grubs. The promise of exotic fare was exactly why I decided to eat here.
Have you ever tried horseshoe crab before? I went to high school in Rhode Island and dozens of these odd-looking creatures would wash up in the bay next to our school. I never thought they were edible until I saw them here!
As if their appearance wasn’t strange enough, horseshoe crabs look like crustaceans but they’re actually more closely related to archanids – aka spiders and scoprions. And they have blue blood. Hungry yet?
Ko Ang Seafood offers this interesting yum kai meng da (THB 280) or spicy horseshoe crab roe salad. To be clear, horseshoe crabs don’t have edible flesh the way real crabs do. What people eat are its eggs, which are the green round things pictured below.
Based on what I’ve read, yum kai meng da is the only way horseshoe crab roe is prepared in Thailand. It’s basically a fresh green mango salad made with shredded green mango, celery, chili, coriander, onion, and horseshoe crab roe.
This was without question the most interesting dish I had in Phuket. Apart from some brininess, the eggs don’t actually taste like much and they have an unexpected texture, different from any roe I’ve tried before. They don’t pop when you bite into them. Instead, they’re lumpy and rubbery, like little balls of modeling clay.
Be careful when eating this dish because you can get sick from it. I did and wound up with a case of the runs later that night. It’s uncooked so eating horseshoe crab eggs can lead to an upset tummy if you aren’t used to it.
If horseshoe crab roe is too extreme for you, then there are plenty of traditional seafood dishes to enjoy at Ko Ang Seafood. The restaurant is located along Phuket Road, just south of Surin Circle.
Ko Ang Seafood
Address: 226 หมู่ 2 Phuket Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83000, Thailand
Operating Hours: 6PM-12:30AM, daily
Expect to Pay: THB 280 per order of horseshoe crab roe
4. Lock Tien Food Court
Lock Tien is a Phuket institution. It’s been around for over fifty years and is probably the oldest food court on the island. They’re known for serving classic Phuket dishes and is hugely popular with locals and visiting Thai tourists.
I went to Lock Tien on my own then again the following day with Pema of A Chef’s Tour. The food court is easy to find at the corner of Dibuk and Yoawarat Roads.
Pema took me to Lock Tien to try the por pia (THB 30), which is a type of fresh spring roll popular throughout Southeast Asia. It’s a Hokkien/Techew dish made with a thin crepe-like wrapper filled with a variety of ingredients like pork, shrimp, lettuce, grated turnip, and tofu. The stall at Lock Tien slathers them with a thick sweet or sweet-spicy sauce.
If you want something to help cool you off, then one of the best things to try in Phuket is oh eaw (THB 15). It’s a classic Phuket shaved ice dessert topped with a variety of ingredients like red bean, grass jelly, syrup, and oh aew, which is a type of jelly made with banana and Chinese herbs.
Lock Tien Food Court
Address: 173 Yaowarat Rd, ตำบล ตลาดใหญ่ Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83000, Thailand
Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tues)
Expect to Pay: THB 15 per bowl of oh aew, THB 30 per order of por pia
5. Phuket Old Town Food Tour
This entry isn’t a restaurant nor a street food stall, but a food tour. It’s led by Pema of A Chef’s Tour, a proud Phuketian who was born and raised on the island and knows it as well as anyone. If you want a truly immersive food experience in the Old Town, something that gives you an insider’s look at Phuket’s history and its food, then I highly recommend going on this tour.
Here’s Pema teaching me about the different vegetables and ingredients commonly used in Phuket cuisine. The tour starts at 10AM at the central market and takes you to many stops around the Old Town.
There are no touristy stops on this tour. Pema takes you to the best, most deeply local places that you’d probably never find on your own. Pictured below is a delicious street side plate of khanom jeen noodles topped with loads of fresh vegetables and a fermented fish-based sauce. Talk about flavor overload!
This bowl of yen ta fo from a family-run heritage restaurant was one of my favorite dishes from the tour. It’s made with fermented soybean paste which gives the broth its unique pinkish hue.
We made many more stops on this tour, all of which you can check out in my article about this Phuket Old Town Food Tour from A Chef’s Tour. It lasts 4 hours and costs USD 59 per person. You can book it on A Chef’s Tour or Get Your Guide.
Phuket Old Town Food Tour
Length of Tour: 4 hrs
Cost: USD 59 per person
Karon Bay is home to one of the longest stretches of beach on the island. Like Kata and Patong beach, it’s one of the most popular places to stay in Phuket.
6. Pasha Kebab
We were guests at Centara Villas Phuket so we stayed for a couple of nights in Karon before flying back to Bangkok. We explored the town on one day and found this kebab restaurant.
It may seem out of place to include a Middle Eastern restaurant in a Phuket food guide, but if Persian and Arabic traders really did make stops on the island in the 16th and 17th centuries, then Arabic food may have a longer history in Phuket than you’d think.
In any case, Pasha Kebab had excellent reviews so we decided to eat here. They’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a stellar 4.5-star rating.
Their chicken pita kebabs are hefty and ridiculously good. They’re served with fries and a drink for around THB 200. If you want a break from Thai food, then I suggest eating here.
Address: 504 Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83100, Thailand
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-11PM, daily
Expect to Pay: About THB 200 per person
Kata is arguably one of the best places to stay on the island. It’s quieter than Patong and seems to have more restaurants than Karon. We stayed here the longest and got to try a few very good restaurants, most serving “tourist-friendly” Thai food that’s delicious but perhaps not as interesting as the food you’d find in the Old Town.
7. Kwong Shop Seafood
If you want delicious but reasonably priced seafood, then Kwong Seafood Shop is a great place to go. For about THB 400 per person, we enjoyed a seafood feast of crab curry, hot pot, and whole fish. They started us off with the most tender steamed squid cooked with garlic and chili in a light lemon sauce.
A succulent whole crab in yellow curry. To be honest, I ordered this thinking we’d get the same kang poo dish at One Chun Cafe & Restaurant but it obviously wasn’t. It was still good though, cooked in a mild yellow curry.
I read that whole fish with red curry is one of the restaurant’s specialties. I asked our server for recommendations and true enough, he recommended this dish. The fish (perch?) was succulent and flaky and garnished with a mound of crispy fried Thai basil. This red curry was creamier and tastier than their yellow.
Kwong Seafood Shop is a simple restaurant along Taina Road in Kata Beach. They give you menus but you can basically just point to the pictures on the walls to tell them what you want. They’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating.
Kwong Shop Seafood
Address: 67 The Beach Road, Tambon Karon, Muang, Phuket 83100. phuket Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83100, Thailand
Operating Hours: 9AM-12MN, daily
Expect to Pay: About THB 400 per person
8. Sugar & Spice
If you like Thai food but aren’t too adventurous, then Sugar & Spice is a good place to go. They offer many western dishes along with tourist-friendly Thai favorites like som tam, pad Thai, pineapple rice, and pandan leaf chicken. Pictured below are plates of chicken and pork satay. Satay is a popular Southeast Asian dish of seasoned and skewered grilled meat.
Pandan chicken is another Thai favorite that’s popular in other Southeast Asian countries as well. It consists of boneless chicken wrapped and cooked in aromatic pandan or screwpine leaves.
This pretty pineapple fried rice was probably my favorite dish at Sugar & Spice.
Sugar & Spice is located along Kata Road. In my opinion, they don’t serve the most exciting Thai food but they’re a crowd-pleaser with a commendable 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Sugar & Spice
Address: 98/70 Kata Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83100, Thailand
Operating Hours: 8AM-10PM, daily
Expect to Pay: About THB 300 per person
9. Red Onion
This was one of my favorite restaurants in Phuket and probably the most surprising. When I read that Red Onion was one of the most popular restaurants in the area, I expected it to be similar to Sugar & Spice – palatable to tourists but not the most exciting representation of southern Thai food. I was wrong. There is plenty to be excited about at this restaurant.
While they do serve tourist-friendly dishes like pad Thai and fried spring rolls, many of the dishes we ordered came with an interesting twist, like these fried garlic and pepper prawns.
I’m not a fan of fried prawns served with the shell intact but Red Onion offers theirs with just the legs and tail. I never eat any part of the shell (including the tail) because I don’t like the texture, but the deep-fried legs added just the right amount of crunch. They were so incredibly good.
I haven’t had duck too often in Thailand but Red Onion offers a few dishes on their menu, like this duck with red curry. It was delicious, moist and juicy with a nice richness from the curry.
This was another duck dish sprinkled with white sesame seeds. It was made with some type of crust that imparted texture to the dish. This was really good too and perhaps even better than the duck with red curry.
As often as I’ve eaten it, I don’t now enough about Thai food to know if this is a classic recipe or something unique to this restaurant. I can find example of Thai duck red curry but doing a search for “thai duck sesame seeds” doesn’t seem to bring up anything. Does anyone know?
Red Onion is located farther up Taina Road so it’s a bit of a trek to get to, but it’s worth it. Authentic or not, this was one of the best meals we had in Phuket.
Address: 23-27 Taina Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket 83100, Thailand
Operating Hours: 12NN-10PM, daily
Expect to Pay: About THB 240 per person
10. New York Burger Co.
Yes, I understand that burgers have no business being on a Phuket food guide, but whenever we’re away on a trip and I start craving for something familiar, burgers are usually my first choice. After two weeks in Northern, Central, and Southern Thailand, it was time for a burger.
New York Burger Co. was located near our hotel along Kata Road. This wasn’t on our itinerary but a quick look at their TripAdvisor profile convinced us to give them a shot. Like a few of the places in this guide, they’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a solid 4.5-star rating.
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned American cheeseburger to make you feel at home. It’s my all-time favorite comfort food. New York Burger Co. is owned by an American so he knows how to put together a solid burger. This bacon cheeseburger goes for THB 210.
No burger experience can ever be complete without a side of fries and/or onion rings.
New York Burger Co.
Address: 98 Moo 4 Kata New Road, Kata Beach, Karon, Muang, Phuket 83100, Thailand
Operating Hours: 12NN-10PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tues)
Expect to Pay: About THB 250 per person
To help you find these restaurants, I’ve pinned them all on the map below along with a few others that we wanted to go to but just couldn’t find the time for.
As described, you’ll find great Thai food anywhere in Phuket. But if you want the most interesting dishes – the type of dishes you can find in local homes that best represent this island and its people – then you’ll need to make a trip into Phuket Old Town.
Sadly, I read that traditional Phuket food is a dying cuisine, dying in the sense that it’s easier to find an Italian pizzeria along Kata Beach than it is to find a Thai restaurant offering authentic Phuket food. Tourism is to blame for this.
Phuket has become such a popular tourist destination that most of the restaurants on the island cater to tourists. There are plenty of Thai restaurants but most of them serve watered down versions of Thai food that cater to western palates. Ubiquitous are tourist-friendly fare like pad Thai and som tam but more regional dishes like khanom jeen, oh eaw, and moo hong are harder to find, which is a shame because in my opinion, those are exactly the types of dishes you should be looking for in Phuket.
Thankfully, the most food-obsessed among us still have the Old Town to look forward to. If you’re traveling to Phuket for the first time and love interesting food experiences as much as we do, then I strongly recommend spending a night or two in the Old Town. It’s the culinary heart of the island and where you’ll find its best food.
For travel tips to Phuket, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Phuket, Thailand.
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JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.