Deep Fried Fish
Because it is an island, understandably there are lots of fish in Koh Samui and on the island, they cook it in many different ways. They steam it, cook it with curry, and sometimes grill it. However, among the best ways to enjoy local fish is to eat it fried. Here they deep fry fish like snapper or red grouper until it is golden and crispy. The cooked fish is topped with a special sauce made from tamarind paste, garlic, chili, palm sugar, and fish sauce. Thai deep fried fish is so delicious and addictive and is even more amazing when eaten with rice.
The quintessential Thai dish, tom yam should definitely be on your list of local dishes to try in Koh Samui. This has all of the key elements commonly used in Thai cooking such as lemongrass, chili, Kaffir lime leaves,galangal, fresh lime juice and fish sauce. It often contains shrimp although some versions use pork. This soup is among the well know Thai dishes and has a very distinct sour and spicy flavor profile. With so many elements, it sounds a bit too much but like most Thai offerings, the combination is rather harmonious and pleasing to the taste buds.
Thai Omelette with Rice
Another safe fail local dish any first timers will love is Thai omelette with rice. This is different from the typical Western style omelette because fish sauce is used to flavor the eggs. In addition, minced meat and spring onions are also included in the mix. It seems simple enough and it is indeed. However, when eaten with rice and sweet chili sauce, it comes alive and once you’ve a taste, you will agree that it is one satisfying dish. If you have very little cooking skills, this is a Thai food you can learn to make easily. Another reason why we love it? It is so cheap and can be had in any Koh Samui street market. Because it has rice, this will fill you up fast and will keep you satisfied for hours.
Thai Banana Fritters (Kluay Kaek)
These fragrant golden delicious treats are the bomb. If you visit street food stalls, you can smell these even from a distance. There is just something about the smell of flour battered bananas and sugar that can make any tummy go rumbly. It is nice to watch local vendors create banana fritters—how they expertly work them in a pan of boiling oil till cooked then hand them to you piping hot in a paper bag. Being fried, you can expect these to be crunchy and beautifully golden. They are best eaten right upon cooking, while still hot. Believe us, once you have a taste, you will come back for more.
If you love eating light and salads are your thing, then we suggest you try som tam. In Koh Samui, this is probably the most commonly served local salad and is actually made with green papaya. Som tam has many variations some of which have noodles in the mix or multiple kinds of seafood including freshwater snails. Som tam in its most popular form has fish sauce and crab. You can eat this as is like an appetizer, but in Samui, it is commonly eaten with sticky rice. The two have contrasting flavors and textures that they go perfectly well together.
Thai Banana Pancakes (Roti Gluay)
Another item in the Koh Samui dessert department, this is dough pastry that have bananas on the inside. It is sweetened with condensed milk or granulated sugar and is sometimes topped with a drizzle of chocolate. This can be eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Since it is sweet, it can also be eaten at the end of a salty meal.
This is Thai’s version of hot pot and is usually served in a clay dish. It has a broth base, usually made of chicken or pork stock. Vegetables, meat, and herbs are added into the broth. This is like shabu shabu, only with Thai herbs and flavorings. Jim jum is actually delightful to eat on a rainy day especially if you have someone to share it with. The usual ingredients are seafood, lemongrass, galangal, Kaffir lime, meat, and cabbage. You can enjoy it with hot sauce or as is, if you don’t like chili.
If it is your first time eating Thai food and you are watching your weight, jim jum is a good option. Since it has no coconut and there is no frying involved, this is considerably lesser in calories than most Thai dishes.
Thai Shaved Ice Dessert (Nam Kang Sai)
It is particularly warm in Koh Samui especially during the hot season (March to August) and cold foods will be your best friends. To replenish your sugar and beat the heat at the same time, a good treat you can go for is Nam Kang Sai or shaved ice dessert. This is basically shaved ice topped with coconut milk and add-ons like tapioca balls, sweet beans, and Thai jelly. It is fun to eat and is colorful too. If you are familiar with halo halo from the Philippines, patbingsu from Korea, and ice kachang from Malaysia, chances are nam kang sai will feel like an old friend because it is like a cousin to those desserts.
To wash down all the food you will try in Koh Samui, you also need to explore some of the well known local refreshments. Of course, there is the famous Thai iced tea. This sweet orange liquid may look weird in the eyes of first timers but don’t judge it until you taste it. It actually tastes really good–with just the right hint of tea and the creamy sweetness of condensed milk. Oh and a lot of ice certainly helps to make it taste even more refreshing.
If you love beer, then don’t miss out on Singha. This is a local beer brand you can find almost anywhere in Koh Samui. Actually we recommend it if you want to go all out and get drunk but don’t want to burn your money on imported beers and designer cocktails.