Is this the best crab curry in Bangkok?

(THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - There's nothing  fancy about Samyan Seafood (39) on Bangkok’s Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Road. The three-storey Chinese restaurant is distinctly old fashioned, with chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings, columns covered with Chinese characters, marble on the floor and big round tables with Lazy Susan trays on top to bring each dish within the reach of individual diners. 

The Chinese and seafood dishes are designed for family feasts, made with the freshest premium ingredients and presented without frills. The must-try dish is stir-fried sea crab with curry sauce that the restaurant guarantees nowhere else can offer in the same portion and of the same quality at the same price.

The large Chinese restaurant Samyan Seafood (39) boasts a charming old-fashioned ambience.

“We use only white mud crab for its succulently rich, sweet and firm texture. Many people think that the bigger the crab, the more crabmeat they get. That’s false. Actually, a 800g or 900g crab is the best size, giving the largest quantity of meat and the richest natural sweet taste,” says Mr Ekachai Tangsinpoonchai, the second-generation owner.

His grandfather was a major crab dealer in Yaowarat – Bangkok’s Chinatown – bringing in different crabs sourced in local and neighbouring countries. His father expanded the business by opening the original restaurant Samyan Seafood in the Samyan area off Rama IV Road in 1983. The restaurant relocated to its more spacious venue at the current location in 1996 and the “39” is a nod to 2539, the Buddhist Era digits for that year.

Ekachai Tangsinpoonchai shows the difference between white and black mud crabs.

“With our long experience in the crab business, we guarantee that no other restaurant offers the same quality, size and price. If you have found one and can prove it, then you dine here for free,” he says with a confident grin.

The best value-for-money deals are the six food sets priced at 5,000 baht (S$205), 6,000 baht, 8,000 baht, 9,000 baht, 11,000 baht and 16,000  baht for six to 10 people.

I opt for a nine-course set at 6,000 baht, which kicks off with an hors d’oeuvre of fried shrimp balls, drunken chicken, jellyfish with sesame oil and fried minced shrimp wrapped with tofu skin (500 baht a la carte).

Hors d’oeuvres 

The second dish is brown soup – your choice of fish maw or shark fin (1,000 baht for small a la carte or 2,000 baht for large). Then comes the signature dish of stir-fried crab in curry powder (Bt1,600 a la carte) that almost every table orders. The 800g or 900g crab is cooked with an aromatic curry powder and goose egg. 

Stir-fried crab in curry powder.

“The goose eggs give a smoother texture than hen or duck eggs and they absorbs the curry powder sauce very well, making the dish succulent and rich,” says Mr Ekachai.

Peking duck

No true Cantonese feast is complete without roasted Peking duck and here the duck’s crispy skin is sheared off bit by bit for rolling into palm-sized steamed pancakes along with pieces of cucumber and spring onion before being dressed with thick, sweet and pungent hoisin sauce.

 Stir-fried shrimp with oyster sauce and ginkgo nuts.

Next up is stir-fried shrimp with oyster sauce and ginkgo nuts (600-800 baht a la carte). The shrimp flesh is fresh and firm while the ginkgo nuts are chewy. Goby fish is usually steamed due to its friable flesh but Samyan Seafood offers battered wok-fried fish fillets tossed with roasted pine nuts (800 baht a la carte).

 Fried goby fish fillets with pine nuts.

“The fish fillets are fried in high heat and a chef just moves the wok several times to ensure the flesh is not broken. It requires great cooking skill because even when steaming the flesh of this fish flakes into fragments. It’s best eaten no more than three minutes after serving,” says Ekachai.

Stir-fried wheat noodles with seafood.

Then comes stir-fried wheat noodles with shrimp, crabmeat and mushroom (250-500  baht a la carte). The dish, which is reasonably dry and doesn’t have an oily taste, gives off a complex smoky flavour imparted by a hot wok during cooking. 

Hot pot of fish’s head with taro. 

Then it’s time for hot pot of fish’s head with taro (500 baht a la carte), which combines a mild herbal taste with the naturally sweet flavour of taro. The course ends with sweet mashed taro with sticky rice and ginkgo nuts in syrup (250-500 baht a la carte).

Sweet mashed taro with sticky rice and ginkgo nuts. 

The restaurant, which is equivalent in size to 14 shophouses, can accommodate 100 tables |(each for 10) on the first and |mezzanine floors. The 12 private rooms are on the second floor and can each take about 10 diners each. |The third floor is an old-fashioned banqueting hall that can accommodate 100 to 500 guests and is particularly popular for Chinese wedding ceremonies.

Samyan Seafood (39) is in Narathiwat Ratchanakarin Road (BTS: Chong Nonsi station). Open daily for lunch from 11am to 2.30pm and for dinner from 5.30 to 10pm.