Forget the touristy beach spots. Here's where you need to eat on Phuket island.
Spend less than B100 (US$4) and you’ll still leave this cavernous, garage-like kanom jeen (fermented rice noodles) specialist feeling stuffed. To go with your sticky, tangy noodles, get the signature nam ya poo (crab curry), along with a big tray of fresh herbs, sprouts, cucumbers, green beans, pineapple chunks and fermented cabbage—the true southern Thai way of eating kanom jeen. Each bowl costs just B25 ($1) with unlimited toppings.
66/2 Saphan Hin, Wichit, +66 (0) 76-355-228. Open daily 9am-7pm.
Super-duper local, this restaurant sits hidden in the woods beside a marsh, where it turns out Southern classics like nam prig kung siab to the backdrop of gibbon howls echoing through the trees. Its fame lies in specialties that draw on seasonal, local produce, like the mangosteen salad in a spicy dressing with cashew nuts and a heavy sprinkling of roasted coconut flakes (B180 / $7.40). They even make a somtam that uses mangosteen instead of shredded papaya (B180 / $7.40). For dessert, the restaurant serves its deep-fried bananas in a thick batter—crunchy, yet soft in the middle—for free.
101/18 Ban Pak Khlok Rd., Pa Khlok, +66 (0) 85-832-7439. Open Thu-Tue 11am-8pm.
This popular Phuket Town breakfast spot has been serving its steaming dim sum (referred to locally as xiao boi) for four generations. To avoid disappointment, head there before 9am to claim one of only 10 steel tables. Select from up to 30 options, ranging from ha gao (prawn balls, B20 / $0.80) to flavorful marinated pork and delicately wrapped wontons (B10/$0.40), served up with a thicker Phuket-style red sauce that’s sweet and spicy.
32/179 Poon Pon Rd., Amphoe Muang, +66 (0) 76-216-271, +66 (0) 76-210-795. Open daily 6-11am
Over four decades old, this halal breakfast spot is a must-visit for lovers of all things roti. Have your buttery, flaky flatbread with a sunny side up egg (B25 / $1) or a slathering of condensed milk (B15 / $0.60). Better yet, choose from their specialty curries (beef and chicken, B50-100 / $2-4) bursting with aromatic spices. The chicken biryani (B45 / $1.90) is also to-die-for. Head there early or face being squeezed out by ravenous locals.
Phuket Country Home, Chaofah Rd., +66 (0) 76-211-711. Open Tue-Sun 6am-1:30pm
One of Phuket's best-kept secrets for Southern cuisine has been open for 20 years, but its reputation remains limited to in-the-know locals. The dishes at this stereotypically low-key Thai restaurant—plastic placemats, steel tables, rusty drinks trolleys for your Sangsom and soda—have a reputation for being tangy and spiced just right. Go straight for the signatures: mushroom spicy curry cake (B150 / $6), shrimp paste with dried shrimp (B150 /$6), spicy sour seabass soup (B150 /$6) and crab curry with rice noodles (B220 / $9).
63/250 Ruam Pattana Rd., Rassada, +66 (0) 76-525-858. Open daily 11am-9pm (Closed on the 16-17th of each month)
The menu at this definitive old quarter cafe is all about pocket-friendly traditional dishes like mee Hokkien (Phuket-style noodles, B105 / $4.30) and bak kut teh (pork bone herbal soup, B125 / $5.20). The classic tiles, Chinese lanterns and clientele of local old boys are as charming as the recipes.
18 Thalang Rd., Phuket Town, +66 (0) 83-606-9776. Open Mon-Sat 11am-9pm