There are many bird’s nest and shark fin restaurant in Bangkok’s Chinatown, because the Chinese believed in the healing and tonic properties these ingredients, and Thailand has plenty of them. Nam Sing is one of the pioneer of this trade founded here in Bangkok
Yaowarat Road, also known as Chinatown Bangkok, is the home of Bangkok’s Chinese community. When night falls, the neon signs blazing with Chinese characters are turned on and many eateries spill out onto the streets filled with foodies.
Nam Sing is famed for its bird’s nest soup, along with shark fin soup. The restaurant offers a range of bird’s nest on the menu, from 1st to 4th class! Depending on class, prices start at 200 baht (eaten outside the restaurant) and go up to around 1000 for the premium stuff.
- The Dinner
- All About the Bird’s Nest
Shark Fin in Red Soup 红烧鱼翅
Shark fin soup is a traditional Chinese soup dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The dish is considered a luxury item embodying notions of hospitality, status and good fortune. Due to its popularity the overfishing of sharks caused many species to be endangered, hence a ban and boycott was called for by many organisations and countries. 89% of Singapore Chinese restaurants pledged to remove them from the menu in 2018.
I know, some of you may remembered that I stopped ordering shark fins soup some time ago for conservation reasons. But since then, there have been some sustainable harvesting of non-endangered species as well as non-shark fins harvest; I resumed eating it once in a while, and especially when I am in Bangkok.
The cartilage in the fins is usually shredded and used primarily to provide texture and thickening to the soup. But here entire dorsals were included in the red soup. As you can see from this claypot of “shark fin” soup, they looked more like fins from other fishes, like dogfish or wedgefish.
I usually add a lot of bean sprout, Chinese parsley and vinegar into the soup for some refreshing herby and sour taste to the monotonous red sauce taste.
Anyway, the irony is that shark fin themselves are tasteless. The flavours come from the red soup. So fi you add other things like fish maw, it would still taste the same. Many online have commented not to go for their clear soup. And I do find the red soup much nicer too.
Grilled River Prawns 盐烤泰国河虾
These grilled prawns used live prawns that were still swimming in the tanks outside the restaurant. Heavily salted and then grilled, they were very delicious and sweet.
Salted Fish Fried Rice 咸鱼炒饭
Disappointing plate of fried rice, no wokhei and damp. The salted fish were not pre-fried and were rather soggy.
Teochew-style Oyster Omeletter 潮州耗烙
Again disappoint, the omelette was not crispy and the eggs were even undercooked.
Sautéed Chayote Leaves in Garlic and Chilli 清炒龙须菜
The third consecutive disappointment for tonight. The chayote leaves were quite “old”. The key to this dish is the leaves have to be plucked when they were buds. These were too fibrous.
Thai Squid Salad 泰式苏东沙拉
Rather bland, they could not even get one dish right.
All About the Bird’s Nest
As the name implies, edible bird’s nests are the nests of swallows which are built using their salivary cement. It is produced in the southern coastal area of China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and has been recorded in history since the Qin dynasty.
Bird’s nest is divided into “house swallow” 家燕 (mostly farmed and less expensive) and “hole swallow” 洞燕 (harvested from caves, hence natural and more expensive).
After the bird’s nest is harvested, it can only be made into a finished product through steaming, soaking, removing impurities, picking hairs, drying and other complex processes. And then the bird’s nest is rehydrated by double boiling them in rock sugar and/or other ingredients. We ordered two bowls of the 1st class bird’s nest at 1000 baht each to share.
Bird’s Nest Soup with Rock Sugar 冰糖燕窝
It took at least four nests to make this one bowl of bird’s nest. It wasn’t too sweet, which I liked and came with other sweetened condiments like dates, dried longan and ginkgo nuts for more flavours and texture.
The strands of nests were quite long and intact, which is another sign of good quality bird’s nest. My mom once told me a good bowl of bird’s nest should taste eggy, but this one was quite bland.
Bird’s Nest in Almond Milk 杏仁奶炖燕窝
And then there’s the “blood swallow” bird’s nest 血燕. Legend has it that it was formed because the golden swallow did not complete the bird’s nest, did not lay eggs and vomited blood. The truth is that the cave where the swallows nested has a high concentration of reactive nitrates and this chemical causes the discolouration. It’s considered a “better” bird’s nest for recuperating patients because of the higher iron content. In actual fact, it was found by NTU researchers to be carcinogenic.
A little amount of blood bird’s nest was mixed with the regular bird’s nest to produce this bowl of bird’s nest soup with almond milk. It was served warm and I preferred to eat bird’s nest as a dessert than a tonic, so I preferred the cold-served regular version.
If you are ready to try some bird’s nest or sharks fin, then Nam Sing is as good a place as any to give it a shot. However the same cannot be said about the food.
All the dishes were bland (except for the grilled prawns) and the standard seemed to have dropped a lot. Service was good and the air-conditioning was very welcomed. Very crowded place, especially after T&K next door is closed. Just come here for the bird’s nest, which is still very nice and “reasonably” priced.
Nam Sing Bird Nest Co. 南星燕窝
45 Phadung Dao Road, Yaowaraj, Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel : +66 2 222 6292
Visited Apr 2023
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