Samui Wining & Dining
Dishes that Delight


Eclectic fare in friendly restaurants island-wide.


This is the perfect time to come to Samui – it’s quieter, and the weather is a tranquil mix of sunshine, clouds, and a shower or two at night!When 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!

 
Full Moon Fun

There’s a new party on the island at Coast, and it’s so cool you can even go with your wife and kids!

There’s a new party on the island at Coast, and it’s so cool you can even go with your wife and kids!Everyone knows about the Full Moon parties. They’re a legend worldwide. But, not to put too fine a point on it, most parents would die at the thought of their teenage kids going over there for the night. And in many ways, that’s a shame. There’s nothing else like it for freedom, frolics and fun – except, sometimes, it’s the dangerous kind. But isn’t it a shame, though, that there’s nothing like it where grown-ups can let their hair down for a bit. Nothing where it’s oh-so safe for your kids to let rip. Except, now . . . there is.

Chaweng’s Centara Grand Beach Resort just has to be the very symbol of 5-star respectability. Centara is no stranger to Samui, being one of the longest-established resorts on the island. This is also the company which recently gave us Central Festival Samui.

And so it comes as no real surprise that this same group spent two years thinking about and planning a top-end-yet-affordable open-air restaurant-cum-modern beach club as a part of their Samui location. They set it all up and it worked better than they could ever have hoped.

And it’s now hugely popular, particularly with the island’s residents – and it takes something special for that to happen. Its name is ‘Coast’. And it’s now where everyone of any age on Samui can let it all hang out, regular as clockwork every month, at Samui’s very own Full Moon Party.

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Breakfast in Paradise

Let’s get out and about and scan the sidewalks to see what Thai people do for breakfast!

 Let’s get out and about and scan the sidewalks to see what Thai people do for breakfast!Breakfast. The first meal of the new day. Or, if not actually a full meal, then certainly something to put in your stomach to get you started. For many it’s the most important meal. For others it’s nothing to shout about. But it’s different everywhere you go. And it’s not simply because different nations eat different things. It goes deeper than that. And to grasp what breakfast is all about, we have to look at lifestyle, too.

The idea of a hearty breakfast to start the day is rooted in the collective consciousness of working people everywhere. But here we’re talking about physical work; farmers in the fields, constructions workers, window cleaners – any job where you are on the go and using lots of energy. Office workers and clerks have different needs. As do those of us who are very young or very old. And then, tangled up with this, there’s the cultural backdrop of different nations.

What this all boils down to is a jumbled confusion which draws partly on tradition, is influenced by age, and further clouded by lifestyle and culture. And so, just for fun, in the blue corner we’ll pit the traditional English ‘Full Monty’ breakfast against the Thai equivalent in the red corner – but be prepared for some cultural clashes and astute sociological observations as the contest progresses!

The ‘Full English Breakfast’ is a cholesterol horror, being mostly fried. And the bacon, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, together with the fried eggs, runny baked beans on crispy brown toast that’s slathered with melted butter will cause a vegan to momentarily lose consciousness.

However, it not only crams a huge amount of calories into a working man’s body, but it actually tastes pretty good, too! But, then, the next meal will be after midday, and it’ll be a small one; sandwiches or a small take-away from a nearby café. This will then be followed by a substantial evening meal at home after the day’s work is done.

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Beyond the Sea and Sky

Imagine a luxurious resort on a deserted tropical beach, miles away from the madding crowd – we look at the effortless tranquillity of Shasa!

Imagine a luxurious resort on a deserted tropical beach, miles away from the madding crowd – we look at the effortless tranquillity of Shasa!Our little island has gone through a lot of changes. It’s moved from a secret hippie hideaway in the 70s, through to an embryonic tourist attraction when it added an airport in the late 80s, onto a top international holiday destination when the Thai baht devalued at the turn of the millennium, right through to where it is now.

And right now we’ve emerged onto the international stage, with perhaps 20 or so 5-star resorts and multinational hotel chains staking their exclusive claims around Samui. And along with this, there has been the domino effect of a plethora of smaller boutique resorts, and a property market that has exploded! But, because of Samui’s geography, it’s all happened in a unique way.

Unlike other destinations such as Phuket and Pattaya, Samui has remained low-rise and remains largely unspoiled and under-developed – it’s essentially a small mountain with flat bits around the edges. And, whereas the flat coastal circumference has started to fill in with tourist attractions, not only is everything still mostly rustic and charming, but almost the entire southern half of the island has remained unspoiled. Beaches with no jet skis or irritating vendors. No trace of bars or beach clubs. No coaches with day-tripping tourists. Just a maze of little side roads and small beachside villages, where the same families have fished and tended their nets for generations.

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Gem in Chaweng

Olivio Italian Cuisine at Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort & Villas has just been revamped. Come and check out the new improvements.

Olivio Italian Cuisine at Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort & Villas has just been revamped. Come and check out the new improvements.In Samui’s fickle dining scene, it’s quite something if a restaurant can simply hold on to its reputation for a full decade. Olivio has remained popular since 2003, and has always been one of the prime destinations for its authentic Italian and Thai cuisine.

Over the years, the restaurant, situated in the north of Chaweng, has gone from strength to strength, constantly seeking to improve on its already good reputation. Diners return to it again and again, and each time there’ll have been some or other new grace note added. This time, though, they can expect a lot more: rather than a spruce-up, Olivio has been given an entire makeover. Major shifts have taken place, and the restaurant is all the better for them.

The first thing that’ll strike you is that the restaurant now has three distinct areas. It used to be entirely open-air, but now has a large air-con section. It’s ideal for the hottest of days (and evenings on Samui can be almost equally hot, too) and also when there’s rain. Simply opt to sit here and enjoy the relaxed feel of indoor dining, and thanks to enormous glass windows, views out to the lush little garden just outside and the sea beyond. The central part of the restaurant is still open-air as is the part nearer the sea, now with beautifully decorated, romantic canopied seating. No matter where you choose to be seated, Olivio’s definitely the kind of restaurant where it’s easy to simply sit back and relax.

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Chilling in Paradise

A look at what brought the new president of the Samui Culinary Circle to our lovely island.

A look at what brought the new president of the Samui Culinary Circle to our lovely island.Despite its small size, Samui is now a very busy island indeed. But it wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, it was quiet and sleepy; a tropical get-away where gnarled fishermen mended their nets, and hippies swung lazily in hammocks in the shade. But then more people came. Then the airport. Then even more people. And then problems stared to arise.

People needed to eat. And little local restaurants weren’t enough. As even more hotels and resorts appeared, they needed to cater for a much more discerning audience. People wanted quality food. They wanted fresh vegetables to go with their fresh seafood. They expected potatoes, carrots, peas, and coleslaw too. Bratwurst, pizzas, and pasta dishes. They expected cheese at the end of their meal. They enjoyed good coffee in the morning. But the problem was that most of these things were not to be found – not easily, anyway.

Some of the more ambitious resorts were importing their own items, sometimes simply from the temperate northern regions of the country. Or they discovered suppliers hidden away in the dockside warehouses of Bangkok. Or sometimes they even shipped things in from abroad. But there was a very real downside to this. You needed to bring in a whole crate-load of these items, only to have most of them wasted. What wasn’t consumed in a day or so couldn’t be kept. Well, not unless they were shared around amongst other chefs and restaurants, anyway. Which is exactly what started to happen. And, in the fullness of time, 1997 to be precise, the group of people who had banded together to pool and share these foodstuffs gave themselves a title – it was the ‘Samui Culinary Circle’, or simply, SCC as it soon became known.

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The Real Thing

Real Thai food? You might be in for a surprise when you head to Krua Chao Baan seafood restaurant in Lamai!

Real Thai food? You might be in for a surprise when you head to Krua Chao Baan seafood restaurant in Lamai!Here’s an interesting fact for you – something like 20% of visitors to Thailand don’t like Thai food. Which to me is a little bit crazy – like going to America but not liking hamburgers. But it appears to be a fact. And the German, Italian and English-style eateries in Chaweng that are full every night seem to bear this out. Personally one of the reasons I came here in the first place was because of the wonderful Thai cuisine. But that doesn’t apply to everyone, or so it would seem!

But, then, here’s a thought for you. You’ve got Thai restaurants in your home town, yes? And you’ve no doubt enjoyed eating there; Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, after all. And so what did you think of the Thai food when you came over here? Was it the same? Better? Worse? Different?

My point is this: Thai restaurants all over the world change the food they sell to match what they think people want. In European (and American) restaurants you’ll usually find carrots and peas mixed in with the Thai food. One very popular Thai restaurant in New York, Ngam, sets the tables with chopsticks – even though Thais don’t use chopsticks (except for noodle soup) – simply because it’s what their customers expect.

And, so, when you come over here and experience ‘genuine’ Thai food, it can come as a surprise. But then we have to decide on what exactly ‘genuine’ means. So let’s just say it’s what the Thai people themselves eat. And that’s where the element of surprise comes in. Thais add sugar to everything. They frequently use MSG. Their ‘sour’ dishes are very sour indeed. They expect their beef or pork to be chewy, or their chicken to have bits of gristle in it. And you only have to look on TripAdvisor to see this surprise reflected in the comments!

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Oodles of Noodles

Did you realise just how many totally delicious noodle dishes there are, if you just know what to ask for?

Did you realise just how many totally delicious noodle dishes there are, if you just know what to ask for?There you are, out on a hot date with the person of your fancy. You want to impress them maybe just a little bit. So off you go to a Thai restaurant downtown. The menu arrives and you suggest pad Thai. Now pad Thai is certainly a big favourite, but you’ll get so much more street cred if you ask for ‘pad mee Korat’ (pad Thai’s rustic, provincial cousin). Or ‘kuay tio phat poo’ – perhaps throwing it casually into the conversation that this is the first time you’ve seen this dish (rice noodles fried with crab) outside of its birthplace in Chanthaburi. Or even simply ‘mee krob’ (crispy noodles) just to show how aware you are that they are often eaten as a side dish like rice.

You see, pad Thai might be well-known, but what’s not so well known is that Thailand has a lot of different kinds of noodles. And there are also many delicious (and different) noodle dishes being enjoyed every day by millions of Thai people. Some have their origins in the northern farming regions of the nation. Others have been influenced by the cross-border interchange with Laos in the north-east. Others have evolved in the cosmopolitan melting pot that is Bangkok. And then there’s the influence of coconut milk and seafood in the southern part of the nation.

Put it this way – noodles are like sausages. You can try Cumberland pork sausages, different kinds of German wurst, or the spicy chorizo from Mexico, the Cajun andouille, black pudding, chipolatas, saveloy or salami – the list goes on. Each one is a different type of sausage. But to feel that you’ve experienced sausages after eating hot dogs, is much like feeling in-the-know after eating a plate of pad Thai. But whereas that list of sausages is international, the variety of different noodle dishes in Thailand alone could probably fill a cookery book, and no doubt already has done.

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Thailand’s Greatest Recipes

Make it yourself: yellow curry with beef.

Make it yourself: yellow curry with beef.Making Thai food may not always be simple, but it’s almost always fun. For some the fun is more in the shopping and getting the ingredients together, while for others it’s in the actual cooking. And Thai cuisine being very much up to the individual, we have a lot of leeway; things never get boring as we know we don’t have to stick to the recipe.

Some of us even take delight in cutting a few corners. We make some nifty and sometimes wayward decisions when we don’t have the requisite time or the items, and particularly when we have neither. When it comes to Thai curries, there’s even more temptation, as we all know we can resort to packets. They do, after all, save time and many of us reach for them because we suspect they might well outclass all our best efforts anyway.

Are we even faintly to blame when recipe books themselves encourage us to resort to packets? How often do we read through a recipe that looks wonderful only to find half way down something like ‘now add two tablespoons of ready-made curry paste?’ We’re being encouraged to do the dirty, to cheat.

Aficionados of the authentic take umbrage. Why make everything from scratch? How hard can it be? They're right. Persevere and you'll become a dab hand at real Thai cuisine rather than just someone who can cobble together packets.

So here we come to the crunch: make your very own yellow curry paste. It’ll take you almost an hour, but a lot of it is downtime, so time to grab a book and relax. And what’s even better, you'll end up with not one but four batches of the paste. You can freeze three in bags for later. Once you get into making your own curry pastes, you won’t want to stop!

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Sublime Sundays

Come to Kanda Residences Koh Samui and enjoy RockPool restaurant’s Sunday Brunch. It’s the perfect way to chill out in the most beautiful surroundings.

 Come to Kanda Residences Koh Samui and enjoy RockPool restaurant’s Sunday Brunch. It’s the perfect way to chill out in the most beautiful surroundings.The appeal of brunch isn’t to be under-estimated; even though this meal hasn’t been with us so long in historical terms – British aristocrats in the late 19th century were the first to tuck into brunches before they became all the rage in the United States in the 1930s. Since then, the lure of brunch has smitten many other parts of the world, and is now popular just about everywhere. Samui, it has to be admitted, is a bit of a newcomer to brunch, but it’s catching up rapidly with the rest of the world. Ideal for holidaymakers and residents alike, brunch-goers on the island have the added bonus of some very beautiful settings and great weather.

On Samui’s north coast, just a few minutes’ drive north out of Chaweng, there’s a wild and undisturbed patch of coast that’s home to RockPool, a prime spot for wining and dining of all kinds. It’s sported a string of talented chefs since it first opened, and thanks to their creativity have you covered for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and everything in between, which naturally includes RockPool’s very successful Sunday Brunch.

RockPool is located at Kanda Pool Villa, a resort that has something of a Mediterranean vibe about it, and the same charming appeal. Once you arrive at the lobby, a buggy will soon be whisking you down towards the restaurant along flowery paths with stone walls that seem to have stepped out of Southern France or Greece. The restaurant itself is open-air, yet part covered, with the brunch taking place on split-level decking that steps down towards the sea. The backdrop is just right for any meal; you can enjoy the panoramic view of the sea, along with Chaweng to the south, a duo of rocky headlands just to the north and the enigmatic off-island of Koh Matlang close by.

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Weddings that Wow

The Siam Residence Boutique Resort is one of the best island getaways to head for when it comes to weddings.

The Siam Residence Boutique Resort is one of the best island getaways to head for when it comes to weddings.There are almost as many ways to get to a wedding destination as there are weddings themselves. Couple variously jet in to Samui, take an overnight train, boat or bus. And they may have come directly from their home countries or gone by some convoluted route that’s taken them half way around the world. One couple who came from Europe, took the Trans-Siberian Express, basically ‘turned right somewhere in Siberia’ and headed south through China, arriving a few weeks later in Thailand. People can afford to take their time and indulge their senses when it comes to destination weddings, because someone else is looking after the special day for them. They can sit back and relax.

On Samui all wedding planners know how important it is to guarantee their brides and grooms a stress-free time. It’s been many years now since the first wedding here – nobody can even be certain when the first holidaymakers tied the knot on one of the island’s beaches. Samui has grown used to them, and it’s a mini-industry in itself. All of the weddings here are hallmarked by the same palpable absence of stress. It’s one thing that they all have in common. This might lead you to think that all weddings here are the same, but that’s definitely not the case. For each beach and each resort, there’ll be variations. That’s why it’s a task in itself to establish exactly where on the island to go for your wedding. In general, couples look for a spot that’s going to offer privacy, beauty and a range of services that will help them fulfil their wishes and needs. Chaweng and the east coast seem to be in the limelight when it comes to weddings – many take place here. The beach is wonderful, and celebrations of every kind are de rigueur in this part of the island. But there are many alternatives, and they come with their own advantages.

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A Songbird in Paradise

We dip into the life of Tasha Daugul and discover what brought her to Samui.

We dip into the life of Tasha Daugul and discover what brought her to Samui.It’s a completely different perspective. You come to Samui and stay for a while. You go out. You explore. You dine well, and then you take a taxi to see a live band, a show or some authentic Thai dancing. You get to know the staff at your resort, and then take home souvenirs and fond memories of your time in Thailand. But for the people who live here and work here, whether Thai nationals or from elsewhere, their view of what you’ve been experiencing is quite different.

Someone once described this to me as “. . . like being underwater and looking up at the boats on the surface”. Meaning that it’s a whole different world for people who live here. But that’s what a holiday is all about, though, isn’t it? Having nothing much to think about, and being taken care of while you have a well-earned break.

But the people who live here are forever distracted by the maze of continually-changing immigration laws. They need to learn how to pay their electricity bills in a society where cheque books aren’t commonly used and internet banking is still emerging, or find their way through the baffling tangles of paperwork to buy a motorbike. Plus a thousand other things – while all the time having to cope with the ever-present language barrier. It’s a whole different view of Samui. And that also includes coming into contact with you, even though you might not have been aware of it!

You’re at one of the island’s top resorts, and while you’re enjoying a very gentile dinner, you’re being entertained by an equally discreet jazz trio. The food is fabulous and the music is mellow. Everything’s just perfect. But the trio of musicians, playing unobtrusively to one side, are each seeing you as if they are underwater, looking up. You’re enjoying their music. But you’ll be gone next week and they won’t!

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Cuisine Kickstarter

Taking Thai cooking class at Nora Beach Resort & Spa gives you the impetus to begin your own culinary journey.

wining - dining 17-01It’s been said that if you never try the food of the country you're visiting, then you can’t really expect to know it. A bit like learning the language no doubt – once you're fluent, then your experience of the place, its people and its culture will be so much more complete. It obviously takes decades to really know any country, but its food is an easier place to start than its language.

Many visitors come to Thailand and love the tastes of the cuisine, sampling it as much as possible. To delve into the food a little more means donning an apron, sharpening a knife and getting started. The only trouble is that following recipes from a cook book can be, well, a tad boring, with the usual dubious results. But when it comes to Thai food, exact weights and measures aren’t necessarily going to result in great tastes.

That’s why Nora Beach Resort runs cooking classes. It’s better to watch and emulate a cook at work rather than work your way through venerable tomes on cooking. Besides, it’s definitely more fun. The Thais, never the ones for jealously guarding their kitchen secrets, love nothing better to impart their culinary savvy, and at Nora Beach the teacher is well-qualified and knows cooking inside out. Many guests at the class don’t start off with the intention of learning to cook, but so enjoy eating Thai food at the resort’s restaurant, Prasuthon, that they enquire if they can follow a class. Running the cooking class at Nora is part and parcel of the restaurant’s many facets. Prasuthon, with its traditional roof and teak interior, is obviously just the kind of place that prides itself on its Thainess. The food mirrors this and the classes are extremely popular.

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Café Culture

Forget the pub – today it’s more likely we’ll be popping out for a quiet coffee!

Forget the pub – today it’s more likely we’ll be popping out for a quiet coffee!Things have been changing. A couple of years ago it was all about the local pub. In smaller towns and villages there wasn’t so much choice. In the cities, pubs were everywhere. But, whatever the case, several times a week, just for an hour or so at night, you’d pop out to the pub. It wasn’t about the alcohol; that was incidental. It was because this was your community centre. It was the place to nod at people, look out for folks you needed a word with, catch up with the local gossip and generally feel a part of what was going on locally. But things have been changing, particularly in the cities.

Pub culture is declining – and coffee-shop-culture is on the up. Certainly there are a lot of quite complex social reasons for this, not the least being the unpredictable and shifting nature of city-based communities, particularly when it’s linked to the increase in aggression and violence at night – people want to have a an enjoyable time as far away as possible from belligerent drunks.

But, whatever the reason, an average of 20 pubs a week are closing in Britain at the moment. And, at the same time, coffee shops have not only grown ten-fold in number since 1996, but last year increased by a further 8.5%. There are now 16,000 coffee shops in the UK, and these represent a €10 billion industry. But this is really nothing new; rather it’s a resurgence of a gentler era, and way of life that’s been dormant for a long while.

Although ‘the café’ had been very much a part of European society for hundreds of years (and effectively served the same function as ‘pubs’ came to do much later), the ‘coffee shop’ was something different. It emerged in America in the era of Prohibition, as a sneaky way of sidestepping this with shots of liquor under the table. But these in turn evolved, eventually taking on such personas as Starbucks, and thus giving rise a whole new generation of American coffee drinkers.

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