Travel 4 minutes 18 December 2021

9 Must-try Southern Thai Dishes Recommended By MICHELIN Restaurant Chefs

Feel the heat at these no-compromise southern specialists.

Beautiful water, picturesque islands, pristine beaches, and abundant natural resources are not the only remarkable treasures of Southern Thailand. It is also famous for its intensely flavourful dishes that are truly distinctive from other regional Thai cuisines. Do you want to know what dishes you must try on your next trip to the South? These chefs and owners of three Southern Thai restaurants listed in the MICHELIN Guide reveal their favourite dishes that are aroi chang hu (“very tasty” in the Southern dialect) and can’t be missed.

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Teerasak Pholngam, owner of Tu Kab Khao (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide 2022)
“Southern dishes get their uniqueness from the indigenous ingredients and flavours, which are different from other regions, especially the plentiful seafood. Also, we really focus on herbs and spices. For example, Southern curries will have turmeric, which is clearly different from the curries you’ll find in other regions. And the flavours are deeper, more intense than elsewhere.”

Mu Hong, a local favourite, and Phuket-style sour soup with grilled fish and Nam Chup Yam.  (©Tu Kab Khao)
Mu Hong, a local favourite, and Phuket-style sour soup with grilled fish and Nam Chup Yam. (©Tu Kab Khao)

Pholngam’s 3 must-try dishes
Mu Hong (pork stew) is a Thai-Chinese hybrid, showing the influence from the Hokkien Chinese who settled in Southern Thailand many ages ago. Mu hong has different preparations and seasonings depending on the area in the South you visit, with some recipes handed down over generations. For example, the Phuket-style mu hong at Tu Kab Khao takes five to six hours of stewing for the tenderest meat.

Phuket-style sour soup with grilled fish” is a local dish brimming with piquant ingredients like tamarind leaves, Phuket pineapple, asam fruit, and tamarind juice. Various vegetables are added along with grilled fish to develop the sour, salty, and sweet flavours. With all the different fruits and vegetables, this tasty dish is also very healthy.

Nam Chup Yam” is a type of nam phrik, or chilli sauce, with fresh shrimp from the Southern provinces. This local speciality is traditionally made by roasting shrimp paste then pounding in fully cooked shrimps until the mixture is lush and fragrant. Then, it is seasoned with lime juice, shallots, fresh chillies, and chopped shrimp meat to make a perfect dip for boiled vegetables.

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Chef Phonkruet Innurak, Executive Chef of Takola (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide 2022)
“Southern food has a distinct spiciness and is also known for its high-quality seafood. And within the region, each area has its own signature ingredients, making their take on Southern cuisine unique. So, Phang-Nga will have dishes and flavours unlike other places in the South.”

Crab curry with wild betel leaves, Kung Phat Kapi and Nam Phrik Takola. (© Devasom / Takola)
Crab curry with wild betel leaves, Kung Phat Kapi and Nam Phrik Takola. (© Devasom / Takola)

Chef Innurak’s 3 must-try dishes
“Crab curry with wild betel leaves” has the decided intensity of Southern spicy curry recipes with wild betel leaves, grown throughout the South, adding their own heady aroma. The stand-out ingredient is the crab, for which many restaurants, including Takola, have earned a reputation for having freshly caught crab delivered directly from the fishermen, ensuring the highest quality.

“Nam Phrik Takola” features a recipe for a local Phang-Nga speciality, intensely rich and flavourful. It begins with shrimp paste, roasted until fragrant, pounded in a mortar and pestle with kung siap (salt cured skewered shrimp) then served with boiled and fresh vegetables. Many enjoy it with boiled eggs and Dok Cha rice (a rice species grown only in Phang-Nga) for a full taste experience with the crunch of the kung siap.

“Kung Phat Kapi” (stir-fried shrimp in shrimp paste) demonstrates that you don’t have to just eat shrimp paste with bitter beans, as most people are used to doing. In the South, shrimp paste is also served with such local seasonal vegetables as the hearts of coconut palm and wild rice shoots. Southern Thailand has many fishing communities known for their shrimp pastes, each with their own special qualities and flavours. This provides restaurants in every area a range of excellent shrimp pastes to choose from. So, if you want to try this dish as you travel in the South, you should try it in many different places. For instance, Takola uses an aromatic shrimp paste made with real krill from Pak Chok in Khura Buri District. The fresher the shrimps, bought straight from fishermen, stir-fried with the Pak Chok shrimp paste, the more delicious the Kung Phat Kapi.

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Chef Supaksorn “Ice” Jongsiri, owner-chef of Sorn (Two MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide 2022)
“What is interesting to me about Southern food is its seaside origins. The region offers amazing quality seafood and seasonings for marinades and pickles. Shrimp pastes and fish sauces are the major components of Southern dishes. Then, if you look at the history, you’ll notice there are not many palaces in the South, but you’ll see many military forts and temples. This means the cuisine here isn’t for royalty. It’s food for soldiers and villagers. Other appealing aspects of Southern food are the emphasis on herbs, and how they have been blended in all the cultures that have passed through the region over the generations.”

Roti and curry. (© Shutterstock)
Roti and curry. (© Shutterstock)

Chef Jongsiri’s 3 must-try dishes
“Curry with roti” represents the influence of the South’s large Muslim population. You’ll see many places serving curries with roti, especially in the morning. Some vendors will even offer free bean curries. Along with bean curries, there is massaman and other curries to choose from. People from the South prefer eating roti with their curries for breakfast, which is not that common in other regions of Thailand. So, a visit to Southern Thailand isn’t really complete without having curry with roti for breakfast.

Southern-style khanom chin at a Bib Gourmand awarded Khanom Chin Pa Son in Phang-Nga. (© Khanom Chin Pa Son/ Michelin)
Southern-style khanom chin at a Bib Gourmand awarded Khanom Chin Pa Son in Phang-Nga. (© Khanom Chin Pa Son/ Michelin)

“Khanom chin” is another favourite in Southern culture. Every khanom chin shop will have huge pots of steaming hot nam ya (gravy). There will usually also be nam phrik, nam ya pa (jungle gravy), Southern fish curry, green curry, and more. Some eat one topping at a time. Others mix them all together with the noodles. Some add boiled eggs, too. And certain restaurants will also offer fried chicken for heartier appetites. The meal usually comes with unlimited vegetables presented like a culinary journey of the area’s produce.

“Trang Grilled Pork” and “Betong Chicken” are local dishes Chef Onsiri insists everyone should try when visiting the South. The grilled pork in Trang, and, if you’re visiting Yala, look for Betong Chicken. Other areas will have their own specialities you should try so that you can truly experience the authentic local culture and flavours wherever you go in the South.

Trang Grilled Pork. (© Shutterstock)
Trang Grilled Pork. (© Shutterstock)

Southern Thailand is not just a coastal region famous for natural landscapes of the stunning seaside, charming islands, and beautiful beaches. The diverse cuisine reflects the South’s cultural heritage and culinary traditions of the peoples of Thailand’s Golden Axe Handle (Thais describe the country as the Golden Axe, with the peninsula as the handle). So, when visiting the South, you should open yourself to trying regional specialities and exploring the area’s food culture to enhance your local encounters. Stop by local food manufacturers to see their special techniques. Try local ingredients and delicacies. Visit a fishing village or a fruit orchard. Experience local lifestyles through the distinct flavours and products of Southern Thailand and maybe pick up a handicraft or two as souvenirs or unique gifts. This way, you’ll support local economies while expanding your horizons.

Stay safe during your travels. Don’t forget to wear a mask, wash your hands, and protect your health. Also, be on the lookout for the SHA logo. SHA is a project involving the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Ministry of Tourism and Sports, with the Department of Disease Control, Department of Health, Department of Health Service Support, Ministry of Public Health, and others. SHA certification verifies the safety, hygiene, and sanitation quality of products and services of Thai businesses while promoting the quality of Thai tourism among travellers.

For more information about this project, please visit


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