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Nam Sing Restaurant
39-47 Soi Texas, Th Phadung Dao
Yaowarat, Bangkok, Thailand
Yaowarat. YAO-wa-rat. I just liked saying that word when I first heard it. Apparently it means Chinatown in Bangkok. Reminded me of when I first heard of the website Yahoo. Just made me want to repeat it again and again…
Although I’ve been to Bangkok several times over the past decade, on my most recent visit I made my way down to the Chinatown district for the very first time. Amid all the eating options, from street side vendors to enclosed restaurants lining the many side streets in the area, one could get lost in deciding just where to have a meal as every option seemed full of interesting possibilities.
We stolled along the streets, consumed by the powerful and delicious smells of cooking food coming from various carts and open air kitchens that we passed by. We then came to what I think they had been searching for all along, the Nam Sing Restaurant. Just outside there was a huge outdoor grill with layers of giant prawns being delicately tended to by a young cook, along with tanks of fresh fish and a table laid out with fresh oysters, escargot and shrimp on a layer of ice. Looked promising as we stepped inside. Strangely enough, a few steps in and I thought I might have been in a gift shop, as there were displays full of boxes of food products such as birds nest – apparently one of the popular delicacies at this place as well.
The entire place seemed much larger than it probably was, as many of the walls were tilled up with large squares of mirrors. There was a group of larger circular tables with lazy susans in the central part of the first floor, with square table seating along the walls for parties of four. The tables themselves were ghastly yellow-orange in color and reminded me of long ago cafeterias or shopping mall food court furniture. I was hoping the design of the place would be the worst part of this restaurant, and judging from the packed room, my hopes were high.
[The massive feast began in earnest, but now that a few weeks has passed, I am somewhat at a loss to recall everything that came to our table. I do have some limited photographs of some of the dishes, so I will simply comment on these, although there were many more that were on the final bill.]
Giant donut-shaped wheels of deep fried shrimp – I think on this trip, I had WAY too many things that were cooked in a boiling tub of unhealthy vegetable oil, but alas these were impressive. Not only for the sheer size (easily the same size of a man’s hand) of these things, but also for the intense shrimp flavor inside the crispy external coating. The minced shrimp inside was densely packed, not airly and fluffy as one might imagine, so there was no skimping in the kitchen when preparing these creations. If you could not want to scarf down more than one of these golden brown discs of heaven, I think you don’t love your seafood.
Grilled prawns – These were the same ones I had seen being cooked outside the restaurant’s main entrance. And judging from the quantity on the grill, I know they must be a popular item on the menu. The flavors were good (I could tell they were fresh), but I felt they were cooked a bit too long for my liking, a little dried out and not retaining the moisture in the meat as much as I would have hoped. Next time, would probably pass on this item.
Sea Bass, steamed and served in a lime/garlic soup – Finally some Thai flavors coming out, albeit in a Chinese restaurant. The broth was fantastic with its mix of tartness from the lime and aroma from the garlic, and it went well with the tender, soft and flaky white meat of the bass. I usually associate sea bass as being a bit “gummy” (probably as I’ve eaten it more raw than cooked), but I know now that steamed it is as good as any other white meat fish there is out there. I think in the end when the fish was gone, I was busy ladeling some of the soup onto my steamed rice, as I was so intrigued by the flavor combination, and also probably still hungry. 🙂
On the menu, there are a lot more extravagant and expensive items, such as the afore mentioned birds nest, shark fin soup, and of course abalone. Unfortunately budget came into play and I could not enjoy the abalone as much as I would have liked. It seemed though, those around us were not going for the high end fare either, so took that as a good sign that perhaps even the “regular” items available were more than satisfying for locals with a discerning taste for Chinese cuisine in Thailand. Lastly, I must mention the interesting rock sugar drinks that were brought out, apparently for free, to our table. In these narrow plastic containers, they looked like a faint colored orange juice but were overwhelmingly sweet. Probably a bit too much for my liking too, but no doubt an interesting drink to have for the first time if you ever make your way to Yaowarat. Yao-hoo!