The Southern Thai Province of Trang Is home to some of the country’s best Island getaways, but Trang Town itself is often looked upon as no more than a stopover town on the way to Koh Mook, Koh Kradan and Koh Libong. I’m here to let you know that as a food lover, Trang ‘City’ is so much more than that!
Trang’s population is largely made up of Muslims and ethnic Chinese; this is reflected heavily in the local cuisine. There is no shortage of roti stalls, fried chicken and other delicious Islamic food here but today I’ll be preaching about the fantastic Chinese influenced dim sum and moo yang (Trang roast pork) at a famous restaurant called Ruan Thai Dim Sum.
Ruan Thai is located around 3 km out from the main railway station in the town centre and can be easily reached by Tuk Tuk for 80 baht. You can pick up a Tuk Tuk at the Train station at any time of the day and every driver knows the restaurant. It’s a ten minute drive at most. The restaurant is only open in the mornings between the hours of 6 and 11 and it gets extremely busy so get there early. There are loads of dim sum restaurants in Trang but Ruan Thai is the most popular by far and for my money is the best I’ve tried.
As you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted by dozens of bamboo baskets full of different dim sum and you just choose the ones you want, hand them over and wait for them to be brought to your table. Don’t worry if you don’t speak any Thai, the staff know the basics so you’ll at least be able to ask what’s in the dumplings!
So what did we order?
We ordered six dim sum dishes between two of us:
Ha Gow – Shrimp wrapped in translucent ‘crystal paper.’ Always a winner at any dim sum restaurant, the har gow here is no exception. Plump pieces of whole prawns wrapped in a delicate wheat based wrapper and perfectly seasoned. We were off to a good start.
Pork Sui Mai – The pork filling at Ruan Thai is reminiscent of a well seasoned English sausage, which is why I probably love it so much! The large amounts of fat in the pork mince allows the dumpling to stay moist and juicy after cooking.
Crab Sui Mai – The same filling as the pork version but topped with a spoon full of white crab meat. The sweet crab compliments the salty fatty pork perfectly – order these!
Vegetable dumplings – Chinese spinach and garlic wrapped in the same see-through paper as the har gow and seasoned with soy sauce and pepper. These make a for a nice break from the fatty pork. I love the irony taste of the spinach leaves with the punchy garlic.
Bao Moo Daeng – Chinese BBQ steamed pork buns. These are far too sweet for my taste, but that’s not a slight on the restaurant itself, just an indictment of these type of buns in general. I’ve eaten them all over the world, and they’ve never been to my taste. Helen enjoyed hers, though, as she’s got a sweet tooth! If you’re a pork bun fan, then you’ll probably love these too.
Bao Custard – Chinese steamed custard buns – Now as the pork buns were too sweet, I wasn’t expecting to be a fan of the custard ones! How wrong could I be? As it turns out, ironically, the custard variety is less sweet than the pork ones. Lightly sweetened custard in a fluffy steamed bun; what’s not to like? They are rich, creamy and utterly delicious. A must try when you come here!
The other dish you shouldn’t miss on a trip to Trang is moo yang; roast / grilled pork, it’s native to Trang and I haven’t had it anywhere else in Thailand. A whole pig is marinated for eight to ten hours and cooked for four. The result is the softest my juiciest, fattiest pork imaginable with a crispy skin that bursts in your mouth like popcorn! The pork is sweet, flavoured with five spice and reminiscent of Chinese Char Sui. You don’t order the pork with the dim sum, a server brings it around on plates with spring rolls, and you just take what you want.
And If you’re still hungry…
If you still have room, or you just can’t resist a sweet treat, then make sure you order a portion of the pa thong ko, sometimes referred to as Thai doughnuts. The freshly made dough is stretched and cut right in front of you and then deep fried to perfection. Crispy on the outside and wonderfully fluffy on the inside, the pa thong ko at Ruan Thai is some of the best we’ve had. The green sauce that comes with the doughnuts is called sangkaya, and it’s made up of coconut cream and pandan and is the perfect sweet accompaniment to these crunchy, fluffy treats.
Ok, let’s talk prices; the whole meal including water cost us 260 baht. Yes, you read correctly. The six baskets of dim sum, the roast pork, the doughnuts and a traditional Southern Thai coffee (kopi) set us back £6 or $8, U.S!
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How to get to Ruan Thai Dim Sum…
If you’re looking for a clean, budget-friendly option for Trang town, then we suggest you check out Ban Ao Thong next to the Night Market. Rooms start at 800 baht a night with air conditioning and a hot shower. They have just opened a wine café downstairs serving pretty good Thai food and Western pasta dishes.
Like I said before, the easiest way to get to Ruan Thai is to jump in a Tuk Tuk but just in case you are making your own way there, here’s a map with directions to the restaurant:
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