Krabi in Southern Thailand has long been a popular tourist spot with plenty of places to eat, but not many of them are serving real Thai food. But these three restaurants are the real deal.
Directly across the Bay of Thailand from Phuket, separated by some 20km of the Andaman Sea, Krabi started out as a retreat for visitors who had become tired of the over-tourism of Phuket and its busy beaches.
These days, Krabi is arguably just as busy, its main street though Ao Nang thronged with happy holidaymakers.
Bars, cafes and restaurants take up the vast majority of Ao Nang real estate, but most of them cater to the lowest common denominator and although the food is fine, it’s probably not what the locals would be eating.
For starters, the dishes here rarely pack the punch that real Thai food from the south is known for.
But there are a few restaurants in Krabi that stick to traditional flavours—and heat if you want it!
3 restaurants in Krabi that serve real Thai food
Check out our short video of these three places cooking up the best Thai food in Krabi:
Ruen Mai—or ‘New House’ is a beautiful, peaceful restaurant that feels like it’s hidden away in its own tropical garden.
Its curving scalloped thatched roofs and open walls really allow the warm sea air of the south coast to embrace you and put you at ease.
Timber and bamboo causeways lead you through the trees to the two main buildings of the restaurant. Both have the same thatched roofs that follow the traditional shape of Thai houses and great halls.
And the place is lit with lanterns made from the same thatch as the roof and hanging among the high rafters.
Menus are in both Thai and English, and spicy food is marked with one, two and three chillis… there aren’t too many dishes that don’t have at least one next to their name!
Food is absolutely exquisite. And mostly made with local ingredients and from the restaurant’s own garden.
We had whole deep fried sand whiting with crispy garlic and pounded turmeric, a luxuriant omelette with chopped crab meat, Pad pak mieng khai (fried veggies called pak mieng local to Krabi and egg) regional version of tom yum soup called tom som pla.
This sweet and sour soup is made with tamarind and palm sugar, and comes with a big slab of fish and is also flavoured with smoked fish.
But best of all was the Krabi version of pork larb. Often one of the hottest things on a Thai menu, larb is a dry mince dish with plenty of citrus and spice and is one of my favourite Thai dishes.
This one from Krabi is even better.
Written as just ‘kua kling’ on the menu, its English translation just says ‘extra hot’! This dish also comes with sea grapes that we’ve only seen before in Okinawa and Thai eggplant, kua kling is more of a dry curry and is earthy and satisfyingly savoury.
From its elevated location above the main tourist strip of Krabi, Lae Lay Grill has incredible views down over the town and over the water. This is a rare spot where you can take in so much of the horizon, punctuated with the iconic limestone monolith islands of Nopparat Thara National Park.
This impressive restaurant is on two levels and is possibly the biggest venue in town, but don’t let that put you off.
The food here is just as good as the views.
Sumptuous, creamy coconut soups, crunchy yet delicate and silky fish cakes, robust and spicy seafood papaya salads packed with prawns, mussels, squid, crab and fish, and moreish deep-fried softshell crab with chilli and salt that’s somehow crunchy and tender at the same time.
Desserts are worth a look here too, especially the sesame topped crushed ice and fruit, and the crinkle-cut green melon pieces with chilli soy dip.
There’s often a bit of live music happening here and if you time it right, the sunset over the water is not to be missed.
3. Ko Hong island diner
One—if not the only island in the national park with a restaurant open to the public, the diner on Ko Hong is special in that way at least.
You’re welcome to bring a picnic with you to Ko Hong, but that would mean you’re missing out on the excellent options on offer from this surprisingly good beachside bar.
The quality and authenticity of the Thai food is excellent, especially considering the only people coming here are tourists.
Everything—from the simplest dish like the cucumber salad to the cleverly layered flavours of another kua kling—is so well crafted with that typical ease that Thai cooking has of balancing all the flavours.
We also had a spicy chicken salad, a kind of prawn choo chi and a dish of greens that also comes with very long-stemmed straw mushrooms.
But best of all is the fried chicken here they call Thai KFC. But putting this dish on the same parallel as KFC isn’t doing it any justice at all.
The seasoning is far superior to the Colonel’s paltry 11 herbs and spices, and the chicken itself—perfectly cooked—is juicy, dense and full of flavour.
The only way to get to Ko Hong is by boat, which you can read more about here but most trips from Krabi come here. If not, make sure you tell your skipper to get you to Ko Hong for lunch!