Phuekt souvenir, Cashew nut at Sri Bhurapa Orchid
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phuket Leisure: Sri Bhurapa Orchid

 Cashew, More than Nuts !

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 Kinnaree Media),
Tel: 66(0)76 263 787-9.


- September Issue, 2002

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