Traditional Thai dishes re-imagined.
Koh Chang is probably the last place you’d expect to find a restaurant like Khao Kwan. It’d be more at home in a swanky suburb of Bangkok where it would be on all the ‘must eat at’ lists of well off foodies and would end up scooping numerous awards for the dishes.
But it is on Koh Chang and so is unlikely to garner any awards or attract food critics from national newspapers or TV shows. Which is good as it means people like you and I can enjoy some of the most inventive, beautifully presented and simply delicious Thai food that can be found anywhere. Not just anywhere on Koh Chang but anywhere. Relocate this restaurant to any city in any country and it’d be booked solid months in advance.
So, what we have now is something rather special.
But Khao Kwan isn’t a restaurant that has come out of nowhere. It’s been many years in the making. Ya, the owner ran one of Koh Chang’s most popular cooking schools for almost 20 years. Over the years she has studied the history of Thai cuisine and gradually moved away from the typical Green curry, Pad Thai and spring rolls that most cooking schools offer. The results of this could be seen in the classes at Blue Lagoon Cooking School pre-covid. Where participants would create types of ‘nouvelle cuisine’ Thai style snacks and dishes. More dinner party food than practical daily Thai cooking.
In late 2020, at a time when most restaurants were closed due to covid, Ya launched ‘Khao Kwan’. The name relates to a Thai dish of rice cooked in coconut milk served with side dishes that was served to King Rama V in order to lift him out of the doldrums. The dish was so good that it worked and Khao Kwan went down in Thai culinary folklore. The restaurant aims to do the same – the presentation and taste of dishes at Khao Kwan will lift diners spirits and put a smile of faces.
Each dish is created using locally grown and sourced ingredients. And many of them also tell a story. For example, the photo at the top of the page for example is a type of ceviche. You won’t find raw fish on many menus in Thai restaurants but fishermen have eaten fresh raw fish for for centuries. Khao Kwan’s ceviche uses spotted grouper – a fish that, in Thailand, is only found in the seas off Trat. It is marinated in red dragon fruit juice and served with rice plus a multitude of freshly picked herbs and flowers. In the center is a peanut dipping sauce. Just in case you need to overload your taste buds even more.
You’ll get a better idea of the dishes on offer by browsing their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/khaokwankohchang/
It is quite a small restaurant and has proven to be very popular with both Thai and foreign diners, so I’d recommend booking in advance on Facebook. Service can be a bit slow when it gets busy, mainly due to each dish having to be meticulously prepared. So if you expect your food to arrive within 5 minutes of ordering, it isn’t ideal for you. It’s a place to linger for the evening.
( Disclosure: The first time we went there the food was free. I don’t usually take freebies but have known Ya for many years and so we did a deal whereby we get free food but pay for our own cocktails. As Madam likes to work her way through any cocktail menu. Which leads in nicely to saying the cocktails are also well worth trying and are made using fresh fruit and herbs, no artificial colours or flavours. )
Location: On the inland side of the main road in the centre of Kai Bae village. 100 metres north of Gajapuri Resort.
These restaurant reviews are just my thoughts on a place at the time I visited. I’ll mention if I know the owner well or get any freebies. But for the most of the time I am happy to play tourist and don’t mention this site at all. Obviously it isn’t possible to sample every dish on the menu and the type of food you have for lunch will differ to evening. In addition, owners and more importantly chefs, can change and your experience may differ from mine. If it does, post a comment below.