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Monday, September 08, 2008

Shark fins soup for you?



Shark fin soup Specialties in Thailand

Consume of shark fin soup used to be the privilege of a Chinese Emperor for a century, later spread to banquet tables in weddings and all exquisite dining parties for the Chinese communities in modern days. Shark fin soup is made with fins obtained from a shark. Frankly, shark fins are the pectoral and dorsal fins of shark species, with flexible soft tissue known as cartilage which contains nutrition and even medical goodness. Shark fin has almost no flavor of its own but has an amazing ability to absorb and enhance the flavor of other ingredients cooked with it, such as hen, pork ribs, dried black mushroom, Yunnan ham, and even expensive dried abalone, simmered for enough hours in preparing of the hearty superior broth for the shark fin soup. Best serve with aged Chinese black vinegar or even a drop of brandy to add the zest in eating pleasure. By now you can figure out why shark fin soup cost so much money for a little serving.

Many people believe shark fins have the benefits of retarding aging, improving sex life (for men), and even curing cancer? On the other hand, academic report of shark fins probably contains high levels of mercury maybe harmful to consumers’ health!

I was told that consume of shark fin soup was cruel and it was against the animal rights. Then some people raise another question about eating foie gras if it is relatively cruel as method of raising goose for the foie gras is more controversial than catching shark. Personally I neither eat shark’s fin as a habit nor particularly enjoy this expensive food (yes it is expensive if you get the real fins and it is even very very expensive if you get the top grade fins); but, some customers and friends from Japan and Greater China region (China, HK and Taiwan) are fans of this delicacy popular in China since the Ming Dynasty. Like it or not, my duty to show them where to eat delicious and real (yes there are many fake fins out there in Yaowaraj and other parts of the country) shark fin soup in Bangkok.

If you are a bit hesitated to eat shark fin soup because of its controversial fining method, but eventually might enjoy a bowl of shark fin soup due to the hearty broth, then rescue came to your palate enjoyment. You may get your bowl (of shark fin soup) in Yaowaraj, Bangrak, Klong Tan or any roadside shark’s fins hawkers, browse the giant tin pot they do the broth, if you find pork ribs and chicken bone in the giant pot, then your bowl of shark fin soup probably is well prepared. How about the killing shark part? Don’t worry, for Baht 300 you don’t get real fins; they are vegetarian fins a.k.a. artificial fins.

Below are my picks for the best shark fin soup in town, either the fins were superior (under the Baht 1,000-2,000 mark), the soup prepared the superb way, or it was environmental friendly vegetarian fins. Please bear in mind in Thailand chefs are better off to prepare Thai-Chinese style braised shark fin in brown soup, not the Cantonese or contemporary Tiew-chew one people eat in Hong Kong and in the US Chinatown. In Greater China region people more opt for the consommé one that require a full day to prepare the broth simmered with pork ribs and chicken (hen) together with expensive ingredients such as Chinese Yunnan ham and even dried abalone without a drop of MSG, rather than the Thai-Chinese style of so-called brown soup based on heavy use of oyster sauce, soy sauce and MSG.

My cherry picks (4 categories):

Category I - Shark fin specialty, the winner is,

Bangkok Shark Fin (曼谷魚翅)

Here they have better broth though oyster sauce and seasonings are not avoidable in all shark fin soup specialties across the nation to prepare the famous (or infamous!) Thai-Chinese style ‘brown’ soup. Taste good with better value than the rest in Thailand!

Food: The braised shark fin soup, Thai-Chinese style ‘brown’ soup base, flavorsome chicken and pork broth, soup not too thick has a nice balance in texture and taste even with the presence of oyster sauce and slightly salty; braised fins so tender! (Besides braised shark fin soup, the restaurant also offers stir-fried shark fins, braised fish maw soup, stir-fried sea cucumber, vegetables, fried noodles to even steam fish.)

Service: Friendly and helpful

Ambiance: Minimal decoration with a nice fish tank for our appreciation during wait for the soup to be arrived, air-con a bit too cold.

Shark fins: Real fins.

Value: From Baht 800 per clay pot; the Baht 1,000 one fins were plentiful in portion; arguably Bangkok best Thai-Chinese style ‘brown’ broth fins soup in term of both quality and quantity.

Address: 218/3-4 Siam Square Soi 1, Rama I Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330; Tel.: 02-2510987; open daily 12pm – 12am.

1) Hock Shark-fins (福魚翅) on 167/2 Surawong Road, Bangkok; Tel.: 02-2335939
2) Nam Sing (南星)* on 231/19 Pattaya 2nd Road, Pattaya, Chon-buri; Tel.: 038-711221
* not Yaowaraj branch

Category II – Shark fin soup hawker, the winner is,

Tai Tong Bangrak (大中魚翅)

Tai Tong Bangrak was chosen because it is safer to sit on the pedestrian footpath in a less traffic lane and probably with less pollution.

Food: Nothing good, just the vegetarian fins may be good for animal rights supporters. The broth had one taste, as, extremely salty. You will love the soup if you are fans of MSG and oyster sauce.

Service: Prompt and friendly

Ambiance: Set inside a lane off the main road better than sitting on the Yaowaraj roadside, still it is roadside ambiance, don’t expect comfort and hygiene.

Shark fins: Vegetarian fins

Value: From Baht 400 per clay pot; my Baht 500 one was overpriced for such quality of broth with vegetarian fins.

Address: Charoen Krung Soi 46, Charoen Krung (New) Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500; Tel.: not available; Open daily 5pm – 12am

1) Sing Shark Fin Hawker, roadside Yaowaraj Road, China Town, Bangkok
2) Klong Tan shark fin soup hawkers, Klong Tan, Bangkok

Category III - Chinese restaurant, the winner is,

Lieo Lieng Seng (廖兩成酒家)

Broth was authentic following Hong Kong’s Tiew-chew recipe, fins are tender and the portion was a steal for Baht 400 a pot.

Food: The braised shark fin soup, broth is rather quite Hong Kong Tiew-chew than local Thai-Chinese one although oyster sauce was on the call. The broth had an obvious taste of dried seafood, pork bone and chicken, not artificial seasonings. Fins were tender. No more extra seasonings to go with the soup, just some Chinese vinegar will enhance the taste and made the fins easier to be digested in our stomach. (The restaurant has a selective Chinese cuisine menu, food quite good!)

Service: Average service with prompt response, friendly recommendation on order.

Ambiance: Minimal decor and small dining hall poses a warm atmosphere for diners. It is bright and clean.

Shark fins: Real fins

Value: From Baht 500 per clay pot; our Baht 1,500 large pot was generous in portion (good for six servings) with relatively good quality of broth. It was a steal of the day. Excellent value!

Address: 802-804 Rama IV Road (behind Montien Hotel), Bangrak, Bangkok 10500; Tel.: 02-2345791; Open daily - 11am-10pm

1) Tang Jai You (陳再裕酒家) 85-87 Soi Yaowa-Phanich, Yaowaraj; Tel.: 02.224.2167
2) Crystal Jade Golden Palace Restaurant (翡翠金閣酒家) at Siam Paragon Mall;
Tel.: 02.129.4343

Category IV - Hotel outlet, the winner is,

China House (中茗閣) @ the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Soup was hearty, fins were tender, the whole thing was heavenly delicious, and it is the Oriental!

Food: Their braised shark fin soup, broth took a day of work to simmer with expensive ingredients such as Yunnan ham, dried seafood, pork ribs, hen (not any chicken) and Chinese mushroom. The broth didn’t need any more artificial seasonings as the Yunnan ham did the job. Fins in decent portion were tender. Broth was aromatic with the goodness of full-day simmered pork and hen soup, good in nutrition though. I put some aged Chinese malt vinegar to go with the fin soup. (The restaurant offers a full menu for Chinese cuisine.)

Service: The Oriental Hotel kind of attentive service.

Ambiance: Sip your tea and enjoy your bowl of fin soup in an opulent ambiance.

Shark fins: Real fins

Value: Expensive in terms of the Baht, but well worth the bill if no compromise of quality and service is your main concern.

Address: Soi Oriental, Charoen Krung Soi 40, Charoen Krung (New) Road, Bangrak, Bangkok; Tel.: 02-6599000

1. Shang Palace (香宮) @ the Shangri-la Hotel; Tel.: 02-2068677
2. Man Ho (萬豪) @ JW Marriott Hotel Bangkok; Tel.: 02-6567700

And the Grand Winner goes to,

Bangkok Shark Fin

Siam Square Soi 1, Rama I Road, Bangkok

Good quality good service reasonable price and ultra cool air-conditioned room!



Anonymous said...

Just like taking a glass of clear water between the dishes we take.


Fillet-O said...

Or some lemongrass sorbet!

Anonymous said...

Now I am very busy to see all the blogs of the 3 of you. You guys even make more new things making us even more busy. haha.


Stella said...

So now you know how busy I am at home after the 2 gentlemen created a blog for me. And consider I am not as as computer literate as you guys.
So if I(as a dumb and computer illiterate C9) have time to do this, someone as smart as you better read it and do your guesses ok.:)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful job blogger.


Thailand Club said...

ok ok some food soon

Anonymous said...

Then take more sorbet between the dishes. I think they should have held up something not yet reported because In the Sea had a trip to Pek Kret with Thailand Club. They didn't post some more photos of food after that trip.


Anonymous said...

We would like to see more good food here so that we can "see the plum and stop the thirst".
Also, I can steal some idea.
Amateur chef

Stella said...

Food food food and song song song. But do it at your own pace as we know you are busy eating eating eating lately.

Anonymous said...

You must have lots of Thai readers here.

Fillet-O said...

I know, Peking duck!

Stella said...

I know I know. Shark fin soup of course.
How come this topic/title here has changed.
I don't think this was the title to begin with?

Anonymous said...

You are right Stella. I think the comments(except the most recent 2) belong to the song thing but not this one.
Thailand Club changed to food topic on purpose because he knows we missed his food.

Anonymous said...

I think it is bird nest desserts!


Thailand Club said...

when some people complain there was no new food post instead of some Thai songs, they didn't notice (at that same period) i hv updated some previous posts either their text or pics

no one notice that mr. bush speech now became ah yat!

Anonymous said...

Although bird nest dessert and others are also popular, I think the answer must be shark fin soup, from all the comments the blogger has made so far.
As shark fin soup with rice was the food people eat when they have big profits from the stock trade. Those were the days.

Yai said...

It is suckling pigs!

in the sea said...

Har... Mr. Bush became Ah Yat... Who doesn't like who then? :)

Anonymous said...

Is the answer shark fin soup?
Chung Family

Anonymous said...

Yes, it should be Shark Fin.


Thailand Club said...

still time to place ur guess, hurry!

Anonymous said...

I don't see the deadline of the guess.
I am pretty sure our answer is right as you mentioned about the stock profit so it must be shark fin with rice.
What is the prize?

Stella said...

Yes me second.

Fillet-O said...

Well well well since so many people guess shark fin then incl. me.

I guess shark fin.

Anonymous said...

Yes yes yes. Shark fin is the answer.

Thailand Club said...

hello, anyone notice that there is a bit change in 10/july post? pls go take a look and join the guessing


Stella said...

More guessing huh. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Thailand,
I suggest you can notify the reader there is new guess game by creating a new post upfront so all the readers can tell as soon as they open your blog.
As it makes it easier for you and also make sure no readers will miss that. Otherwise you have to comment on each post to update us. And not everyone will read the comments of the old post again.
Do you know who I am?

Thailand Club said...

thanks anonymous 9:40pm

Thailand Club said...

if it is really about shark's fin, then how many of you want my review on this controversial food

Stella said...

Hi Thailand Club,
I do I do. But you can do it later since I may not have time to read your blog for the next 2 days/nights due to some meetings and appointments.

Stella said...

Wow, what a thorough and detailed report of shark fin soup culture. I really enjoyed eating all these free shark fin soup on your post.

Fillet-O said...

I agree Bangkok Shark-Fins is good. And I don't know the others. But I will try Hong Kong House as well.

Thanks for the detailed introduction to Bangkok's shark fins soup!

Anonymous said...

I almost ate 4 bowls of fins soup by reading this post. Great!

Anonymous said...

We went to China House, the shark fin soup was excellent.

Hey, Thailand Club, China House is not that horrible in term of decoration as you described! Pretty cute instead! Maybe you dislike black and red mixed?

Anyway, thanks for your recommendation, otherwise we would not go to China House for shark fin soup.

from Jackson