Food review: Ning’s Thai Street Food in Sheffield – when sweet, sour and savoury collide and create beautiful harmony
and live on Freeview channel 276
This includes Thai food - with its complex sweet, sour, and savoury flavour profile and distinctive dish, I can never pass up anything Thai. I even cook my own Thai food from scratch at home, albeit it's not as authentic.
When I heard that a new Thai restaurant recently opened in the city centre, I knew I had to go. What's more, it's Muslim-friendly, as the beef and chicken served there are halal, which means I'll be able to sample as many dishes as possible.
Located right next to the tram tracks on High Street, Ning's Thai Street Food used to operate at OHM Food Yard on Fitzwilliam Street but recent changes to its management forced them to relocate.
When I entered the restaurant with my family on a Saturday night after booking a table hours in advance, we were the first customers that night, and I began to wonder why there was no crowd.
The tables were neatly organised, and the spotless floor with neon lights spelling out 'Ning's' in the background immediately drew my eye.
We were greeted by the owner and her husband who kindly rearranged the tables to accommodate our big party of six (three adults and three children) before handing us a two-page menu.
After reading the menu, which features a standard pricing of £8.99 for the main course (which is rather affordable for a filling dinner), I couldn't wait to try the restaurant's 'tom yum' - widely regarded as one of Thailand's most iconic meals.
There were also vegetarian dishes and sides available, such as Thai fish cakes, chicken satay, and veggie spring rolls, which I would recommend sampling first if you have room in your stomach before moving on to the main menu.
‘Flavour well balanced’
Since we came with empty stomachs, we ordered numerous items from the 'Large Plates' section. We also ordered Pad Prig Grang, king prawn Pad Thai, chicken in oyster sauce, and papaya salad or 'som tum,' in addition to tom yum.
Because the kids chose chicken, we ordered two types of tom yum, one chicken and one seafood.
It wasn't long before the dinner arrived (about a 10 minute wait). Pad Thai, one of our all-time Thai favourites, was the first meal to come.
Instead of king prawn, customers can also order chicken or tofu if they prefer. Pad Thai is a stir-fried Thai meal with eggs, vegetables, and tofu in a tamarind, fish, dried shrimp, garlic, red chilli pepper, and sugar sauce.
Some of the ingredients, such as red chilli pepper, lime wedges, and crushed peanuts, were served as condiments on the side.
What impressed me the most was how generous they were with the prawns, and how well the flavour was balanced between sweet (from the plum sauce, I assume) and savoury.
Next up we had the 'som tum', priced at £7.99 and this was my ultimate favourite yet. Som (Thai: sour taste) is a north-eastern Thai word, while Tum (Thai: pounding with pestle to crush or break components) is a Thai word. Somtum is a distinctively sour and spicy dish produced by crushing and mixing all ingredients together in a pestle and mortar.
The platter was especially colourful, with shredded green papaya and carrots, sliced cherry tomatoes for a little of sourness, and bird eye chillies (be careful if you can't handle heat; it may really sting!) and a generous sprinkling of super-crunchy peanuts.
I especially enjoyed the sauce, which I believe was made out of fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. It was so good that it made you want more.
Now the star dish, tom yum. Tom yum, also known as tom yam, is a hot and sour Thai soup that is generally made with prawn. But ours was seafood so it came with not just king prawns, but a generous amount of squid, slices of mushrooms and tomatoes.
When eating tom yum, the first thing you should do is taste the broth, since it will determine the rest of your experience. When I took a sip of the hot broth, the sourness, sweetness, and a hint of heat struck the spot perfectly. Additionally, the seafood felt fresh and not rubbery - I honestly couldn't tell if it was frozen due to Sheffield's scarcity of seafood.
‘Spicy but not overpowering’
Then we had chicken Pad Prig Grang, which was unfamiliar to me because I had a different version in Malaysia, probably to suit the local palate.
The dish is a sort of Thai curry that is drier than other Thai curries, such as red curry, and is cooked in oil without the addition of liquid coconut milk.
Along with the chicken, there were carrots, aubergine, beans, and courgette, all served with heart-shaped jasmine rice. It was a touch spicy, but not overpowering when served with the rice.
My daughter had chicken in oyster sauce.The sliced chicken was stir fried with carrots, spring onions, and mushrooms and it came with jasmine rice.
It was a mild dish if you're not a fan of spicy food. It was not to my liking but my daughter finished the dish entirely on her own, so I suppose it was okay.
We wondered whether there was any dessert, such as mango sticky rice, after our hearty dinner, but there was none on the menu. Thai's specialty drinks, such as three-layered tea, were also lacking, so I asked the owner if there was a reason for this.
The owner, Chaweewan, who runs the business with her husband after moving to the country more than a decade ago, said they had to cut down on the menu after the relocation due to costs but did not rule out the possibility of it coming back in the future.
But she promised to keep the prices 'affordable' as she knew that it was like having to afford a nice hearty meal after a long, hard day at work.
"I came from a poor background and I knew how difficult it was for people who worked hard but could barely afford decent meals. And I want to help them with my food," she said during our brief conversation after paying for our meals.
The bill totaled £58.92, and it was well worth every penny. I hope the restaurant now receives the attention it so truly deserves.
Ning's Thai Street Food opens every day from 11am to 9.30pm. It is also available on Uber Eats and City Grab.