Thailand,  Travel

Kotung Restaurant in Krabi Town | A Taste of Thai Chinese

I have been writing on my Thailand trip for a while in my earlier posts. But I had to take a momentary detour to fill you up with what I had been upto, back home in Dubai. However, I’ve taken the stance to finish all my Thailand posts, rounding it off with a great great giveaway – am not going to divulge any further on this, lest I spoil the surprise. For those who are new to the blog, I had been part of a Dubai team who had descended on a small fishing island called Koh Klang, situated in the Krabi region of South Thailand. {The earlier posts had been Ruen Mai Restaurant In Krabi | A Tantalising First Experience Of Thai Food In Thailand!, Koh Klang in Krabi, Thailand | A Photo Essay of An Island Life, Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant In The Fishermen’s Village | Recipe of Thai Red Curry As We Cook ‘fresh catch’ Baramundi!}

After experiencing ‘island living’ and learning about the village life, this was a town experience after a long time. And we entered a propah restaurant. Kotung restaurant is located just in front of Chao Fah Park Pier in Krabi town – very easy to locate. This was my first experience of Thai Chinese food. So long we had been eating very traditional South Thai cuisine – both in the Ruen Mai restaurant as well as in Baan Ma-Yhing restaurant, the floating restaurant in the fishermen’s village. The food was not drastically different from the Southern Thai food we had been eating earlier, but some dishes like the Chicken Cashew Nut was more like the Chinese food that we are used to eating.

The Thai way of eating – all together, at the same time!
By this time I had already learnt a few characteristics of the food and eating culture of the Thai people. Whether a restaurant is small or big, all food is served at the same time to all tables. Ideally, there’s no concept of Starters or Main course. The cooking starts once the guests pour into the restaurant so that food can be served freshly cooked. But not necessarily hot. This is because they’ll cook everything and serve only when the last dish has been cooked. Also, the Thai people like to mix their food while they eat. So, soup gets mixed up with starters and slurped into the mouth along with some noodles. I had asked my co-diners, specially the locals who were sitting at thae same table as me, whether it is a usual thing to cook so many items for regular meals at home. It seems like the food that we had been eating in the restaurants was not drastically different from what the Thai people ate at home. The more dishes on the table, the better they like it. And the number of dishes is proportional to the number of family members.

What is Thai Chinese?
The regional difference in Thai cooking has arisen from the difference in the cultural and the geographical attributes of the country. While the basic Thai cuisine could be broadly classified into four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country, there was a lot of influence from the cuisine of the countries neighbouring the different regions. Many popular Thai dishes had its origin in Chinese cuisine. Dishes like Chok or rice porridge, Kuai-tiao rat na or fried rice-noodles and Khao kha mu or stewed pork with rice were introduced to Thailand mainly by the Teochew people who make up for the majority of the Thai Chinese. The technique of deep-frying and stir-frying, use of noodles, oyster sauce and soybean products in Thai dishes can also be attributed to the Chinese influence. The first visible Chinese influence in Kotung restaurant comes in the form a Chilli sauce (below) – red and green chilli pieces dipped in vinegar – a common sight in popular Chinese restaurants worldwide.

How different is Southern Thai food?
In the southern way of Thai cooking (as we learnt from our cooking class) there is a lot of usage of Turmeric. In fact, while making the Thai red curry, we were also grinding whole Turmeric or Kamin along with red chillies, thereby diluting the red colour of the Thai red curry. In Southern Thai curries, there is a prevalence of coconut milk and fresh turmeric in most dishes, as compared to other regions in thailand. In general, the classification of Thai cuisine can be explained as below.

The four different classification was – Northern, Northeastern (or Isan), Central and Southern, each cuisine sharing similar foods or foods derived from those of neighboring countries and regions: Burma to the northwest, the Chinese province of Yunnan and Laos to the north, Vietnam and Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south of Thailand. In addition to these four regional cuisines, there is also the Thai Royal Cuisine which can trace its history back to the cosmopolitan palace cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom (1351–1767 CE). Its refinement, cooking techniques and use of ingredients were of great influence to the cuisine of the Central Thai plains.Western influences from the 17th century CE onwards have also led to dishes such as foi thong and sangkhaya. (More on Thai Cuisine)

Thai Chinese food at Kotung
We started with the Tod Man Kung or the Prawn Fish Cakes (above). I forgot to ask whether the cakes had both prawns and fish because of the peculiarity in its name. For the first time in Thailand, we tasted the Tom Yum Kung soup. I had been expecting the Tom Yum from the day we had arrived, as this is perhaps the most popular Thai soup and the only soup we easily associate with Thai food. I found the original Tom Yum much sweeter than the versions that I had eaten before. In South Thailand, seafood reigns over Chicken and other meat dishes. We had barely ever eaten Duck or Lamb while we were in the South.

The Tom Yum soup originates in Krabi
Interestingly, I was told that the Tom Yum (originates) originates from the region of Krabi.  The word Tom Yum is derived from the two words – tom and yam. While the former refers to the boiling process, yam means ‘mixing’ and refers to the sour and spicy Thai salad {here}, also popular in Laos. The Tom Yum soup is the unique hot and sour soup with a fragrant broth, the fragrance resulting from the use of ingredients like Lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, Galangal, lime juice, fish sauce and crushed chili peppers. The surname lagging behind the Tom Yum depends upon the other *protein* ingredients that go into the soup. Tom yum goong or Tom yam kung has prawns; Tom yam pla is a clear fish soup; Tom yum thale has mixed seafood, like prawns, squid, clams and pieces of fish; Tom yam nam khon has prawns, milk or coconut milk; Tom kha gai has chicken and Galangal (ginger) as the dominant flavour in this coconut milk-based soup; Tom yam kung maphrao on nam khon is another version with prawn and meat of young coconut in a coconut milk broth; Tom yam kha mu has pork knuckles. Modern additions to the Tom Yum are straw mushrooms and oyster mushrooms, freshly chopped coriander leaves. Packaged DIY Tom Yum packs flood the supermarket shelves and groceries in Thailand. In fact while coming back I had picked a whole lot of them from Bangkok.

Kaeng Ka-ree Poo Pad Pong or the Crab Meat in yellow curry soup was a new dish for me. Chunky pieces of crab meat dunked in a very thick coconut milk broth. This was served with thin vermicelli noodles that resembled Srilankan string hoppers.

Finally Chinese
Kai Pad Med Mamaung Himmapan or the stir fried Chicken Cashew Nut had a very familiar taste – I’ve tasted this dish in many Chinese restaurants before. Soon I realised that this was a fairly popular dish and was quite easy to make. Eaten with steamed white Jasmine rice, here the chicken was simply stir fried with vegetables and seasoned with cashew nuts. A few days of reading menus in the different Thai restaurants and I had actually begun to understand the logic behind the break down of the names of the dish. Here, Kai or Gai was chicken, Pad meant fried, Med meant seeds and Med Mamuang Himmapan meant  our simple cashew nuts!

I had begun to expect this dish in every meal
Almost every meal in our Thailand trip had a dish with clams or shells. In the floating restaurant in Koh Klang earlier, I had fallen in love with the Clam soup with Lemongrass or the Hoi Talab Lai Tom Takrai. It was a very light clear broth with the clams boiled in. The strong flavour of ginger and lemongrass seemed very comforting. Here, in Kotung restaurant, rather than the lemongrass, Basil was a dominant flavour in the Clam soup – the Hoy Lai Pad Horapu. The sweetness of basil was strong and nice, even though it overpowered the stir fried clams.

I have even become an expert in cooking whole fish, post Thailand trip
I was getting used to the Pla Krapong or the deep fried Grouper in garlic – almost like the Clam soup. Whole fish, either deep fried and then served with Thai red curry sauce, or steamed served with Chilli sauce, was definitely going to be there in each of our meals. Earlier, I had tasted the Pla Kao Rad Prik or the Grouper topped with Chilli, a variation of which I had learnt to cook in the floating restaurant where fish were caught fresh infront of us before they were plopped into the pan. Another dish that was served to us was the Pla Krapong Nung Manao or the Snapper steamed with Lemon. This dish looks plain – only a steamed whole fish but the sauce which is made with chopped green and red chillies, makes the taste buds go ballistic. I have even cooked a 3 kg whole fish in the Thai red curry version after coming back to Dubai. While we were getting a taste of many new Thai dishes, I also realised that to cover all was quite a daunting task, specially if one goes by this long list.

Desserts in the form of colourful jellies
Finally, I tasted some desserts. So long, our desserts had consisted of fresh fruits – mouthwatering and tasty – no complaints about that. In fact, most Thai meals finish with fresh fruits and why not? When the land is abundant with fruits as tasty as these. These are Woon or colourful fruit jellies with a topping of coconut pudding – the different colours coming from the different flavourings like jack fruit, raspberry, grapes, lokboe, longan, dragon fruit and many more. I am slightly confused as to whether I like the taste or not. Honestly, in dearth of any other dessert tasting in Koh Klang, these fruit jellied did give a quick mini sugar fix for my Bengali tummy for a while. I found assorted fruit jellies like these being sold in abundance in local supermarkets too.


Kotung Restaurant

Thai-Chinese; Seafood Restaurant (cash only)

Location: 36 Khongkha Rd, Paknam, Muang, Krabi, Thailand 81000 (exactly in front of Chao Fah Park Pier in Krabi town)
Tel No: +6675611522 , +66800860808; Email:
For more info: Facebook


One of the above is me – probably framed in the B/W hall of fame in the Thailand Academy trip. Debbie, a fellow Fooderati blogger, who till now had just been an accompanying hashtag on Twitter (#FoodieOnTour) and soon became more of a buddy. She writes everything that we did on the day we visited Kotung (we did a lot more than just eat as I would have you believing – kayaking, visiting caves and a Spa, plus some more). Thanks to Rung from the Tourism Authorities in Thailand, who I would pester continuously to write down the Thai name of the dishes that we were eating. Do stay with me as I write the remaining part of my amazing Thailand experiences. A fabulous giveaway will be coming up soon in the last post!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The Thailand Academy trip was an invite from the Tourism Authorities of Thailand Middle East and Aviareps Group. However, the opinions stated here are my own and are independent. I do hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. Please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.   


My other posts on Thailand:

My other Oriental journeys:

Posts from other members who were in the trip:


Leave a Reply to IshitaUnblogged Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: