Some dishes are inextricably linked with places, like croissants and Paris or pizza and Naples. For Phuket, the dish that most likely springs to mind is the Mon-style rice noodle known as kanom jeen, served at curry stalls throughout the island from the early hours of the morning. Just as mainland Thais expect to start their days with something like a bowl of eggy congee and a deep-fried cruller or two, anyone in Phuket unlucky to find themselves up at 7 in the morning will typically go for a plate of these noodles instead of rice, slathered in a crab or nam ya (minced fish) curry, a gaeng tai pla (spicy soup of fermented fish entrails) or, at the very least, a green curry studded with cubes of congealed chicken blood and tart little Thai eggplants.
It would make sense to love this dish for its rich bright curries or even the bounce of the rice noodles. But I love this dish for the treasure trove of stuff that I can adorn my plate of curry noodles with, both pickled and fresh:
So many options! And it’s not even counting the hard-boiled eggs that one, if one were not to tragically discover they were allergic to eggs, should happily chop into little pieces and sprinkle over their plates like Parmesan cheese (which one might also be allergic to). There are the pickled garlic bulbs, and pickled bean sprouts, pickled mustard greens and even, if you are lucky, Chinese-style pickled turnips that you normally find on your egg noodles or rice porridge. And because it’s the South, there are fresh mango and cashew tree leaves, long beans, chunks of cucumber and pineapple, basil and mint, pennywort, stink beans still in their pods to distract your tastebuds and fresh Thai eggplants to cut the spiciness of your curry. Dried tiny fish, just because. Fresh bean sprouts if you’re greedy. It is hard to practice restraint, when everything is already there.
I like to try out a different kanom jeen place every time I come to Phuket, given that it’s a local thing and all. On my last trip to the island, I went to P’Pom, where the rice noodles are not the only popular thing on the menu — there is also a highly-praised hor mok (steamed seafood curry), including one with fish eggs, like a Thai-style (and very fishy) chawanmushi.
So how to get to this place? It’s hard to explain, plus I am directionally challenged, so I’ll just leave it to Google: