We hear from the F&B people of Phuket on what makes food on Thailand’s largest island so unique and how the launch of the Michelin Guide Phuket will, if at all, change the culinary landscape.
Executive Chef and Owner, Acqua Restaurant
“I define our food concept as the evolution of Italian cuisine. We follow the evolution of cooking techniques, the evolution of farmers/ingredients, the evolution of presentational tools. Inspiration comes from all around but mostly from my memories and the food culture and traditions of Italy. These elements are present when I create a new dish, so you’ll find some traditional Italian dishes and other more sophisticated creations to please all level of food knowledge. For my menu, I import almost 90 per cent of my ingredients as we like to have the same tastes and textures as in Italy. I still love to explore the Phuket markets though and sometimes I’ll find an interesting ingredient that comes close to my memories of home. Sardines, for example, are amazing. I use them in a dish called “Sardines Like the Sardines Festival in Italy”. Michelin coming to Phuket is excellent. It will automatically raise the level of the restaurant’s standards. Tourism has always been significant on the island, but I think the Guide will see a different kind of tourist arrive, more culinary-leaning, more sophisticated maybe? I’m sure Phuket will benefit from the Guide, and it will raise the reputation of the island. Perhaps it will help to attract new chefs and restaurants, increasing the quality and the selection of dining on the island.”
Nasuda ‘Orn’ Kuenram
Owner of Mee Sapam Phuket
“It’s the mixed identity. Phuket comprises of diverse cultures that influence the way we eat, leading to new creations such as in Baba cuisine (from Chinese offspring born and raised in local families), Muslim cuisine, Thai-Chinese cuisine, Malawian cuisine, etc. Phuket cuisine is also an integral part of traditional ceremonies, festivals, and beliefs. It is automatically embedded in Phuketians’ lives. Some households have secret family recipes passed down from generation to generation. Another factor is the outstanding natural resources that bring charm and uniqueness to our dishes.
In the information age, it is inevitable for food businesses to be labelled by criticisms, stars, reviews, rankings, etc. I think Michelin will have a positive impact on restaurants as being recognised by a universally renowned institution can attract Thai and international gourmands to the hub. This will highlight Thailand’s food culture and stimulate the tourism industry in Phuket, not only for the awarded restaurants but also the rest, which will have a chance to establish new and returning customers. Kitchen staff, on the other hand, will need to keep up consistent cooking or practice and improve to understand and meet the standards, as well as to be more widely acknowledged.”
Napapat ‘Prang’ Chessadawan
Owner of One Chun
“Phuket’s gastronomy differs due to the deeply rooted Chinese influence in Thai culture, across food and architecture.In terms of cooking style, for example, Moo Hong(pork belly stew) requires the use of spices, but still with a milder flavour profile compared to most local dishes. Regional favourites include the likes of Koong Siab (shrimp skewers grilled and smoked on coconut spathe), Koong Sod (raw shrimp), Shone(vegetable often eaten with Nam Prik or chili paste), Pak Miang (vegetable often sautéed with egg, garlic, and Koong Siab) that are used to make menus like Nam Prik Koong Siab (chili paste), Nam Prik Koong Sod (chili paste), Kang Som Sai Shone (spicy and savoury orange soup with shrimp and Shone)and Bai Miang sautéed with egg and Koong Siab.
Launching the Michelin Guide will give colour to the local food businesses. It might help promote our signature cuisines as Phuket has a lot to offer. Each restaurant has its own version and cooking method of each dish. For instance, Moo Hong from one place tastes differently from another due to the techniques and execution, depending on customers’preferences. Some old eateries may already have regulars, but they will have a chance to gain new visitors every year too.”
Tammasak ‘Noi’ Choothong
Owner and Executive Chef of Suay Restaurant
“Phuket cuisine is unique with multicultural heritage from the past, known as Peranakan style. Typical southern dishes are extremely spicy in most parts of the region. This factor concerns the island’s inherited wisdom that creates many specialties. Since the Hokkian Chinese fed the majority of the population with loads of international settlers, the spiciness was levelled down over time with sweetness to create an umami flavour. Another advantage is the seafood that can be easily found here. Phuketis not only abundant with beautiful sceneries, but also fresh seafood with supplies arriving daily.
Launching the Michelin Guide in Phuket is wonderful.With internationally well-respected foodies visiting, it will benefit the island greatly. This will bring a new wave of travellers, who can try authentic local dishes and learn more about the culture. This is exciting for people in the restaurant industry as there had been a long quiet rainy season.Restaurants will be more alert and ready for improvement, to raise their quality to another level. This too will benefit visitors as they explore and experience Phuket. As a fine dining chef, I know that Michelin Guide’s readers have a keen eye for high standards and they expect quality.”
Kanya ‘Noi’ Parama
General Managerof The Vegan Table
“Local Phuket cuisine has a unique quality as it consists of many years of history. Since Phuket has welcomed international traders for hundreds of years, these movements brought with them plenty of cultural traits and many who migrated here brought their culinary heritage with them, passing it down through the generations. Hokkian Chinese has been a major population of the island for a long time, and plays a huge part in Phuket cuisine. Many local dishes have Chinese influences combined with flavourful Thai southern dishes. The variety of local food is plentiful, allowing visitors to explore the culinary scene and learn more about the island. I recommend visiting authentic local restaurants as this presents a good opportunity to learn about the island’s varied history.
As for the Michelin Guide launching in Phuket, I think it’s great news. Phuket has a lot of great restaurants with loads to offer foodies and travellers. It is a chance for these hidden gems and small cafes to be discovered and exposed to the world. I also see this as a significant moment for the food and beverage industry, to acknowledge this new wave of change and interest that will hopefully spark more growth and interest, helping Phuket for the future.”