Tom Yum Goong and Phad Thai on Phi Phi
When we arrived at Ko Phi Phi, we had lunch at Jasmine's on Laem Tong beach, where we were surprised with an interesting variation on tom yum goong – it had coconut milk. The food was good, but the addition of coconut milk was a bit unsettling. If you're ever there, try the deep fried banana fritters with honey. Yum.
Dinner was at posh Zeavola's beachfront restaurant, with elegant votive candles and perplexing but delicious octopus ink bread. Steph had a gorgeous glass of strawberry-topped house iced tea. Of course, this luxury came at a price – tom yum goong here cost about four times what it did at Jasmine's. Zeavola's tom yum was a tourist-oriented version, low on chili but made flavorful by galangal and lemongrass. The shrimp were huge!
We had grand plans for the next day. We would work up an appetite snorkeling, have a leisurely lunch at Ruen Thai restaurant up on the hill, and then relax with a massage at Wana Spa. The snorkeling worked fine, but we hit a snag when we disembarked at Phi Phi Island Village and walked up to the bar to make a reservation for Ruen Thai.
"What time would you like to book, ma'am?" the bartender asked, consulting a large reservations book.
"At 12," said Steph.
All she got in reply was a blank, puzzled look.
"12," she repeated, pointing to her watch. "Now. Can we go now?"
It turned out Ruen Thai is only open for dinner. The bartender must have thought we were crazy, wanting to eat at midnight!
So instead we had phad thai and tom yum goong at Marlin restaurant. The food was good enough, but I felt it was overpriced. When the menu quotes you prices in euros along with baht, that's generally not a good sign.
Our next new find was our cheapest, and in my opinion, the best. On our last full day on Ko Phi Phi, we took a longtail boat to see Ko Phi Phi Ley and stopped in Ton Sai on the way back for lunch. The phad thai at Leon restaurant was packed full of flavor and had just the right level of chili for me. Okay, so it's a stretch to call it a restaurant – it's a bunch of folding tables and plastic chairs in the middle of the souvenir market. The place might also have been called Sammy or Mr. Soda – the menus had all three names so I can't be sure what its real name was, but you can't miss it: look for the billboard full of scrawled backpacker recommendations, the large "thank you" sign, and a handwritten sign advertising "the BEST papaya salad!".
The tom yum goong woke us up and cleared our sinuses, a sharp contrast to the cool refreshing fruit shakes. We had a filling meal for three, two perfect fruit shakes and a cool glass of orange juice – for about 50 baht per dish.
Now if I can only find someplace in Singapore that serves great phad thai for 50 baht…
Contact information and more details
- Jasmine is on Laem Tong beach, Ko Phi Phi – sandwiched between Erawan Palms and the Holiday Inn. Price range: 70 to 80 baht per dish. Rating: 3 out of 5, because of the coconut milk in the tom yum.
- Zeavola is also on Laem Tong beach. Their Tacada restaurant is most definitely a date place. If your budget doesn't extend to dinner at Zeavola, wander over for an after-dinner drink and soak in the ambience. Price range: 300 to 400 baht per dish. Rating: 4 out of 5, for the atmosphere, the excellent service, and the deliciously unusual bread.
- Marlin and Ruen Thai are at Phi Phi Island Village at Ao Loh Ba-kao. Price range: 350 to 450 baht per dish. Rating: 2 out of 5, didn't think it was worth the price.
- Leon eatery (or Sammy, or Mr. Soda) is at the open-air market in Ton Sai, a short walk from the pier. Wander among the stalls until you see the big "Thank You" sign. Price range: 50 to 60 baht per dish. Rating: 5 out of 5 – best value and best flavor, how can you beat that?
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