The south of Thailand is famous for its cashew nuts, and Phuket has co-opted that into three Cashew Nut 'factories' for the tourist to visit. I'm visiting Sri Supphaluck Orchid Shop, a large cashew nut and regional produce shop famous for it's drink made from the Cashew Apple, Cashewy. There are two others in Phuket town itself, both 'Methee Phuket Cashew Nut' factories.
The factory part is a single woman showing you how they open cashew nuts. You can see this is a shop and not a factory, one woman opening a few hundred nuts won't keep up with demand, but you can also see how laborious it is. She places one in a cutter, pulls a lever and the cutter comes down and cuts open the casing, then it's an expert use of a metal pick to prize out the cashew nut. Without the nut in place, you can see (bottom right corner) the cutting blade. She can shell only about a dozen a minute with this technique.
The cashew nut hangs down from a fruit similar to a rose apple.
It's from this apple part they make their drink, Cashewy. It takes like sweet apple juice with a little nut flavour. A quick look at the ingredients on the concentrate shows the sweetness comes from sugar and the cashew apple is probably really bitter! More than half the concentrate for the drink is sugar! They make Cashewy concentrate, Cashewy sports drink, Cashewy mixers for whiskey, Cashew .... well lots of choices of ways to drink Cashewy. I'd avoid making it yourself, I remember eating one of these fruits as a child, and it was like ants biting my mouth, perhaps I'm allergic to it, or perhaps this is the toxin Wikipedia refers to.
Naturally they sell cashew nuts too, and not just regular cashew nuts. They had chilli flavour, BBQ flavour, Wasabi flavour, and one that caught my eye, Tom Yum flavour. Each has the coating made from flour, around the nut to hold the flavour. Making these is a pain, you need a rotating drum cooker, which I don't have, but there is a much easier way to make Tom Yum flavoured cashew nuts, the recipe's on my Thai food blog.
Once you're bored with cashew nuts, the shop has a whole range of dried mango, dried fruits, squid snacks, sweet preserved pork, and many other Thai things. If you want to take gifts back from Phuket, this shop has a good range.
Getting there, ignore the map on their website, it's completely wrong, in fact ignore most of the maps to this place, most are wrong. It's in the center of Phuket Island, north of Two Heroines Monument, on the road to the airport. See the market in the middle over the 'Si Sunthon' place name.
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