PHETCHABURI...A Capital of Dessert
In such times when people from all around the world are more connected anda wide range of products becomes available for global distribution, a panting flock of gastronomes embark on their quest for local specialty and culinary delight of an authentic dish. While a lot of towns are striving to revive their good old days for the sake of marketing, Petchaburi's traditional dessert in a square aluminum pan has paid off and become a true reflection of the locals' identity.
Thanks to the royal visit and the construction of a new temple in Petchaburi during the reign of King Rama IV and the next two kings, this western frontier became the wellspring of craftsmanship, historical attraction and capital of Thai dessert.
Egg-based desserts were introduced to the locals by the royal court. For example Kanom Mor Gaeng (Custard Pudding)-- originally known as “Kanom Kum Pa Mad”-- was passed on by the descendants of the courtiers and later was adapted by the town who came up with locally-available ingredient like Palmyra palm sugar. They also used egg york in stead of egg white which gave a firmer texture and the palm sugar made a good sweetener for confectionery.
Apart from Kanom Mor Gaeng, Petchaburi has a huge variety of royal Thai cuisine both savory and sweet. A marvellous example is Khoa Chae (Rice in jasmine-scented iced water and savory accompaniments). This summer dish was adapted from a complex into a simple recipe, still it is elaborately prepared. In the case of Kanom Mor Gaeng the new generation of Mae Boon Lon's-- a famous dessert maker-- recalled “Originally Kanom Mor Gaeng was served in a big plate. However, a bulky container was made more compact and easy to bag during the second world war when it was very popular among the Japanese forces who established their landing strip in Petchaburi.”
The new packaging that brought about a big change of Kanom Mor Gaeng was stemmed from a research by one of Mae Boon Lon's successors. A square aluminum pan was made fit in a specially designed block bottomed paper bag, not only for Kanom Mor Gaeng but also assorted desserts based on products. Petchaburi has consequently been regarded as Thailand's one of a kind sweet maker.
A growth in domestic tourism gives a boost to Petchaburi's sweet industry and draw investors' attention to the province. As a result, Thai sweet shops are abundant on both sides of Phetkasem road. Each year Thailand's sweet industry has a gross revenue of over a billion baht. The industry also helps support agricultural products such as rice and Palmyra palm.
Local product penetrating global markets
Since Palmyra palm is the main product of Petchaburi, the province set a goal to increase the amount of the crops from 300,000 to 1,000,000. A question of how to increase Palmyra palm sugar's market share was addressed to the President of the Federation of Thai Industries with a view to helping bring in more income and sustaining the traditional making of Palmyra palm sugar.
Charan Yeesan thought of powdered sugar and had been playing around with ideas until a cottage industry of golden brown of sugar was started. Later the manufacturing process relied more on machines to ensure that the great demand of fascinated Japanese customers were satisfied. A Japanese company even invented a machine for manufacturing Palmyra palm sugar. After the copyright holder passed away, the project was taken over and there came a local product under the brand “Sa-ne Muang Petch” (Petchaburi's Glamour) which was ranked as premium sugar and supplied 700-800 kg to Japan every quarter of the year. Recently this local product has been available in Britain.
Apart from product development, the provincial government encourages homestays in order to promote its agritourism in Palmyra palm plantations. This alternative tourism is growing in popularity among young travelers both local and international who are looking for rewarding experience from the cross cultural atmosphere.
Did you know?
- To make sure they have enough ingredients for a large amount of sweets to be sold during high season in April, confectioners have to order duck's eggs from Ban Lad district five months in advance. Mangrove swamps of Ban Lad contribute to the top quality of eggs used in preparing Thai desserts à la Petchaburi.
- The sale price of Chomphu Phet (Petchaburi rose apple) is higher than those of other varieties. Chomphu Phet's wide-spreading branches need scaffolds to stand firmly and through them growers can reach high parts and wrap each fruit with paper and plastic sheet three days before harvesting. This allows the fruits to be exposed to the sun and gives a pleasant color.
- A palm tree makes more money than arai (1,600 square meters) of rice paddy . Usually palm sugar grosses 5,250 baht. When the cost of 250 baht is subtracted, the net income is 5,000 baht. On the other hand, A rai of rice paddy yields 760 kg of rice. Each rai grosses 7,600 baht. When the cost of 3,500 baht is subtracted (excluding the lease payment), the net income is 4,100 baht.
- The GDP of Petchaburi in 2010 was 59,845 million baht (35th place) while the income per capita was 129,586 baht (19th place)
Petchaburi is also known as “Muang Sam Wang” (the city of the three palaces) since King Rama IV, V, and VI established their rainy season retreats here. Each built a palace respectively named Phranakhonkhiri (Kao Wang), Phraramrajanivet (Wang Ban Puen), Phrarajnivesmarugadayawan.
Story: Montinee Yongvikool
Translate: Chuensumon Dhamanitayakul
- 27 february 2012
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