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Phuket Food: Discover the delights of durian

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Food: Discover the delights of durian | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The ineffable flavor of the durian has been a source of intense debate among locals and visitors to Southeast Asia for centuries. There have been countless attempts at describing the fruit’s pungent smell and unique taste; it has been likened to roast almonds, rotten onions, old gym socks and even turpentine.

While everyone has a different way of describing it – all seem to agree that there is nothing else quite like a durian. Its fans call it the ‘King of Fruits’; its detractors say it’s revolting and akin to “eating sweet strawberry blancmange in a lavatory”. Love it or hate it, tasting this exotic wonder-fruit is an essential experience for anyone who comes to Thailand.

Phuket’s second annual Durian Festival, being held at Thanyapura’s DiVine Restaurant, is a celebration of the beloved fruit and a tribute to its many culinary qualities. The festival is the brainchild of DiVine Restaurant Food and Beverage Manager Sereymony Or, who first struck upon the idea of showcasing durian dishes to guests while he was working at a hotel in Cambodia.

“When we did it there, we only had durian in a few dishes, but now we are using durian in almost all our dishes. The chef is very creative,” he said.

“When I came to Phuket, I saw that no other restaurants where using durian, so I saw the opportunity to show people the quality of Thai durian.”

Mr Sereymony said that many chefs are intimidated by the fruit’s reputation and fearful that guests will avoid dishes that incorporate it.

“We want to try to make everybody understand its not that bad to eat durian. It’s not a difficult food to eat.”

“Traditionally, people believe that durian can only be used for dessert, but we wanted to show that it can be used in many different ways,” he said.

DiVine Restaurant Director of Kitchen Operations, Sathaporn Boodmeechai, is a durian-lover and wants to banish any negative perceptions that surround its consumption – his inventive and extensive festival menu aims to do just that.

When Mr Seremony suggested the idea of the Durian festival, Chef Sathaporn immediately took up the challenge and began experimenting with new ways to integrate durian into a range of dishes.

In order to minimize the strong smell of the fruit, Chef Sathaporn came up with the novel idea of using it unripened. In its unripe state, it has a much milder taste and can be used in a similar way to traditional ingredients like potato, green papaya and eggplant.

To incorporate the infamous taste of ripe durian, without overpowering the other ingredients, small amounts of the ripe flesh has been blended into drinks, sauces and vinaigrettes to create subtle new flavors.

“We tried many types of durian, some were very sweet and some less sweet. For many of our dishes we used the less sweet variety and selected ones that were not too young, but also not too ripe,” said Chef Sathaporn.

The Phuket Gazette visited DaVine Restaurant recently to sample some of chef Sathaporn’s creations, which fuse high-quality ingredients with in a multitude of forms of the fruit, to put a twist on some of the restaurant’s classic dishes.

Upon arrival, we were served an infused soda, a refreshing introduction to the complex taste of the ripe fruit, before we moving on the much more subtly flavored dishes. Next came a plethora of delicious starters, including chili shrimp tacos with durian salsa, Thai style salad with durian, and crisp, spicy durian samosas with papaya chutney.

The highlight of the starters is the tuna tartar with durian, roasted capsicum and coriander salsa. The melt-in-the-mouth cubes of raw tuna are perfectly married with the coriander and contrasted by the crunchy-fresh texture of finely cut fruit and vegetable salsa.

Soon, a series of impeccably presented Thai and western style dishes arrived, running the full gamut of meat varieties including duck, beef, chicken, crab, scallops and fish. The pan-fried sardine stuffed with durian and pineapple with sweet chili sauce is a delight, the oily sardine flesh is perfectly cut by the sweetness of the stuffing, creating a perfect balance.

The roasted duck curry with young durian, longan, apple and basil highlighted our champion ingredient’s potato-like properties, but when you bite in to a piece, you can still detect a hint of the creamy texture that ripe flesh is famous for.

The durian gnocchi with scallops and durian scented mushroom cream was the perfect combination of ingredients, covered in a rich and creamy sauce to make a hearty dish.

After grazing on the many plates on offer, all so inviting that it is impossible not to try each one, it’s time for dessert. This is where the taste of the ripe fruit shines, in a selection of crepes, tarts, cakes, puddings, and even macaroons, all featuring the sweet, complex, rich and more-ish flavor of durian. The durian ice-cream is to die for; it has a hint of coconut, and perfectly compliments any of the delicious desserts.

Finally, we are invited outside, where fresh durians of many varieties are cut open and served to complete this ultimate durian experience.

Experience the unique taste of Asia’s ‘King of Fruits’ at the Durian festival at DiVine restaurant, Thanyapura, May 25-31 from 6:30 to 10pm. Food is served buffet style and the cost is 780 ++ baht per person.

Keep checking our Phuket Lifestyle pages for the latest happenings from across the island. Join our Facebook fan page or follow us at @PhuketGazette.

— Mark Knowles

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Bangkok

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport

The Thaiger

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Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | The Thaiger

The Thai cabinet yesterday approved the construction of a third runway at Suvarnabhumi International Airport as part of the country’s ambition to become the aviation hub of ASEAN.

The 21.7 billion baht project will increase the combined capacity of Suvarnabhumi international airport’s runways to 94 arrivals and departures per hour from the current 64, said Lt-Gen Weerachon Sukonthapatipak, deputy government spokesman.

Suvarnabhumi Airport (aka. BKK) was opened in 2006 as Bangkok’s second airport. Initially it replaced the tired Don Mueang Airport but Don Mueang was later revamped as a low-coast airport to service the growing traffic demands.

Meanwhile Suvarnabhumi Airport was, and still is, operating above its designed capacity. An earlier bid to build a third terminal has been mired in controversy and is currently shelved pending a new brief from Airports of Thailand with a new round of design bids called for in the future.

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | News by The Thaiger

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People

Patong’s trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal

The Thaiger

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Patong’s trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Patong Police / Theeraphong Penmit / Newshawk Phuket

A Phuket boy has been rewarded after setting an excellent example for the rest of the Patong community.

8 year old Kosin Ta-ngam, who is studying at Sai Nam Yen School in Patong in Pratom Suksa Three, has been collecting garbage in the filthy Pak Bang Canal and along Patong Beach since the beginning of this year.

He lives with his grandmother and other relatives. His grandmother has been looking after Kosin since he was 10 months old.

A certificate, scholarship and life vest have been awarded to Kosin by the Patong Police Chief Col Anothai Jindamanee for displaying excellent citizen for the community as a youth volunteer and being an active part of keeping the city clean.

The Pak Bang Canal, running through the back of Patong into Patong Bay, has been a dark, dirty mess for decades. Many promises have been made to clean it up but it remains a disgraceful waterway flowing through Phuket’s main tourist town.

The tiny eight year old seems to be able to achieve a lot more than the local municipality with all their money and machinery.

Kosin, you are the Thaiger hero for today and we salute you!

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

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Southeast Asia

Mitsubishi testing their new regional jet

The Thaiger

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Mitsubishi testing their new regional jet | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Japan Times

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ new 88-passenger Mitsubishi Regional Jet is testing the skies just as rivals Embraer and Bombardier are moving to sell off their manufacturing operations for jets with up to 160 seats to Boeing and Airbus.

At stake, particularly in the market for jets with fewer seats, is US$135 billion in sales in the two decades through 2037, according to industry group Japan Aircraft Development.

More cities in Asia and Europe are seeking to link up with each other and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, the first airliner built in Japan since the 1960s, began certification flights last month in Moses Lake, Washington.

With fewer seats and smaller fuselages, regional jets are a different class of aircraft from larger narrow-body planes such as Boeing’s 737 or Airbus’s A320. The MRJ has a range of about 3,220 kilometres. The seating is 2+2 instead of 3+3 in a small Airbus or Boeing single-aisle jet.

After spending at least US$2 billion over more than a decade, the manufacturer is looking to get its jet certified and start deliveries to launch partner ANA Holdings.

Mitsubishi initially planned test flights in 2012 but blew past that deadline because of production difficulties. Now, the company, which makes ships, nuclear power plants and aerospace components, expects to have the plane ready for customers next year, a timetable that will test the company, said Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hisakazu Mizutani.

Mitsubishi Heavy is not the only Asian manufacturer betting that it can build aircraft cheaper and more efficiently. Commercial Aircraft of China (Comac) has a new regional jet in service, while Korea Aerospace Industries is studying whether to develop a 100-passenger aircraft.

“The aviation market in Asia is expected to grow further in the coming years and there will be demand for these aircraft,” said analyst Lee Dong-heon at Daishin Securities in Seoul.

“The shift in the regional aviation segment we have seen over the last year or so has opened opportunities.”

“The MRJ is fully capable of competing in the market.”

Mitsubishi testing their new regional jet | News by The Thaiger

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