Curiosity for all things culinary new took me to meet Khun Chum, a dreadlocked man from Songkhla, one of Thailand‘s southern provinces. The meeting place was idyllic Ao Nam Mao beach, one of the many corners of Krabi where to enjoy peace and tranquility, great sunsets and a 180 degrees view over the limestone islands that dot the Andaman Sea. It is on this stretch of clear sandy beach that I meet Khun Chum on a sunny January morning to find out about his unique Coconut Smoked Squids…
Khun Chum, with his thick beard, colourful sarong, tattoos and dark skin, looks like a pirate. He lives in a bungalow on the beach and makes his smoked squids right here, in paradise, with his 2 kids running around in complete safety, and friends coming to visit him regularly.
But let me tell you about the squids. Khun Chum first pierces them through their skin with a hook, then hangs them one by one inside the smokehouse (which he build by himself with bamboo, contributing to the squid final flavour) with a precision and skill you may think he has been doing this for ages. Well, this is not the case: Khun Chum is a professional videographer and works in busy Bangkok. Due to the disruption in cinematographic activities during the Covid times, he has been forced to reinvent himself. But this is the big advantage of the Thai people: they are like chameleons and they can adapt to any situation that may arise.
He then prepares the BBQ stove using coconut husks. Once the fire is out, it is time for the magic ingredient, one that gives these squids a unique flavour once you cook them. And what would that be? Coconut flakes. Yes! He sprinkles them on top of the red hot coal inside the smoking house, and we can immediately smell the distinctive aroma.
He then places the stove inside the smokehouse, where the huge squids have been hanging in neat rows. And after only a few minutes, the squid start dropping their juices and releasing an amazing aroma. Apparently Khun Chum is the only one in the south of Thailand to prepare this speciality, and this is reflected on the sales: kilos and kilos of smoked squid, properly stored in air-tight, sealed plastic bags, posted to Bangkok and to all over the country!
He buys squids from any local fisherman willing or able to sell. Depending on the season, the squids are either available daily, or hard to find, in which case Khun Chum calls some of his contacts (mainly friends) from neighbouring beaches or islands like Koh Lanta or Koh Jum, to find out who could be selling their catch.
The smoking process for these 45 big squids hanging from hooks and dripping their water, becoming dry in consistence and golden in appearance, lasts about 4 hours, after which he waits until they cool off and places them in plastic packs weighting 1 kg, air-tight, and sends them off at the local post office to clients in Bangkok and beyond.
Khun Chum main ways of marketing are word of mouth and Facebook, where most of the orders come from. And can you guess what name he has given to this new venture? Pirates of the Andaman.
An hour has passed and Khun Chum regularly opens the smokehouse door to check the squids, make sure that the stove is still hot and add coconut flakes if needed. The squids are dripping off their water and getting a unique colour thanks to the coconut. Squids from Khun Chum range in size from 300g to about 2kg, but reduce in weight by 25% after smoking.
Khun Chum takes me to the beach to admire the view, the tranquil bay on the Andaman Sea, the various islands, the fishermen boats, the palms and local trees. Nature is here to provide, and Khun Chum can spend time with his family and in the nature, a change that has had a very positive effect on him and on his kids.
Watch a video of the squids smoking HERE.
If you want to order, check on https://www.facebook.com/piratesofandaman Khun Chum delivers to any country.
We leave Khun Chum and Ao Nam Mao bay with great memories to take back home, and of course, 1 kg of smoked squids!