I sit down to eat my meal, Thai style chicken and cashew nuts.
The chicken is crispy and, combined with the sauce, has a sweet,
peppery flavour. Next I bite into a cashew nut. The brittle texture
has absorbed the blend of herbs and spices and the creamy taste
pleases my palate.
The cashew tree, (Anacardium occidentale), grows up to ten meters
in height and has large, striped, oval shaped leaves. Fragrant red,
yellow and pink flowers bloom annually around February, before a
red, bulbous fruit appears, called a cashew apple. The cashew nut
grows on the tip of the fruit but this is just the tip of the cashew-iceberg.
The task of processing cashew nuts is no simple affair. Formed
inside a kidney shaped casing, the cashew nut is suspended in poisonous
oil, which burns the skin. These toxins are initially reduced by
boiling the intact shells, but the manual labour of cracking open
the shells must be done with care. Workers wrap plastic around their
fingertips to prevent the black oil from burning their skin. All
poison is expelled during the next stage when the nuts are baked
over a low temperature for 12 hours. A speckled skin is then peeled
off, before a grading procedure separates the nuts into groups of
whole nuts, half nuts and pieces.
The curiously named, Sri Bhurapa Orchid company has over thirty
years in the cashew business and their showroom, located on Thanon
Kwang just south of Phuket Town, provides insight into the processing
of cashew nuts. Khun Supachai Kittithornkul, co-manager of the company,
represents the third generation of the family's success in
the cashew industry. Originally an orchid farm, hence the name,
Sri Bhurapa Orchid's founder Khun Kittithornkul Senior, started
processing cashew nuts as a small side business. Cashews became
increasingly popular and today the company has three factories and
employs more than 80 people.
The delectable cashew products made by Sri Bhurapa are sure to
tempt. Whole nuts are coated in thick chocolate and half pieces
are flavoured with butter, coconut, sesame, honey and many other
taste sensations including sweet chili and a hot and spicy version
which is very popular with Thai visitors.
The cashew tree is wealthy in resources. Apart from the exotic
taste of the prized cashew nut, the cashew apple fruit, the nut
casings and the bark are all utilized by industry. The nasty oil
is used to produce automotive brake oil and the nut casings may
be transformed into a rubbery substance used for repairing household
items. The bark of the cashew tree has valuable medicinal properties,
as does the fruit. Cashew apple juice may be used to treat gastric
complaints, to increase urine excretion and can even increase resistance
to venereal disease!
The cashew nuts grown in Phuket and other provinces of Southern
Thailand are extremely cheap compared to prices in Western countries.
Legume lovers shouldn't miss Sri Bhurapa's interesting
showroom or the delicious nuts they sell.
Sri Bhurapa Orchid, Thanon Kwang (opposite
Tel: 66(0)76 263 787-9.