PHUKET: The Bang Pae Seafood restaurant has been a favourite among Phuket’s locals for sixteen years.
This charming seaside place is run by a small family, headed by Mrs Prakorb Tiranon, who oversees daily culinary operations.
A beautiful twenty-minute drive in the direction of Ao Por from the Heroines Monument through shady rubber tree plantations takes you to a small bay. The restaurant is located on the edge of a mangrove forest and commands a stunning view of Bang Pae harbour, where flocks of wading birds search for their own seafood in the shallows.
The restaurant has two sections; the main area is shaded, but open on all sides to allow for a bay view and a refreshing breeze from the shore, while the al fresco beachside area is arranged chalet-style. A canopy of large trees provides overall dappled shade.
The restaurant has been a guarded secret kept by locals, but clearly not successfully judging from the crowds there during our Saturday visit. Large groups of people were enjoying their meals and soaking up the holiday-like atmosphere while discussing a plethora of topics.
Clientele is by no means exclusively Thai. According to Prakorb, her restaurant has many satisfied foreign customers who send her messages of appreciation and pictures from abroad.
The exclusively seafood menu is not overly complicated, featuring a variety of reliable staples dishes with fish, crabs, prawns, clams and squid. Oysters are also on offer when in season. The restaurant owners prides themselves on the freshness of their fare which is drawn daily from the nearby waters. Only in inclement weather is the fish brought in from neighboring provinces.
We didn’t bother with any starters but tucked right into the pla nung manao (fish with lime – 150 baht), and this didn’t disappoint. It’s a large sea bass poached to perfection in unguent lime and tamarind sauce, topped with plenty of garlic, chillies, ginger and Shitake mushrooms. The dish was full of flavors and not as spicy as it looked.
House speciality fish souffle in banana leaf, hor mok (25 baht a piece), has a smooth and creamy texture tinged with the aroma of basil leaves buried underneath.
Equally fresh and satisfying were clams sautéed with basil (120 baht), which were deliciously sweet. Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than this. By contrast, the prawns in tamarind sauce (200 baht) were a little too much on the sweet side. Still, the large prawns were tasty and a treat in themselves.
Try also the grilled mixed seafood (450 baht) accompanied by chilli-lime sauce. Not for the faint-hearted is the seafood hotpot or poh taek – literally meaning a “bursting fishnet” in Thai – which is a country version of tom yum, with lots of herbs and definitely more heat (150 baht).
Also highly recommended are the native dishes of tumeric crispy fish with garlic dip, and relishes (nam prik) of crunchy prawns with assortment of fresh vegetables.
Disappointingly, crabs were unavailable that day, but a glance at the menu told us that they come in many delectable designs. We made a mental note for our next visit to order stir-fried crabs with black pepper and onions, or Goan-style with Indian curry and egg, or simply steamed.
To round up, there is a platter of mixed fruits, complementary with any order above 300 baht. A variety of beer is on offer but there is no wine list.
We found prices to be quite reasonable with six mains for five persons at 1,500 baht (no alcoholic drinks). Service was quick and with a smile. In all, this was a very enjoyable experience, worth repeating with friends and family. Children in particular will enjoy walking out during the low tide to explore the rich mangrove wildlife.
If a drive out to the country for a decent seafood lunch is your kind of thing, then Bang Pae Seafood Restaurant is a must.
From Phuket’s Heroines Monument drive towards Ao Por. At exactly 10km (restaurant is signposted in Thai only) turn right into Bang Pae Village until you come to the end of the road at water’s edge (about one km).
Open daily from 10 am to 8pm. Contact on 076-529059 or 087-887 5785.
— Nanthapa Pengkasem
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