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My favorite thing about visiting Thailand – or most of Southeast Asia for that matter – is the food. Thai is my favorite cuisine, and the food was the number one reason I wanted to come to Thailand. It’s also, after 2 months in Thailand, my favorite thing about this country. The food has not disappointed.
For the adventurous eater, nothing beats a stroll through an Asian night market, purchasing a few pieces of this, a few pieces of that, and eating things that look delicious, although you may not even know what they are.
While there are several markets around Phuket, the Phuket Walking Street market in Old Phuket Town is well worth a visit. Thalang Road is closed off to traffic and booths are set up all along the center of the street. The delicious food, handcrafts, and the location’s architecture make it a great evening out in Phuket.
We visited the Sunday Night Market twice; once with David’s sister, Julie, and once with my best friend Carlanna.
The market is only on Sundays from 4 pm – 10 pm. Yes, it is primarily aimed for tourists, but there are still enough locals mixed in. Just like the Langkawi Night Markets, there was never enough bins for trash, so be prepared.
Part of what makes Old Phuket Town unique is the architecture known as Sino-Portuguese, also known as Chinese Baroque. This amalgamation of cultures occurs throughout Southeast Asia, especially in big trade centers. As Western imperialism was spreading in ports like Phuket, merchants were coming from European countries – like Portugal – and trading with merchants from other Asian countries – like China. Additionally, Chinese immigrants came to Phuket to find opportunities in mining tin, and they were often employed by wealthy merchants for construction.
The wealthier the owner, the more elaborate and intricate the ornamentation of the building.
We also saw examples of Sino-Portuguese architecture in Singapore, which also has a museum in Chinatown dedicated to the Chinese migrants who came to work in these trade hubs.
I’m not a big shopper, but on our second visit we were getting ready to head home so I bought a few gifts to take back, like handmade soaps, and a natural loofa from The Way. Carlanna bought hand-carved elephants from Breezy. There were some beautiful bowls made from coconuts, hand-bound journals, and watercolor artwork.
I read reviews online that several of the other Phuket markets are full of cheap toys, printed t-shirts, and cell phone accessories. That does seem to be the case with the more “local” markets, but not at this one. I saw a lot of things I really liked.
Each night had different entertainment, ranging from a young pianist virtuoso to local school children dressed in traditional costume, to a gentleman playing guitar and singing pop ballads while an elderly couple foxtrotted.
While we certainly got to try a lot, there’s only so much of a dent you can make on the list of foods offered at the market. Even with our guests, I am the more adventurous eater and want to try absolutely everything I can! But, my stomach can only hold so much.
These dim sum snacks are a classic for us – they are deliciously seasoned pork balls with a light dough wrapping.
Another staple for us, chicken strips are put on kebab sticks and grilled, then topped with a peanut and ginger sauce.
This is a Thai dish based on the Portuguese influence, just like we saw with the local architecture. These tiny fruits are actually made of mung bean paste, not unlike the marzipan fruits made from almond paste from Portugal.
These dumplings are round and flat, steam and then pan fried. They come with different fillings – I had taro and garlic and chive. They were served with really good quick pickled vegetables.
These sausages are from the northern province of Isaan and are greasy pork sausages that have been fermented. The ones I had at the Sunday Phuket Market had vermicelli noodles in them.
There’s always plenty of juice options to choose from at Asian markets, and the exotic fruits are amazing! Pomelo, mango, and jackfruit are some of my favorites.
For the less adventurous eaters, there’s still plenty of westernized food for sale. Burgers, chicken fingers, and milkshakes satisfy almost anyone.
While Julie was with us we, once again, had one of my absolute favorite desserts: mango sticky rice! We bought the one that had a whole mango and three different colored balls of sticky rice. I don’t think there was a flavor difference, but it was delicious.
While Carlanna was visiting we beat the heat with ice cream. David and Carlanna popped into the ice cream shop Thai Vetro for a couple of scoops, while I picked out some mochi ice – balls of ice cream wrapped in mochi, a Japanese rice-based dough. Yum!
Takoyaki, spring rolls, noodles, Thai pancakes, ribs, seafood….there’s so much food!