In Ao Nang, the best restaurants do not necessarily have air conditioning and linen napkins. I have previously written about the small food stalls near the hotel, from which we’ve bought our lunch almost every day.Another place with really good food is the small restaurant E-San Seafood & Thai food. Calling it a restaurant is maybe an exaggeration, considering that you’re sitting on blue plastic chairs under a porch roof without walls, but the food is some of the best I’ve had in Ao Nang.
Prices are very low, so the first time my family and I were there, we ordered way too much food. Esan (or Isaan) is a poor northeastern region in Thailand, and the home of many of the service employees and lower skilled workers in Bangkok and the southern tourist destinations including Ao Nang. The region is famous for its awesome cuisine that includes many of the dishes foreigners associate with Thailand. The most famous is probably som tam (papaya salad), which most tourists sooner or later develop a taste for, but sticky rice (without the mango) is also an integral part of Isaan cuisine.
I love the larb salads, which consist of ground meat, herbs and a dressing made of fish sauce, lime and chili. Although it’s on the menu at most Thai restaurants, it’s seldom that I see other tourists order it. That’s a shame, as it is very tasty and combines the flavors most people like in Thai food (sour, salty and spicy), so if you get the chance, I can really recommend that you try it, just remember to order a portion of rice on the side and ask the chef not to be too generous with the chili.
E-San Seafood also has excellent fish dishes at prices that are almost half of what you pay at the nicer places down at Ao Nang‘s “Seafood Street “. The fish is very fresh, and you choose if you want it steamed, deep-fried or grilled. A whole red snapper costs only around 300baht (less than $10), and it is served beautifully arranged on a wooden tray.
Such a good restaurant can’t be kept a secret, and it is thus packed with locals and tourists every night. The service is really good, even when all pots and pans are simmering, and the dishes are decorated with carved fruit and vegetables.
Coconut shells are hanging from the ceiling and the house cat is sneaking around under the tables. The guests wear flip-flops and drink Chang beer, and the enchanting smell from the neighboring tables blends with whatever is on your plate, while the warm yellow light fills the air with what is best described as pure Thai magic. What a wonderful place!