Department of Special Investigation chief Prawut Wongsrinil check ingredients used in preparing swallow nest soup, following a complaint some restaurants in Pattaya were using cheap Karaya gum instead. (Photo by Chaiyot Pupattanapong)
PATTAYA – Some restaurants in Pattaya have been found cheating diners by using steamed vegetable gum in dishes they advertise as expensive swallow’s nest soup, according to the Department of Special Investigation.
The DSI inspection centred on nine Chinese restaurants in the resort beach city on Wednesday, the same day other authorities went to go-go bars along Walking Street in a separate operation to shut down illegal activities.
The nine restaurants were found to be using “suspicious raw materials”, which were sized for a thorough examination by the Food and Drug Administration, DSI deputy chief Prawut Wongsrinil said.
Initial tests found some were using Karaya gum, an Indian vegetable gum, in exotic dishes, to avoid buying costly swallow nests, usually collected from caves on islands.
Connoisseurs claim the nests made of bird spittle offer unique health benefits.
The Thai association of swallow nest businesses earlier informed the DSI of the deceit. The association said the practice had dealt a severe economic blow to the gastronomic sector, costing members about four billion baht in the last year, Pol Lt Col Prawut said.
Use of the gum, believed to be from the Yaowarat area in Bangkok, caused prices of genuine swallow nests to drop from the range 50,000 to 150,000 baht a kilogramme to less than 50,000 baht.
The DSI found “suspicious raw materials” at all nine restaurants, but did not release other details or say which ones would be charged. The investigation was continuing.
The police search of go-go bars found no serious criminal activity, including human trafficking, according to Bang Lamung district chief Narit Niramaiwong. However, some bar workers were fined for having no identity cards.