Mor Mu Dong Phuket Restaurant – Thai Sala
Mor Mu Dong Phuket Restaurant serves authentic Thai food in thatched huts and private stilted “salas” (traditional open-air shelters) perched over brackish swampland amidst tangled mangroves in eastern Chalong. It’s isolated, extremely rustic and, for the less adventurous, perhaps too authentic for comfort, with seating on wooden sala floors with mats (or in the main hut on plastic chairs), and menu items including insect delicacies. Not surprisingly Mor Mu Dong was featured on Bizarre Foods; yes, it’s the place Andrew Zimmern feasted on leafy greens sautéed with wasp larvae and stingray. It’s also the place for fiery hot red-curry pork & a dish not seen on typical touristy Phuket Thai menu boards: pla pao, a succulently tender salt-encrusted slowly grilled whole fish.
address: Mudong 14/8, Chalong
The menu at Mor Mu Dong Restaurant Phuket
Mor Mu Dong isn’t merely a little bit different from mainstream restaurants in Phuket, it’s just about as rustic as an eating place can be: sitting cross-legged on a mat in a wooden sala on stilts over murky (often muddy) mangrove swampland (home to itty-bitty crabs and roots), with a breeze tickling your face, and a plastic plate with… let’s say… pla pao laid before you. Mmmm. Taste a juicy morsel of steaming fish. It’s moist and flaky without a drop of oil, savory without sauce, and not too salty despite being smothered with it. The secret to Mor Mu Dong’s exceptional Phuket Thai menu is the simple traditional cooking techniques. For example, pla pao is made by stuffing a whole fish with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, then completely encrusting it with a thick layer of coarse sea salt, which seals in natural juices, then wrapping it in leaves. The slow cooking process is somewhere between grilling and steaming because the salt-encrusted, leaf-wrapped fish is placed on a bed of hot coals and left to simmer gradually in it’s own juices. When ready, the outer skin has a salty crust as if it had been grilled, but the inner flesh is buttery soft and seasoned to perfection. For anyone in need of a break from hot chili dishes, pla pao is an excellent choice, but if you’re ready for some truly spicy classic Phuket food preparations, Mor Mu Dong Restaurant serves up some of the best pork with khruang nam phrik sauce – a fiery red chili-paste curry – which might bring tears to your eyes. BTW, when eating chili-laden dishes, instead of instinctively reaching for water, it’s better to squelch the burning with something sweet; slices of fresh or dried fruit work well, mango juice is an excellent antidote and so is yogurt. Water, diet soda, beer and unsweetened ginger or green tea will tend to spread the fiery sensation without granting relief. Traditional Thai iced tea, known as cha yen, really helps while eating hot food because it’s made from strong black tea (sometimes with orange blossom essence), star anise, tamarind, lots of sugar and condensed milk. Cha yen is on every Phuket Thai restaurant menu, and if you don’t see it, just ask and they’ll whip up a cool glass of the creamy tea. Having it handy when eating authentic Thai food (and the many “nam phrik” chili sauces) is one of the best ways to enjoy the experience.
Not just the best seafood restaurant in Phuket
Mor Mu Dong Restaurant is renowned by locals as one of the best seafood restaurant in Phuket, but it has a lot more than fish, crab, fried shrimp and the usual seafood hot plates on the menu. There are dozens of authentic Thai food recipes to try at Mor Mu Dong; most come with tender leafy greens stir fried with a choice of fresh seafood, beef, pork or “other” meat, including a few insects and less common sea creatures. If you’ve been curious about the famous pork belly listed on popular Phuket Thai restaurant menus or seen it served from street stalls, this may be the time to give it a try. Mor Mu Dong makes a tasty version with a light sauce that’s not too spicy. There are salads too; like Yum Pak Good… aha… as expected, it’s yummy and packed with good ingredients (okay that was corny), but the fiddlehead fern sprouts, coconut and sliced red chilies are indeed scrumptious! It’s crunchy, although not raw (except for celery sprigs & chili rings).
Another feature that sets this simple place apart from average restaurants in Phuket is that the service includes complimentary fruit and veggie starters to nibble while waiting for the entrees to cook. They’ll also help organize a private party for up to a dozen guests – or more if you don’t mind being in different huts. Mor Mu Dong Phuket Restaurant and it’s rustic Thai salas are open from 9am until 10pm, but closed once a month on the 15th.
You’ll need a map of Phuket to get to Mor Mu Dong Restaurant
Getting to the mangrove area of the hidden Mor Mu Dong Phuket Restaurant is a little tricky. You’ll need to consult a map of Phuket, which Sambawalker is happy to provide (and check out the sambamaper Thailand map application for mobile devices). Before revving up your motorbike engine, start by choosing a landmark as a reference point; a good one that’s easy to locate in the area, is the famous Wat Chalong on Jaofa 42 (also spelled Chaofah). After passing the massive temple complex, the road will jog onto Joafa 14 and then continue on Luang Pho Chaem Rd., for a little over a kilometer, where it will come to an end at a large intersection. Turn left onto Chaofah Tawan Ok (labeled as route 4021) and continue for about 650m, then turn right onto Pa Lai (where you’ll see signs for the zoo). Continue on Pa Lai for about 2 kilometers, passing the zoo and making a slight left onto Mudong (also spelled Mu Dong). Keep to the left, ignoring turn-offs that lead toward the seaside (where there are other places such as Pa Lai Restaurant, Prantalay and Nai Yao Lakthan Restaurant). Keep going all the way to the end where there’s a parking area for Mor Mu Dong Restaurant Phuket guests. Now put away your Thailand map, turn off your mobile and slip away from the world. Relax. Sit on the floor of the sala amidst mangroves and enjoy an authentic Phuket food feast.