Phuket is not just a beautiful beach destination. It is also a foodie’s paradise with a smorgasbord of cuisines, both local and international, on offer. The local cuisine borrows from the island’s colourful history, melding Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Malay flavours and techniques for a culinary experience like no other.
Set in a 130-year-old Sino-Portuguese building Tu Kab Khao wows with photogenic interiors, vintage-style furniture, gleaming chandeliers, blue-and-white pottery, and portraits of the Royal Family on the walls. Awarded a Michelin Plate, the extensive menu is based on the Southern-style recipes from the owner’s mother. Don’t miss signature dishes such as the robustly flavoured moo hong (braised pork belly), the delicately spiced mee gaeng pu (crab curry with noodles), or the fiery gaeng som pla (local fish in a sour and spicy turmeric curry). The bar in the back serves up a variety of classic cocktails with a modern twist and most nights there is live music.
With a stunning interior that draws inspiration from Phuket’s tin mining industry, Dibuka, which means “hello” in Malay, is a gastropub with live music. The menu includes international dishes and authentic local dishes such as Khao Kluk Kapi (fried rice with shrimp pasted), Miang Som O (pomelo salad), and Gaeng Som (spicy and sour soup with salmon and coconut shoots). The bar mixes an array of signature and classic cocktails.
Another two-storey Sino-Portuguese house is the setting for Raya. The interiors are atmospheric with tinted windows, mosaic floors, vintage gramophone and ‘30s Shanghai posters. Here two sisters serve up a substantial menu fiery Southern Thai food that received the Michelin Bib Gourmand. Start off with the creamy Gaeng Pu Bai Cha Plu (fresh crab meat in coconut milk) and Deep-Fried Sea Bass with Crispy Shallot. But don’t leave without trying the Nam Phrik Goong Siap (ground shrimp and chilli, accompanied by cucumber, snake bean, cashew leaves, snake gourd, garnished with raw white turmeric) or Omelet with Deep Fried Pork Belly.
The world-renowned Blue Elephant offers refined Thai cuisine in an enchanting 115-year-old Sino-Portuguese mansion, once the home of Chinese tin baron Tan Ma Sieng. It wows in every way, from the ornately carved doors and chequered floors to the brass cutlery and stellar service. The extensive menu is a roll-call of Southern Thai classics, rare Peranakan dishes, and dishes dubbed the “Thai Kitchen of Tomorrow” and include “Avocado Black Diamond Scallops”, “Wild Krapow Lamb Chops and “Thai Tamarind and French Landes Foie Gras.
Another recipient of the Michelin Bib Gourmand, Ko Benz is famed for its Khao Tom Haeng (broth-less porridge), cooked according to an old family recipe. If you are willing to brave the queues and the wait time, you want to regret it. The star dish is perfectly cooked jasmine rice with only a bit of soup and topped with a generous serving of pork balls, crispy pork belly and entrails. Alternatively, order the Khao Tom Kradok Moo (boiled rice with pork ribs).