Big Gay Ice Cream’s founder Bryan Petroff visits Phuket for the first time to realize that it’s not all just sun and sand on Thailand’s infamous southern island.
Take one look at me and you’ll know I’m not a beach person. Even though I grew up in Florida, I tend to avoid things involving sand and salt water. Add to that anything close to a Spring Break atmosphere (circuit parties, drunk twenty-somethings) and I’m positively allergic. But the geography of Phuket island was too tantalizing to pass up.
Plus there’s the camp element of The Man With the Golden Gun being filmed there. I mean, they even have an island called James Bond Island. For all the “touristiness” of it though, it’s undeniably beautiful. It’s where mountains meet the sea and towering limestone stacks dot the beaches. Think of it as the beach version of the Zhangjiajie mountains in China that inspired “Avatar.”
Hiring guides was again my preferred mode of getting around. But this time I had a boat guide as well as a land guide. The land guide took me up to the more mountainous north part of the land (also the location of the rainforest), while the boat guide took me around the bay for some beautiful vantage points.
Just like my time in Northern Thailand, wildlife was a big focus here as well. Located in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, in the last stretch of Thailand’s rainforest, is the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project is a non-profit focused on the rehabilitation and release of endangered gibbons. You have to view them from afar, in their natural habitat – no photo-opps here! An added nearby bonus is Bang Pae, the island’s largest waterfall. (Side note: there are also a lot of macaques on the island, so keep an eye out for them in the more urban areas.)
Another highlight was the Phuket Aquarium. It wasn’t large, but since I’m not a scuba or snorkel guy, it was a nice way to see some marine life. It’s also the site of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, focused on the rehabilitation of sea turtles, dolphins and dugongs (a relative of the manatee). I’m always happy to support such places.
I wanted to go to the Thalang National Museum—focusing on the history of the area, mainly to learn more about Chan and Mook, but it was closed for renovations. (Apparently it had been closed for years, but finally reopened this year.) Instead I checked out their monument, a sculpture called Heroines’ Monument. Who were Chan and Mook? Two seriously kick-ass sisters. Than Phuying Chan was the widow of the governor of the area and Khun Mook her sister. Together they led about 500 other women in successfully averting a Burmese invasion in 1785.
The food on the island was “beach-appropriate,” heavy on fruit and seafood for obvious reasons. There were also Chinese and Malaysian influences, harking back to its trading post days.
Even if I’m not keen on beaches, I’m certainly not averse to tropical cocktails (whether or not I’m at the beach or poolside, although that certainly helps). So this week’s recipes are perfectly suited to be both desserts and boozy cocktails. The coconut-lime sorbet is a variation on a recipe from Andy Ricker’s most excellent cookbook, “Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand.” We definitely recommend adding it to your collection I’d you’re interested in exploring Thai cooking at home. Our Big Gay version of the infamous pineapple “Dole Whip” can be served frozen as ice cream or unfrozen as a smoothie. Dress up both with a topping of diced pineapple and mint, garnish with tropical fruit bark and don’t don’t forget the alcohol for the adults in the room!
Hugs, Bryan xo
This week’s Big Gay Ice Cream recipes are inspired by Bryan’s trip to Phuket
Pineapple “Dole Whip” (Big Gay Ice Cream version)
- 2c frozen diced pineapple
- 4oz pineapple juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- Zest of 1 lime (finely grated)
- 2tbsp honey
- 1tsp finely chopped mint or basil (optional)
- 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
Makes 1 quart
- Combine all ingredients except ice cream in a blender
- Blend together to create a “slurry”
Add ice cream; pulse until smooth
To serve as a smoothie, pour into bowls or glasses; serve immediately
Optional: add liquor!
Note: if you prefer a thicker, soft-serve-like consistency, put into a pastry bag or ziplock bag in the freezer until desired consistency, then squeeze into bowls in a swirling motion
Tropical Fruit Chocolate Bark
- 3 tbsp toasted shredded unsweetened coconut
- 6oz white chocolate morsels
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp chopped dried mango
- 2 tbsp chopped dried pineapple
- 1-2 tbsp chopped crystalline (candied) ginger
- Toast coconut in a dry pan over medium-low heat until golden brown; set aside to cool
- Line baking sheet with waxed paper
- Gently melt chocolate & olive oil over low heat in a small saucepan, stirring often; take care not to burn chocolate
- Pour chocolate mixture onto the waxed paper; spread around w a spatula to make an even thin layer
- Evenly sprinkle coconut, dried fruit & ginger onto the chocolate mixture
- Allow to cool & harden; break apart
Serve as a garnish, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator
- 1c sugar
- 1/2c water
- 4c unsweetened coconut cream
- Juice of 1 lime
- Zest of 1 lime (finely grated)
Makes 1 quart
- Combine sugar & water in a saucepan over medium heat
- Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally
- Cook until the sugar is completely dissolved & the mixture reaches 230°F on a candy thermometer
- Remove from heat & cool to room temperature
- Slowly add coconut cream, whisking continuously
- Cover & refrigerate overnight
- Immediately before churning whisk in the juice of one lime
- Churn according to manufacturer’s directions
- While transferring into freezable container gently fold in the lime zest
- Freeze covered for 4 hours before serving
More of Bryan and Doug’s Thailand adventure
Join Bryan as he discovers Thailand’s ancient, Northern city of Chiang Mai, from heartwarming grassroots projects to stunning natural wonders. He also shares two wonderful recipes inspired by the city.
Bryan heads to Bangkok and its grand outdoor market at Chatuchak to discover retail-therapy, Thai style.
This story will be posted on August 10th 2020.
Bryan heads to the Golden Triangle to meet its gentle giants.
This story will be posted on August 17th 2020.
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