Many visitors are lured to Ko Samui by the promise of a gastronomic adventure and the island’s restaurants step up to the plate. There's a whole enticing world of flavour waiting on Ko Samui, if you’re willing to experiment a bit and dig into its culinary depths. Indeed, it may matter little if you hunt out the snazziest resort restaurant or the cheapest shack on the beach, dishes are waiting that will simply blow your tastebuds away.

Ko Samui Flavours

The island makes the most of its proximity to the sea and the ample supply of fresh seafood as well as the various culinary influences of southern Thai cuisine; Malay, Indian, Chinese and Indonesian ingredients, flavours and dishes have found a place here. You'll find that curries are spicier than their central Thailand counterparts and are often seasoned with turmeric, which imparts a yellowish hue. Cloves, cinnamon and cardamom are some of the spices from Indonesia and India that are fed into the aromatic makeup of local dishes such as gang mát·sà·mân (Muslim curry) and kôw mòk gài (chicken biryani).

The Kôw Gaang Gang

Influenced by the mainland, Samui is peppered with kôw gaang (rice and curry) shops, usually just a wooden shack displaying large metal pots of southern Thai-style curries. They are one of the handiest pit-stops for lunch or a snack while on the road. Locals pull up on their motorcycles, lift up the lids to survey the vibrantly coloured contents, and pick one for lunch. Kôw gaang shops are easily found along the Ring Rd (Rte 4169) and sell out of the good stuff by 1pm. Any build-up of local motorcycles is usually a sign of a good meal in progress.

Coconuts

It’s no surprise that Samui’s most famous natural produce finds its way into a medley of dishes. There's sweet coconut jam to spread on your croissants in the morning. Wai kôo·a is a spicy and sour coconut-based curry featuring octopus. Tom Kha is a flavoursome chicken soup made with coconut milk, lemongrass, lime juice, ginger, fish sauce and chilli paste. Usually made with chicken, beef or lamb, Massaman curry also employs coconuts – the meat is simmered in spices and coconut milk to soften it up after frying. You'll also see seafood being barbecued over coals of coconut husks.

'Walking Street' Night Markets

Ko Samui's 'Walking Streets' are a fun dining experience. These food-filled markets occur at least once per week, offering you the chance to sample local delicacies, shop for gifts and mingle with tourists and locals. They start at around 4pm and run till around midnight. To avoid the crowds arrive before 6pm or after 10pm. Pickpockets can be prevalent.

This was the schedule at the time of research, but some are considering opening more frequently:

  • Ban Chaweng Monday to Thursday and Saturday
  • Ban Lamai Sunday
  • Ban Meanam Thursday
  • Bo Phut (Fisherman's Village) Friday
  • Ban Choeng Mon Friday

The Basics

Samui's proximity to the sea means a plethora of seafood restaurants, but you can find cuisine from all over the world here. Book ahead for top-end restaurants, especially during peak season.

Restaurants Restaurants range from seaside shacks that tilt in the wind to swish and exclusive five-star affairs.

Cafes A rapidly mushrooming band of cafes has island barristas hopping and the coffee beans roasting.

Street Food Walking Street night markets are excellent for finding loads of different flavours in one location.

Hotels Many – but by no means all – of the best dining experiences can be found in the plush resorts.