Best Hokkien Noodles in Phuket, Thailand – Ko Yoon Noodles
I found it in Phuket. Mecca, shining nirvana, glimmering hope in noodle form. The crown jewel of a city, a country, a world. In a word “Stupid-good”. The quality of a dish being so good it in fact, clinically makes you dumber, albeit for a fleeting moment. Now while I must admit, no one has ever awarded me the epithet of having pareidolia, but goddammit if I didn’t see God in this damned soup!
Maybe we should back up. I feel I’ve crashed a train into this story, but I promise it’s warranted. Let’s start from touch down in Phuket. Plane arrives, as planes often do, then it’s time to find a way into town. This is, however, Phuket, known for all kinds of trash mass tourism garbage human being paradise parasite culture vulture scum that anyone who has read my Bali post knows I’m not down with, like at all. So why am I here? What is it about me that drags me to places where I just grumble and sulk and bask in my own narcissistic cynicism? Well, I don’t appreciate the implication. I’m trying to write about food and Phuket happens to have the “absolutely amazing” variety. Here’s the hidden ace, I’ve loaded my offline map (City maps 2 go) with all sorts of goodies in the lesser traveled and often overlooked Phuket Town proper. Everyone stays at a beach here, either in a dingy and overpriced Hostel, where the room costs roughly one baht per bed bug, or in a resort on some dumpster fire destination wedding. Not me! I believe I know better and I’m willing to put my meddle to the test, if I can ever get out of this airport.
As I mentioned, it’s time to get into town from the airport. Let’s run through the usual checklist… no train, no subway, no local bus line. That leaves skyrocketed price gouged private shuttle buses or even more ridiculous taxi fares. I grumbled on to a shuttle bus after getting the skinny from their sales person. I made sure it was going where I needed to be and that it was the cheapest option. They waited to leave until they had packed us in like sardines, at which point we began our doomed excursion. It’s hot, it smells like Germans (just kidding Germans), and it’s a forty five minute ride to get into town. The foreshadowing of things to come came when a door wouldn’t shut all the way, causing the driver to roll off at a bus stop while a woman was still trying to get out. She fell but was unscathed. Lucky her to be off the damn thing. About two miles from our final stop, this piece of shit bus just breaks down, just lurches into the middle of the packed intersection. The driver was able to get one more start out of the beast and just enough juice to get over to the side of the road. That alone took about fifteen minutes. After much banging around and looking under the hood, I see the driver light a cigarette and retire to a bench.
Now I know how this looks from me, I’m not a complain in paradise person, usually. I love Southeast Asia like my own home, and especially Thailand. I don’t claim to be the ambassador but I’m also not a shitty person being shitty to people on vacation, usually. I was frustrated my friends. I went up to the woman holding everyones money and asked for my money back. I was two miles away and knew I had to walk it. I reminded her that we had talked about my final destination and this was not it. Their bus had broken down and, in my opinion, voided our agreement. She did not share my perspective. Like OJ fleeing in the Bronco, our driver had shown his utter incompetence by pissing on the side of the road. I used that moment to ask the lady to maybe ask our valiant leader what his plan was to honor all of the patrons of the buses agreement to their final destinations now that their bus broke down. What did she say to that? I’m glad you asked. She said, “The bus isn’t broken, it’s out of gas.” Look it’s what she said. I couldn’t make it up. Without yelling, but trying to make my voice carry, I clearly painted the verbal picture of what I had heard. She took everyone in this packed buses money, took it, and didn’t get the gas to deliver us. Just let it run out to empty. Left on empty more like. Then we walked, with a bus full of people yelling behind us.
About this time is when things improve. We arrived at the immaculate mi shou Guesthouse. An absolute looker, this. The Sino Portuguese architecture, perfectly restored and just the warmest staff. There was complementary food and drinks and help with bus routes. Our room was of a very decent size with a king sized bed. This was one of the best guesthouses of our entire trip. Once we got settled, there was but one place I wanted to go.
We walked a couple of blocks to the busy roundabout that holds Ko Yoon Noodle and were immediately struck by the simplicity of the place. The chef/owner is out front in a little cubby of a serving space, dishing out the two options. Get em wet or get em dry. The unspoken third option? Don’t get em at all, and the fourth option get the hell out! I’ve always heard if you don’t belong, don’t be long. We ordered one of each.
While we were waiting it sunk in what exactly was going on with the space. It’s kind of like a very cool thrift shop, with antiques abound and 60’s through 70’s American hits spinning on the record player. There was some Elvis, some funk and soul and a little bit in between.
The food came and it was amazing. The broth bowl was like a hug from the chef. Heady prawn broth with every kind of protein land and sea represented. The dry variety held a pepper sauce that coated the noodles nicely with similar accoutrements. We went back the next day. Keep in mind for Spice Vagrant we are always looking for new food and diligently plan out every meal. We couldn’t help it. Filming went as normal but the roundabout is where the bus drops you off and we just had to eat twice as much every time we passed the place! The owner is the coolest man in the world and his employees are like a family that wants to just take you in. As I write this, I am back in Kansas City, stateside, just a fiend. I’m a junkie mess in withdrawal from that good stuff. Now I’ve had Hokkien noodles in their home in Malaysia. I’ve had them in Singapore. If you know of a place that you think can touch the version I dream about in Phuket, please leave it in the comment section. I’d love to try it out.
Until there is another option, I have to, nay it is my duty to recreate an acceptable recipe to hold me off between visits to a restaurant that I plan to keep in my passport, even if it’s in Phuket, even if I have to walk there.
That being said, I did end up absolutely loving my trip to Phuket. By avoiding overly crowded DiCaprio beaches and embracing the historic Old Town you really can escape the worst of the island, meaning what we’ve done to it. Stay tuned for more posts from the region and tips on how you can, as the late Ted Kaczynski said, “Eat your cake and have it too.”.
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