November 23, 2012 by Katie
I’ve spent my fair share of time in Phuket, specifically the Nai Harn and Rawai area. On this trip, my boyfriend and I rented a villa in Nai Harn for four months and absolutely loved our location. It was a perfect medium for his training and my beach needs. Plus, we liked that it wasn’t as crowded as many of the other hot spots in Phuket such as, Kata, Karon, and Patong.
We dined out often, but always on a budget, keeping our meals to no more than $10 a plate. For Thailand this is very easy to do and most of the time we paid less than $10 for both our meals. The only time our meals would get more expensive was when we branched out from Thai food and instead dined on Indian, Italian, English, Vietnamese, and Japanese food.
As for the Nai Harn/Rawai area, there are many options when looking to stay within Paleo parameters. One of the most basic meals that we often ate was grilled chicken. Right on Nai Harn beach there’s a couple of locals grilling up chicken and potatoes and serving it up with papaya salad. We ate this at least three times a week if not almost everyday. I researched Thai marinade for their grilled chicken and although it may have some sugar in it, our stomachs never ached after we ate and I’m super sensitive to gluten and dairy. If you go to Nai Harn beach, stick to the grill stall in the middle, the one that the middle aged couple operates. The wife makes the best papaya and cucumber salad and the husband never over grills or dries the chicken out. Also, if you do eat rice, because your Paleo with a rice bias like me, then make sure you grab some sticky rice with this meal, it’s perfect.
If you’re dangerous and like to eat street meat and are o.k. with some rice, then there’s two stalls I recommend. Using Tesco Lotus as a reference point, there’s a lady directly to the right of Tesco that has a soup stand, like literally in the same parking lot. She makes the BEST soup and a bowl costs about $1.30. If you’re wanting soup, get the grilled pork with vegetables and clear rice noodles. Say no to the dumplings and other random things that she’ll point at. Or if you’re not wanting the noodle soup, then get pork and rice. A mixture of red pork, crispy pork, and sausage over rice paired with a cup of broth and some red sauce on the side.
Another street stand to the left of Tesco and a few yards right of 7-11 is the always popular chicken and rice cart. Here you can get boiled chicken over a bed of broth steamed rice. Super simple, super delicious.
If you’re nervous about eating street meat, I don’t blame you. If you’re visiting Thailand on short holiday, getting food poisoning is not ideal.
Here’s a list of restaurants that have gluten free options–meaning that I didn’t get belly ache after eating there–in the Nai Harn/Rawai area; subtract the rice to make them Paleo:
MaeLa’s- Directly left of the Tesco in Nai Harn. A great Thai restaurant for quick, clean, vegetable filled food. It’s a small restaurant and only a mother and son do the cooking, ensuring that the quality is always high. I recommend the cucumber salad, the pork and vegetable soup, green curry, Laab Gai (minced chicken salad), Tom Kha Gai (coconut milk and chicken soup) and the panang curry if you can do peanuts.
Coffee@Home– This restaurant is located across from Tia’s Laundry (where we get our laundry done- highly recommend because they never lost any of our stuff and the lady makes clothes smell amazing) and to the left of the wine shop in Nai Harn. If you happen to stumble onto this gem, order the massaman curry, Thai stuffed omelette, green curry, and the panang with french fries if you do peanuts and fries. Plus, they have great coffee!
Delish– We ate here pretty much every single day. They have great coffee, food, and service. They use quality ingredients and you can taste it in every dish that you order. Every morning I’d order an Americano with two eggs, bacon, pork sausage, and grilled tomatoes or mushrooms. I also recommend their char grilled vegetable salad, which I’d always order with pork sausage on the side. In addition to all their great food, they serve gluten free cake. I got hooked on their almond flour orange cake and their flour-less chocolate cake!
Saigon– I recommend you make the effort to eat at this restaurant, especially if you’re in the Rawai area. It is a Vietnamese restaurant. The owners are very friendly and if you have any questions or requests it is super easy to communicate with them. While a group of friends were in town, we ate at Saigon and they loved it as well. We are all highly sensitive to gluten and none of us had any issues. They use rice flour in their meals, so staying gluten free here is super easy. It will however be a bit harder to stay away from the rice. If you want to avoid the rice, order pho without the noodles and ask for extra vegetables. If you are fine with some rice, then definitely order the fresh spring rolls, shrimp pancakes, Saigon pho, and pork ribs. Served alongside all these dishes is a massive plate of vegetables, which totally rocked my world. Also, the tamarind chicken, roast duck and slow cooked beef stew with vegetables looks pretty awesome.
Kombat Cafe– A healthy place to eat that always worked around substitutions for bread and potatoes. They have a good breakfast consisting of sausage, bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes and potatoes, plus good Thai food. They also have fruit smoothies and protein shakes. I also recommend their coffee.
Farang’s Restaurant– The title means white foreigner, but don’t let that defer you. They still serve up a great spicy pork salad, grilled fish, grilled pork, and stir-fried vegetables. You can also get pork chops and mashed potatoes, but I’ve had more luck sticking with the more traditional Thai dishes.
Morning Coffee– This place has great, inexpensive Thai food. Order the yellow curry, laab (minced chicken salad), Thai pork omelette, garlic and pepper chicken or shrimp, tom kha gai (chicken coconut milk soup), and the tom yum goog (spicy shrimp soup).
Living Food Cafe– A small shop that caters to eating organic, raw, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free food. This doesn’t mean legume free though, so watch out for the bean ladened dishes. I recommend sticking to the salads, soups, and smoothies. I like that they make their smoothies with coconut water, their salad dressings with coconut yogurt, and that they have fresh bottles of kombucha on hand. It’s a great place to grab a healthy snack!
Almalfi’s– This restaurant is more expensive than the places I’ve listed above, but I enjoyed going here for appetizers. Their specialty is Italian food, but many reviewers feel that if you’re looking for Italian food, go a couple steps down the street to Davinci’s where the food is better. I haven’t eaten at DaVinci’s, so I can’t comment. At Almalfi’s I recommend the cantaloupe with prosciutto, the vegetable salad, caesar salad without croutons, and the anti-pasta salad.
Super Burgers– An easy place to grab a burger. It’s nothing too special, but if you’re just looking to grab a slab of meat with some standard burger toppings, then go here.
Banana Corner- This restaurant can be hit or miss, but that is to be expected in Thailand. I’ve ordered a few Thai dishes from here, but it’s not my top pick. Safe bets are the Tom Kha Gai (coconut milk soup), Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup), yellow curry, green curry, and garlic fried chicken or shrimp.