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Posts Tagged ‘Artisan’

Boiling coconut palm sap to produce sugar

My first full day in Thailand has been action packed: in the morning, we visited the local village of Samut Songkram to see how coconut sugar is produced, and then journeyed to Klong Klone, a small fishing village in the heart of a community mangrove conservation programme.

Monkey in the mangrove

The mangroves support a huge abundance of wildlife from monkeys and birds, to an array of fish which use their roots as a nursery for their young.

We toured the mangroves and were then taken out to sea where we were provided with a fascinating insight into the lives of the local fishermen, who not only farm oysters and clams, but catch a variety of sea life, particularly shrimp, which are used to make one of the best Kapi (shrimp paste) in the country.

Netting shrimp at sea

Made from tiny transparent shrimp, they are netted, then brought to shore, unloaded, rinsed, laid out to drain before salting (approximately 1 cup sea salt to two pounds of shrimp), then filled into earthenware jars overnight.

The next morning, they are spread out on plastic sheets on the ground next to the fishermen’s home to dry in the hot sun. Late in the day, they are gathered and re-stored in the jars for the night, to be laid out again the next day when the sun burns hot.

This goes on for three or more days, until the shrimp disintegrates and turns from pink to a dark purplish brown. When the shrimp are no longer recognizable and completely turned into dense paste, the kabi is ready for use. If properly dried, the paste can keep for several months without refrigeration.

Fresh shrimp being laid out to dry

Klong Klone’s kapi is particularly prized for its aroma and flavour, and although I declined to try some (our local fisherman guide took great joy in breaking off a piece and popping it into his mouth like fudge), I know it’s an essential for Thai specialities such as Nam Prik and of course curry pastes.

I wasn’t told how much they sold the finished product for, but tellingly, where fishermen used to be able to fill their boats full of shrimp in one day, the gentleman we met and photographed had only managed to catch half a kilo, despite having been out at sea for five hours.

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