Samui Wining & Dining
Dishes that Delight


Eclectic fare in friendly restaurants island-wide.


wining - dining 1-01When it comes to travel, it pays to be curious. And that especially applies to eating. Heading through Samui, you'll find an amazing number of places to eat, and there's an enormous variety when it comes to the food they're serving. There's everything from the most unassuming stalls selling grab-and-go lunches, all the way up to temples of fine dining offering banquets. And they cover all budgets, so whether you're splurging or saving it’s no problem. And just as good, there’s an entire gamut of cuisines from round the world on offer: Italian, French, Japanese, Indian and all manner of fusion foods, too.

Thai fare naturally predominates, and you can find dishes from all over the country when you're on Samui. Whether you're brand new to Thai cuisine or you’ve been in love with it for years, you're in for some wonderful treats. Ask your waiter or waitress to tone down the spice level if you're worried about the fieriness. Similarly feel free to make any other requests known – if there’s one thing about staff who work in restaurants here, it’s that they're open to their guests’ wishes. With a myriad of friendly restaurants, you'll be sure to enjoy exploring the delights that Samui has to offer. Bon appétit!

 
Zing a Ding-Ding

Wake up, fill up or perk up, at Zing Coffee Shop.

Wake up, fill up or perk up, at Zing Coffee Shop.Do you prefer American or Continental style? Never mind, both breakfasts are served at the stylishly modern yet classy, Zing Coffee Shop, from 7.30 am until midday. So, whether you are an early riser or just can’t quite make it to your hotel breakfast buffet in time, Zing has you covered!

Located at the north end of Chaweng Beach Road, at Centara Grand Beach Resort’s shopping arcade, Zing is owned and operated by the resort, but is totally separate and open to everyone. It’s an ideal spot for a relaxing break away from the hustle and bustle of the beach road, and you are guaranteed the five-star service and quality of the Centara brand.

Zing provides a calm and tranquil setting to sip a freshly brewed coffee, made with the finest beans from di Manfredi. Delight in a choice of breakfasts, deli sandwiches and salads, snacks, pastries and ice-cream from 7.30 am until 5.30 pm. There is indoor air-conditioned seating if you want to escape the heat of the day, or an outdoor area, great for people watching and immersing yourself in the road scene. Complimentary Wi-Fi means you can catch up with friends and family or even work if you really have to!

The American breakfast will keep you going for most of the day. It Includes; eggs, cooked any which way, bacon, sausage, tomato, your choice of bread and croissant with butter and jam, seasonal local fruit, juice and coffee or tea. All this for 390 baht means five-star quality and service, but definitely not five-star prices. The Continental just omits the bacon, sausage and eggs, and is yours for 330 baht. Want an altogether lighter breakfast? Muesli, yoghurt and fruit are on offer, and you can adapt anything on the menu, providing something to suit everyone.

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Thai Recipe

Gaeng Hang Lay or Northern Style Pork Curry.

Gaeng Hang Lay or Northern Style Pork Curry.In shadowy old shops up in the north, you'll still find ancient-looking ready-to-use spice mix sachets for gaeng hang lay; they seem to have been there forever. Perhaps they may one day be opened and savoured by archaeologists. The point of all this is that sachets – so popular with other curries – just aren’t necessary when it comes to gaeng hang lay; most people like to make their own. And it turns out to be quite easy.

Perhaps the hard bit is deciding which recipe you should use. There are oodles of different versions of gaeng hang lay, and in the north some cooks will use soy, while others prefer shrimp paste. Then there’s a popular option about substituting black pepper for the chillies. But here’s a basic recipe that gives you the lowdown on this fantastic dish that you may never have heard of before.

Gaeng hang lay is Indian in origin – you can see this from the choice of spices used – and made its way into Thailand, or Siam as it used to be known, via Burma. The Thais then adopted it and, as with many another dish, adapted it to their own tastes.

It’s a favourite dish in the north of Thailand, though it’s less commonly seen in the south.

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Street Walking

This takes on a whole new meaning when you relax into the island-style of Samui’s Walking Streets!

This takes on a whole new meaning when you relax into the island-style of Samui’s Walking Streets!Once upon a time, Maenam was a tiny fishing village. Over time it began to spread a little, and sprouted a side street. This ran up to and joined the main dirt road which ran along the north coast (and many years later became part of the ring-road). And then another, smaller track running parallel emerged from the village, making a kind of U-shape with the beach at one end and the main road at the other.

The years passed. Samui acquired a complete concrete road around the island and then an airport. Maenam began to expand, and stone houses were added in amongst the wooden ones. And by the time the new millennium came around, Maenam was a small town in its own right. The main ring-road now formed a crossroads with the original village street, named Soi 4, its status boosted by one of the first sets of traffic lights on the island.

Soi 4 was busy. A few of the older wooden buildings still survived, but now there were far more two-storey houses with shops underneath. And a great many more small international-style businesses: sports pubs, English, Swiss and German restaurants, a couple of guesthouses and a book shop – all sprinkled in amongst the Thai places selling silver-craft, clothes and knick-nacks, massage, plus one of the longest established tattoo shops on the island. And then, one day, two of the restaurants, together with some ‘friends’, set up stalls on the road outside. The friends simply put groundsheets on the pavement and spread used clothes or surplus household stuff on them, like a car boot sale. The next week there were more. Every Thursday traders were coming in from Chaweng and Lamai. The ever-present food carts which toured the island in the daytime turned up for a piece of the action. And then it all had to stop. Tax-paying businesses complained, the police agreed that it was blocking the road, and it all went away more or less overnight.

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Taste the Base!

We bring you another hidden gem; this time it’s Marzano Pizzeria at Malibu Resort in Chaweng.

We bring you another hidden gem; this time it’s Marzano Pizzeria at Malibu Resort in Chaweng. Chaweng was once dotted with little beach-hut resorts, owned by local families. Now nearly all of them have disappeared, either swallowed up, side by side, to make a much bigger resort, or torn down and restyled. One of a handful that remains is Malibu Koh Samui Resort & Beach Club; although now everything’s been modernised, and there’s all the comforts of home. But what’s really super is the greenery: mixed in and around the charming little bungalows and cottages are some of the biggest trees and bushes on the island – it’s real picture postcard stuff!

The restaurant here, Marzano Pizzeria, is not one you’ll see in tourist brochures, although that fearsome online judge and jury, TripAdvisor, has nothing but glowing praise for it. On the other hand, it’s one of those gems that Samui’s residents, and one or two others in-the-know, have got etched in their minds. It’s a lovely little restaurant, light, bright and airy, and right on the edge of the beach. It has a modestly good selection of quality European dishes, such as burgers, sandwiches and salads. It offers all the favourite Thai dishes that everyone always asks for. But what makes people travel all the way across the island to go there are the pizzas.

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A Spiny Wonder

Sea urchins are greatly prized in many parts of the world.

 Sea urchins are greatly prized in many parts of the world. We’re quick to label jellyfish, sharks and giant octopi as the usual suspects when we’re cataloguing nasty creatures of the deep. But that’s a very short list, and most people never consider the humble sea urchin. It’s disarmingly small but get snorkel-to-spine with one and it certainly looks like a villain. Tread on it and you may have to go to hospital. Anything that’s so covered in needles is to be avoided. Ignore at your peril!

There are some 200 different species of sea urchin. Five sets of tubes act as legs and help them to get around the ocean bed at slow speed. Sea urchins come in a wide variety of colours, and some manage to live an incredible 200 years (the red sea urchin is the longest living creature on earth), though most have a life span of about 30 years. They can live in waters at depths as low as seven metres, all the way down to the dark depths of almost 1,700 metres.

Despite its body defences, the sea urchin has its share of natural predators. The sea otter is a ferocious devourer of the urchins. The biggest predator, however, lives outside the ocean: mankind. We humans have an abiding love for sea urchin. That love may not be universal, but certain cultures – and they're to be found all round the world – love to eat the roe of the sea urchins. Pollution is also a growing problem, and simply having dirty beaches affects the life of the sea urchins. Keeping shores clean and cutting down on waste helps to protect these creatures. But back to cuisine. Where in the world can you go to sample them?

In cuisines around the Mediterranean, the sea urchin, paracentrotus lividus, is usually eaten raw, or simply accompanied by lemon. It’s sometimes used in sauces that are poured over pasta, and is also a popular flavour for omelettes, egg dishes, fish soup and soufflés.

Sea urchins have always been popular amongst Native Americans in California, since the Pacific Ocean here yields good quality catches. Divers go down to kelp beds that start at a depth of as little as 25 meters and pick the urchins. The practice became very widespread, and finally the State of California had to introduce diving licences for sea urchin gatherers. And with only 300 licences issued, it’s not easy to simply go out and bring back urchins to the kitchen table. Concerns about overfishing are rampant, not only because of the domestic market, but also because of the immense demand from Japan.

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A Moveable Feast

Supattra Thai Dining’s unique approach to freshness guarantees you'll be back.

Supattra Thai Dining’s unique approach to freshness guarantees you'll be back.A beautifully traditional teak house, open-sided and with a chic interior is the setting for Supattra Thai Dining. The restaurant seems to have stepped out of a story book; there’s both a wistfulness and an intimacy about the building. Its terrace looks onto a beautiful curtain of greenery, comprised of nothing but mangrove trees, a delicious beguiling green that sways with the breeze, and provides a perfectly relaxed setting for the couples, friends and families who choose to dine here. The small, intimate restaurant has a very friendly vibe, and you can expect a warm welcome from owners Thomas and Khun Supattra, who along with all the waiting staff, do more than the usual to accommodate your wishes.

This starts even before you give your order, when your waiter comes to your table. And in this case, it’s usually Thomas himself. He’ll bring with him a blackboard on an easel. Here, there’s a list of almost two dozen different dishes, all of which have been carefully chalked up. Thomas explains quickly and efficiently what’s what – especially handy if you're a newcomer to Thai food. But even if you're well versed in eating Thai, it’s good to have him explain the dishes. And that’s because not quite everything’s done in the usual way here.

The restaurant focuses on fish and seafood, though there’s always meat too. Recipes mostly follow long-established traditions, but with some creative takes. The dishes are cooked in ways that need greater attention than usual. Thomas gives you the low-down on them. Khun Supattra, who heads the culinary team, uses methods that guarantee the diner’s pleasure. Many chefs opt for techniques that are convenient and maybe are required in big restaurants with huge seating capacity, but here a different approach guarantees your delight when it comes to eating.

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Thanks for Turning This Right Side Up!

Now that we have your attention, let's take a look at the unique world of Poppies Samui.

Now that we have your attention, let's take a look at the unique world of Poppies Samui.No mistake about it. Depending on how you look at it, the approach to Poppies Restaurant Samui turns out to be unique. Yes, you could do what guests have done up to now, go through the garden to get to the restaurant, but there’s another way, one that very, very few people – at least up to now – have been aware of. It’s all part and parcel of this seemingly traditional restaurant that contains a few surprises.

But back to that walk to the restaurant. Once you're in the lobby of Poppies resort, you'll see an anonymous, unmarked door that attracts nobody’s attention. You'll be led through here only to find yourself in what seems to be a short corridor with a bookcase at the end. You can browse the books, but they're not really there for reading purposes. The entire bookcase acts as a secret door, and swings back to reveal a lengthy and mysterious underground passage that meanders away into the distance.

Walk down it and you'll soon come to the main kitchen, but you may want to stop and browse the beautiful paintings along the way. They depict the history of Poppies, and the staff who work here. Many have been here since the day Poppies first opened; most have been here well over a decade, and are incredibly dedicated.

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Decidedly Drinkable

Thai wines are growing in renown, and complement the nation’s great cuisine.

Thai wines are growing in renown, and complement the nation’s great cuisine.Early morning, and the air is already heating up; soon it will be too hot for most people to work. There's an urgency about the constant snip-snip of secateurs as the grape-pickers toil up the hillside, filling buckets with masses and masses of grapes. It’s a typically Southern European scene, straight out of France, Spain or Greece. The only real difference is the harvesting crew, who are chatting in Thai. It’s still a surprise to some people that Thailand has its own wine industry, but what’s extraordinary is that some parts of the nation aren’t as tropical as they might seem. They lean instead towards the Mediterranean. Hence the success of the grape. Possibly these places, famed for their own micro-climates, will begin to produce other Mediterranean crops, but for now, everyone’s content with the fact that the loamy soils here are producing such good quality wines.

A few years ago, to outsiders Thai wines seemed a contradiction in terms. Wouldn’t the sun frazzle the grapes – if they even grew at all? Critics imagined wasteful fields of grapes where only a small percentage were worthy of a place in the pickers’ buckets. And what of the taste? Would it even be drinkable? People laughed, and didn’t stop till a few blind tastings later, when it emerged that even wine connoisseurs often couldn’t tell the difference between some Thai and European wines. Just as Californian and Australian wines had to muscle through snobbish disregard before they could soar to success, so too did Thai wines. They're definitely not the produce of mavericks – open a bottle and take a taste, you'll be amazed at the quality.

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Something Special

Silavadee is a name that means dining magic, whatever the occasion!

Silavadee is a name that means dining magic, whatever the occasion!While you’re here, there’ll be at least one occasion that’s special. It might be St. Valentine’s Day, or an anniversary or even simply that you want to celebrate the last night of a memorable holiday. And you’re surely spoiled for choice – Samui is a gourmet’s paradise, after all. But here at Samui Wining & Dining, we pride ourselves at picking out those little hidden gems; the ones that aren’t trying hard to get much-needed customers, or showy with neon and dancing troupes out on the main road. And this time it’s the turn of Silavadee Pool Spa Resort.

Although not out on the main road, it’s easy enough to find; it’s right on the Chaweng side of Lamai, not far from the big hill that runs between the two. And anyway, a quick Google will soon map it out for you. There must be something about this serene little bay, as Silavadee shares its rustic access lane with no fewer than two other exalted 5-star names. And, like several other of the top resorts, it just delights in understatement.

One little surprise (and I’m sure it’s been done on purpose!) is the reception area. It’s actually sitting right at the peak of the hill. And as you walk up to it, it looks quite modest. When you’re in it, though, you’ll realise just how elegantly understated it is – especially as you then look down onto the immense estate of Silavadee, cascading in luxuriant terraces down the hillside to the sea below. It’s all very discreetly tucked away; the group of golf carts sitting alongside reception will give you the clue to that! Hidden below are actually four restaurants.

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Going Native

Joining the locals at Ranong Restaurant 2.

 Joining the locals at Ranong Restaurant 2.Some restaurants are hard to find, almost camouflaged it would seem, but Ranong Restaurant 2 stands out prominently against its urban background. It has to, as it’s on a busy stretch of the ring-road in Chaweng, and would be all too easy to drive past without seeing it. But as you're about to draw level with Tesco Lotus, if you're heading towards Bophut, you'll see a very bright yellow, open-sided building. This is Ranong Restaurant 2, recently refurbished, and again welcoming its many guests. It’s a highly popular place, and most people, once they've eaten here once, will want to come again.

The hours may strike you as unusual. It’s open from 4:00 pm until 3:00 am (and is closed for four days at some point during the month), making this one of the main restaurants to come to if it’s the middle of the night. It’s simple and convivial, but the food’s excellent. It’s very popular with workers who are finishing shifts at midnight, as well as groups of party-goers who come to fill up on food after an evening of fun. Plenty of holidaymakers come too, as well as people simply dropping in for take-out. Parking’s no problem late at night, as other shops are all closed and it’s easy to park on the street. Earlier on, there’s Tesco-Lotus just a hundred or so metres up the road, offering free parking space.

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Kitchen Confidential

A look at what you can expect at one of the island’s Thai cooking classes.

A look at what you can expect at one of the island’s Thai cooking classes.The big draw on Samui is always going to be the heady combination of sun, sea and sand, but there’s a limit to how much anyone can take. So while on holiday, it’s always good to take a break and do something else. Thousands of people now happily forsake the beaches for a few hours to indulge in a totally different pastime - learning to cook Thai food. There are countless cooking classes to choose from, and it’s a burgeoning mini-industry.

Most of the ingredients that are used come from one or other of the local markets, and depending on what class you choose, you can accompany the chef and learn about the produce. Going to a Thai market is a great thing to do in any case, but going with a chef will make it all the more fun, as well as educational. Once the shopping’s done, it’s off to the cooking class itself.

Don't expect anything like a normal classroom with a bland view. Many classes take place in eye-catching surroundings. You may find yourself in an outdoor sala overlooking the sea or a patch of beautiful countryside; wonderful surroundings are all part and parcel of life here, learning situations included. It’s almost certain that the classes won’t take place in a working kitchen. Why not? The set-up would be all wrong; that’s because you need to be grouped around the chef and have your own burner. The long counters with their various stations that you'd typically find in a restaurant kitchen are just too linear for such purposes, and you might even end up taking turns to cook, which is definitely not the point of the exercise. Typically, you'll find a space that is a mix of the best aspects of a kitchen and a classroom. There’ll be a gas burner and a cutting board for each person and everything you need right at hand.

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Christmas in October

Not really! But one of the most-delightful boutique resorts around already has it all sorted – Rocky’s down in Lamai!

Not really! But one of the most-delightful boutique resorts around already has it all sorted – Rocky’s down in Lamai!Rocky’s Boutique Resort simply has to be one of the prettiest resorts anywhere! The whole place is a study in contrasting textures, from the rocks and fabrics everywhere to the gnarled and twisted wooden sculptures that are subtly dotted around. And at night it’s wonderful – huge red Chinese lanterns glow in the trees. Hidden lamps throw pools of light onto the steeply-descending central path, offset with tiny white fairy lights.

And the red theme continues on into the main restaurant, The Dining Room. It’s open on three sides, Thai-style, there’s a rugged rock wall at the far end over which a steady stream of water quietly cascades. And there are three more gigantic lanterns hanging from the ceiling, red candles and glasses on the tables, and red cushions scattered everywhere. Once in a while, though, they’ll mix in a splash of gold with the red – but more of that in a moment!

As well as The Dining Room, on the other side of the path and raised on a higher level, there’s The Bistro. Although serving mainly Thai cuisine with a Royal Thai bias, there’s an absolutely killer selection of tapas available, too. The dining area here has a different feel altogether, featuring an intriguing open show-kitchen. And being poolside, with an inner shaded section together with sunshine tables under big umbrellas. And to top it all off, there’s also a tiny spur of land at the seawards tip of the resort, secluded by the greenery behind, with a couple of very romantic and intimate tables on the rocky edge of the shore.

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See You There!

Dining in the Dark Samui offers a new, fun concept along with a secret menu and a few surprises.

Dining in the Dark Samui offers a new, fun concept along with a secret menu and a few surprises.Get ready to jettison your usual eating habits when it comes to one of the island’s newest restaurants. Dining in the Dark Samui is definitely not a typical place to eat. It lacks views of the sea, hills or anything at all – in fact it has no views of any kind. It’s curtained off, and inside there are no windows or even the faintest source of light. Dining in the Dark lives up to its title, utterly – you eat here in total darkness, having a feast, but one that you can only taste and never see. The restaurant, just opened in Bophut, is likely to have no competition in this particular niche in the near, or even distant, future. There are still very, very few places in the world offering this kind of experience; it definitely doesn’t belong in the crowd-pleaser category.

Owners Helen and Tim Keates set it up after dining in like-themed restaurants; they both loved the idea. It was exciting and fun; there was intrigue too – and this is exactly what people are experiencing now in Dining in the Dark Samui. So how does it work? And what happens if you opt to eat here?

First of all you'll be welcomed at the restaurant doors and ushered into an elegant and minimalist bar, where you're welcome to have a drink – there's pretty much everything on offer here, from cocktails to beer to wines. You'll also have a very brief explanation of what’s going to happen.

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