Weekly Journal

What to Eat on Your Writers’ Retreat: 5 great Thai breakfasts near the Content Castle

11th May 2017

I’m one of those nomadic types who travels to eat. That makes The Content Castle a great place for me; P. Mena, The Castle’s in-house chef (and resident mother figure to us young writers) cooks delicious food. Our lunches and dinners are authentically Thai but carefully calibrated to suit our individual palates. I especially look forward to breakfast, though, when I get to forage for myself. Every morning, I wake up at the crack of dawn to seek out new breakfast dishes from the carts and stands that line Koh Samui’s ring road. Here are five of my favourite finds.

1. Khao tom mud: grilled banana sticky rice

We’re lucky to live right next door to a great khao tom mud vendor. Our neighbour started selling the classic Thai treats thanks to a certain serendipity: she has a big banana tree growing right in her backyard. She nestles the bananas in sticky rice slow-cooked with coconut milk and sugar to a yielding, pudding-like softness, rolls them in fragrant banana leaves, and secures the leaves at each end with small bamboo sticks. Then, on a charcoal pit right outside her front door, she grills the packages until the smoky-savory aroma penetrates to the heart of the banana. From six to seven in the morning or until she runs out, motorists of all walks of life stop at her stand for a delicious, energising breakfast. It’s as portable as a granola bar and far more satisfying. She sells her khao tom for just five baht a piece, but you’ll have to wake up early if you’d like a taste.

The friendliest pa thong ko vendor in town. 

2. Khanom wan Thai: sticky Thai sweets

This kind yaai (grandmother) controls some prime real estate in Hua Thanon’s wet market, a large covered stall right by the entrance. She definitely deserves the space: her Thai sweets are arguably the best in town. Every morning, she spreads a rainbow of varieties across her counter, from green strands of lod chong to coconut-cassava ta koh. Most of the packages are 10 baht each and comfortably serve two. The market itself is officially open from six am until seven pm, but she usually packs up before 10 in the morning. If you don’t catch her in time, don’t ignore the rest of the market; it’s one of the island’s best places for writers to interact with local people and learn about the pre-tourism Thai lifestyle.

3. Moo ping: grilled pork skewers

If you’d like a more savoury bite for breakfast, try a grilled pork skewer from this stand outside the nearby Tesco Lotus. A protein-rich breakfast is a great way to stave off writer’s block! Though grilled pork for breakfast may sound unusual, it’s really just a step outside of Western customs; think of it as a novel form of bacon. The complex flavour of this stand’s moo ping comes from the marinade, which contains pounded coriander root, white peppercorn, and garlic, among other ingredients. Word is her secret ingredient is milk; it tenderises the meat to that melt-in-your-mouth unctuousness. Try it with a scoop of sticky rice for an authentic experience. Five baht for a small skewer.

“Every morning, I wake up at the crack of dawn to seek out new breakfast dishes from the carts and stands that line Koh Samui’s Ring Road.”

4. Pa khong ko: mini cruller doughnuts

The woman who runs this stall at the intersection of 4169 and 4170 is one of the friendliest vendors I’ve met on the island. She fries up a kind of cruller-like Thai doughnut derived from you tiao, the Chinese breakfast staple often eaten with hot soy milk or rice porridge. Pa thong ko are just as light and airy as Chinese crullers (or indeed the French via Dunkin Donuts version), but shrunk into cute, chromosome-shaped pieces, conveniently bite-sized. This vendor sells hers for 20 baht a package, each of which contains nearly a dozen little morsels. They’re hot, fresh, and perfect for dipping into milky iced coffee from the 7-11 next door.

5. 24-7 comfort: breakfast at 7-11

Speaking of 7-11, it’s a fair place to get breakfast in its own right. I know what you’re thinking — with 7-11s a frequent sight across most of the world, why bother visiting one in Thailand? Though the fluorescent lights and swirling Slurpee machine feel familiar, many offerings are uniquely Thai; check out the pork floss sandwiches and pandan doughnuts. At under 20 baht for most items, it’s an easy, affordable option, and it’s open 24 hours a day. That means you’re guaranteed a good breakfast on all kinds of mornings: the ones that start at three AM, jet-lagged and confused, and the ones that start at two in the afternoon after a mildly excessive Saturday night with similarly passionate young writers in Chaweng. On mornings like these, there’s little more satisfying than a hot cup of 7-11 instant espresso. I assure you it’s a proven cure for everything from hangovers to writer’s block.

Enjoy the sweet taste of khanom wan.

Are you feeling both culinarily and intellectually stimulated by these sensual descriptions? That might be a sign that you belong at The Content Castle, one of Thailand’s premier places for writers, especially those who like to eat.

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