If you’re looking for the most culturally unique place in Southern Thailand, you’ll end up with Phuket Old Town; a melting pot of history and culture, and a UNESCO City of Gastronomy since 2015. As you wander through its colorful streets, lined with Sino-Portuguese buildings, the aromas of traditional Thai dishes and international flavors will bewitch you into paying for more and more food!
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The Charms of Phuket Old Town
A hub of Peranakan culture, similar to Singapore, the mesh of Thai, Chinese, Malay, and European heritage gives this old town area an extra twist that you won’t find anywhere else in Thailand. I’m talking about the food, the architecture, the traditions, everything.
But today, we’re here for the food, aren’t we? I’ll take you on a journey through Phuket Old Town’s top 8 restaurants, each offering a unique taste of this vibrant city. (Hint: If you want authentic food, stay away from beach clubs. Try and change my mind!)
The Best Eight
“The Best” by my definition means authentic; cooked by the owner of each place’s respective culture, owned by the locals, and made for the locals. When it comes to tackling such a unique culture as Peranakan, the list is bound to divide itself into a few separate cuisines.
You can rest assured that I’ve tried and approved, with my 24 years’ worth of Thai cultural insights, the food at every single place on this list. We will start on the purely Thai side of town, venturing out to international flavors, and wrapping it up with the grand finale; a luxury option that offers a well-rounded Peranakan menu.
The Traditional Thai Experience
Nothing but Thai flavors, here we go!
Go Benz Dry Porridge
A Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand establishment, this street-side open-air restaurant is inconspicuous on its own. What may draw attention to it is the amount of customers, 99% locals, that constantly pack the place.
Don’t confuse the Thai rice porridge with the western-style porridge! What we have here is basically “seasoned boiled rice.” What makes the “Dry Porridge” special is instead of serving soggy boiled rice soaked in soup, it’s served nice and fresh with all ingredients ready to go, with soup on the side. So when you pour the soup onto your dry porridge, the texture is just *chef’s kiss*
And let me tell you, the soup is the protagonist.
- Hours: 5:30pm – 1:00am, closed on Mondays
- Location: 7.8849666, 98.382497
One Chun Cafe & Restaurant
Another Bib Gourmand option, stepping into this place feels like entering a traditional Thai home. The wooden walls, the vintage decor, and the vibe just scream good food. But wait until you try the actual food.
If you’re looking for more standard central region Thai dishes, you’re guaranteed to find them here, as well as more local Peranakan options like Moo Hong and Pak Mieng Stir-fried.
- Hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm daily
- Location: 7.8856897, 98.3906214
The Chinese-Thai Represents
Walking along the main Thalang Street in Phuket Old Town, you can definitely feel the presence of the Chinese-Thais the most, compared to other ethnicities of the Peranakan heritage. Understandably so, given how ingrained the Chinese cuisine itself has become on the Thai culinary stage. Any noodle dish you see anywhere in the country (Yes, Pad Thai included) came from China in the 1850s.
Ding Li Ji Fan
But ironically, my favorite Chinese spot isn’t serving noodles… This is another place where you might feel a bit out of place walking in. It’s all locals here. Good sign, wouldn’t you say?
Here, you will taste the best Hainan Chicken Rice out of ANYWHERE. Apart from Northeastern Thai dishes, I have a soft spot for the Chicken Rice, so I’ve tried them everywhere I’ve been. So far, this was an obsession. So much so that I never took a single photo of my food… I just straight-up devoured them.
- Hours: 8:00am – 4:00pm, closed on Mondays
- Location: 7.8849008, 98.3860807
Not so much a restaurant, but more like an open-air cafeteria. In Lock Tien, you’ll find 5-6 vendors serving different cuisines from traditional Thai to Chinese. The Holy Basil Stir-fried with Crispy Pork (Pad Ka Prao Moo Grob) was to die for, and so was their Chinese cuisine option’s Fresh Spring Rolls.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm daily
- Location: 7.8861624, 98.3849391
Kopitiam by Wilai
Kopitiam is a Chinese word for “Coffee House.” A Kopitiam today refers to an establishment that serves traditional coffee under Chinese and Malay cultures.
This particular one made especially good “Chafae,” a popular drink in the area that blends Thai red tea with coffee. They also have a great selection of Southern dishes.
- Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm, closed on Sundays
- Location: 7.8846861, 98.3831038
Moving on to the neighbors of Thailand. This was my first time trying either cuisine and they blew the roof clean off. 10/10 Would definitely eat again.
This is a Burmese breakfast spot, and by that I mean, REALLY a Burmese spot. The majority of the staff only spoke Burmese, so we could only communicate with the owner, who was SO SWEET. The patrons are all Burmese people as well… and that was how I learned there are about 400,000 Burmese people in Phuket.
Their coffee was very similar to the Thai traditional coffee, served in a small cup with sweetened condensed milk, very delicious. And below is a photo of my favorite dish from there; the Tea Leaf Salad (Laphet Thoke), a mix of green tea leaves, tomatoes, nuts, and seeds, with a fresh and sour dressing. My mouth had never felt so excited until that moment. So much texture!
- Hours: 6:00am – 2:00pm daily
- Location: 7.8824561, 98.3837153
Moving to Malaysia! This restaurant is Malaysian-run, for Malaysians, but Thais and tourists are welcome! A family restaurant, they make you feel like you’re part of the home as soon as you walk in. You can choose from their selection of Malay dishes from the Massaman Curry to the Herbed Rice Salad (Nasi Ulam).
- Hours: 6:00am – 5:00pm, closed on Sundays
- Location: 7.8846068, 98.3876068
Another missed photo opportunity here… I loved the Herbed Rice Salad, but I was halfway between enjoying it too much and trying not to die from overeating on our epic food tour. (This was one of the later restaurants we visited, so I was FULL.) I highly recommend the tour, by the way. Just please, promise me to not finish every dish you try, because they let you eat half of the old town.
The Luxurious Peranakan Option
Now that I’ve gone through all the “neighborhoods” of Phuket Old Town, let’s put it all together in one, luxurious grand finale.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve seen this name on grocery packages in your hometown. Now a global Thai food brand, Blue Elephant first opened in 1980 in Brussels by the Thai chef Nooror. She then returned home and opened the first Blue Elephant Cooking School in Bangkok in 2002.
The Phuket branch came to life in 2010, and boy, am I glad it did. Putting a Phuket spin on their signature 3-course menu, this place will leave you dreaming of Peranakan food for days.
Conclusion: Phuket Old Town as a Foodie’s Paradise
Our culinary journey through Phuket Old Town is more than just about satisfying hunger—it’s an exploration of culture, history, and tradition through food. Each restaurant tells a story, offering a glimpse into the soul of Phuket’s diverse culture.
If you have enough time (or tummy space) to explore further than these top options, I recommend joining one of the food tours or cooking classes available in the area. See some options below.
More On Thai Cuisine
Still hung up on Thai food? Check out this article about the ins and outs of Thai Cuisine at large!
Although I’m not a huge fan because it leans sweeter, the Mee Hokkien Noodle is a must-try. You might like it better. Moo Hong (braised pork) is another hyper-Phuket menu. As for street desserts, don’t miss out on the local A-Pong!
Absolutely! Many restaurants in Phuket Old Town offer vegetarian dishes. All you have to do is ask!
Again, communication is key! Most restaurant staff are accommodating and can guide you to allergy-friendly dishes or adjust recipes upon request.
Dining in Phuket Old Town can cater to all budgets. Street food starts at a few ten bahts, while upscale restaurants like Blue Elephant or Tu Kab Khao offer more elaborate dishes at higher prices. I’d say unless you go crazy with the luxury, 70-100 baht a meal on average.