The buzz: Koh Samui’s two-decade-old Southern dining institution, Khao Hom, has arrived at I’m Park community mall in Sam Yan. The guy behind the new branch is Teerapat “Bond” Lertsiriprapa (Kouen Sushi, Sushi Niwa), who promises the same tried and trusted family recipes as well as produce like kapi (shrimp paste) and curry paste flown in straight from the island.
The decor: Colorful batik-patterned pillows, woven baskets and vintage enamel plates make it very clear you’re dining in a Southern Thai restaurant. Clean and uncluttered, the space feels both homey and yet special enough in a dining-in-a-mall kind of way.
The food: The original restaurant on Samui talks up owner Malai "Lek" Somwong’s house-made kapi and prik gaeng (spicy chili paste with herbs), which appear in many sharing dishes here such as the moo pad kapi (B180), stir-fried kurobuta pork with shrimp paste and a heady mix of sliced shallots, lime and bird’s eye chilies. Other standbys like goong pad kapi sataw (stir-fried prawns with bitter bean, B180), khua kling (minced pork fried in spicy paste with turmeric, B150) and nam prik goong sod (chili paste with kapi and fresh assorted vegetables, B200) reveal slightly sweeter tastes than you might expect in Southern Thai food. Do leave room for rarer picks like the wai kua (octopus cooked in coconut milk, B180) and yum hoi jor (spicy salad with local clams, B180), too. The likes of kanom jeen namyaa puu (rice vermicelli with spicy crab, B250) and kao pah pla kem (fried rice with salted fish, B120) are only available for lunch (11am-5pm).
The drinks: To cool down, there are refreshing, herby drinks like lime butterfly pea juice, bael fruit juice and lemongrass, all at the same price of B80.
Why we’d come back: The flavors here aren’t mild as such, but they don’t pack quite the same punch as you find at restaurants dedicated to Phuket and Surat Thani cuisines. Add in the comforting setting and Yoong Khao Hom is a very solid gateway restaurant for Southern Thai food.