Where are the best places in Krabi to sample authentic Thai cuisine?
Choosing the restaurants on this list was tough, but in the end it came down to one thing: consistency in cooking. While there are many great Thai restaurants in Krabi, the biggest problem is finding those that are always good, no matter when you go and whom you go with.
Of course, even in our chosen favourites, the chefs might still have an occasional off-day, but they’re usually on lip-smackingly good form. For lovers of Thai food, all of these establishments offer the genuine article, with no concessions to the tourist palate, and all are in the restaurant class (with full menus and proper table service). Although you can often find great Thai food at roadside stands or simple canteens, none of these are listed here – please see our separate article on street food in Krabi.
IN KRABI TOWN
If you are serious about Thai food, this is the place to come. In addition to the famed street stalls and markets, you’ll find some truly amazing restaurants – at a fraction of the prices found on the beach.
Following a brief closure, Ruen Mai Thai, for many years the undisputed winner of best Thai restaurant in Krabi, has now moved venue to a stunning new location in Klong Chilat, with a new chef, where it continues to hold its crown. There’s a vast menu, including seafood and many southern Thai specialities and, as a bonus, the high quality, mainly organic vegetables and herbs used are grown directly on the property. The dining room itself is set outdoors in a pretty garden, making meals here a special occasion day or night.
Ruen Mai’s closest rival is Ruan Tip, another excellent restaurant featuring a traditional Thai menu (try its delicious smoked crispy leg of pork, prawn beignets or crab curry) as well as its own innovations – the spicy Ruan Tip salad, with lansa fruit, cashew nuts and crispy dried seaperch is a must. Live music every night plus good service and an upmarket local crowd seal this restaurant’s position in our top ten.
Pathe is a new restaurant with a more contemporary feel. Run by a young couple, it offers well-seasoned dishes with a focus on quality produce and local cooking styles, with dishes such as crabmeat curry (mild) with vermicelli noodles; lemongrass salad; stir-fried long aubergines with minced pork. Menu varies daily according to market availability. The restaurant is located close to Ruen Tip, near the CAT Telecom intersection.
Jao Sua, another restaurant slightly far from the centre, would certainy be the people’s choice for best Thai in town. It’s always packed with an eclectic crowd – especially after bar closing time at 1am – and thus offers a taste of the real Thailand. The menu is huge and cheap, with almost anything Thai you can think of, including dishes with birds and frogs.
Best are the southern specialities such as the hot and sour fish curry, kaeng som and the chilli prawn dip, nam phrik kung sot. The rickety old wooden building offers plenty of seating choice – you can even sit cross-legged on the floor.
While not as spectacular as the previous three, Bai Toey’s pleasant dining room on the banks of the Krabi River provides good, reliable Thai cuisine, only a short walk from the old pier on Khong Kha Rd. Try the clams stir fried in sweet chilli paste and basil (hawy waan pat nam phrik pao) or the strange-sounding but excellent squid stir-fried with salted eggs – there’s plenty of dishes you won’t find on a tourist Thai menu.
Yet another restaurant worth checking out in town is Nong Joke (past the pier), which has a menu similar in style and price to Jao Sua – it’s a popular evening choice for local Thais. The final entry for Krabi Town, worthy of mention though it didn’t quite squeeze into the top ten, is a good place for a lunchtime dose of chillies: the strip of restaurants in Thara Park, serving treats from the north-east of Thailand, until 6pm only.
OUT OF TOWN
At the weekend or on public holidays, there’s nothing Thai people like to do more than drive out into the countryside, park and eat. A favourite place, where children are also kept occupied by swimming and splashing around in the river, is Suan Kluay Mai, on the road from Klong Haeng to Klong Muang.
Also known as Orchid Garden, this is a pretty garden restaurant, on the banks of a bend in the same river, further upstream. The soups there are all fantastic – in particular, we recommend the chicken coconut and ginger tom kha gai, or the simple chicken turmeric broth gai baan tom kamin, this last especially if you are harbouring traces of a cold from the European winter. If possible, try to visit this restaurant with Thai friends. The large menu is only partially translated and – rather worryingly – there are also different prices for Thais and foreigners.
IN AO NANG
In the sea of restaurants near the beach, there are sadly less than a handful that made this list (we are not including any hotel restaurants here). Though there are plenty of good and authentic basic eateries in the area (the stretch from the mosque up through the village has the best of them), not to mention great street food, our mission here was to find the best in local dining: a place where Thai people would go for a nice meal out.
This is not to say that the Thai food served in the fancier beachfront restaurants is all bad: while it can be horribly watery and bland, much of it is perfectly edible – it’s just that it does not resemble anything Thai people would eat.
E-San Seafood is the first of the restaurants that pass the test. Open in Ao Nang for more than 15 years, the quality and authenticity of the food has remained pretty constant, even if the prices now mean its original clientele can no longer afford to eat there. The location is not ideal – a tent in a former car park, behind a row of street stalls – but the fact that it is packed every night is testament to the chef’s skills. Find it next to P.K. Minimart, across the street from the tourist police booth.
Another beachfront restaurant – this time on Nopparat Thara, round the corner from Ao Nang – that is highly recommended is Wang Sai Seafood. The restaurant of choice for visiting Thais, the canteen-like dining room is nothing fancy, but the quality and freshness of the ingredients – including the non-seafood items – is unbeatable. Try a fiery Thai salad – grilled aubergine, or wing bean and coconut – alongside some plain grilled fish.
Thara Kitchen (Krua Thara) next to the National Park headquarters at the end of Nopparat Thara Beach has perhaps the best selection of seafood in Ao Nang, with a particularly large range of local shellfish. This is the place to come if you would like your seafood cooked Thai style, deep-fried with sweet chilli sauce, or in a curry or salad. Most days, there are also good crabs available – look in the tanks at the front of the restaurant.
Last but not least is the tiny kitchen of Ton Sai, once down at the beachfront, but now relocated opposite U&P Bakery, around 3km from the beach. This family run restaurant has attracted many fans over the years, many of whom still make the trek from the beach to sample the crispest tempura prawns and well-balanced tom yum in Ao Nang (among many other dishes).
One final note on eating Thai food: it is best to order as local people do, with several dishes to share, rather than one dish for each person. Order rice separately and taste a little of everything. This way, you can get a balance of flavours and textures – soups, curries, stir-fries, salads etc. Don’t forget simple dishes like omelettes, which can really help you get through the spicy food!
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- Where to eat in Ao Nang
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Last updated: October 24, 2016