Vegetable carving is the art of carving vegetables to form beautiful objects, such as flowers or birds. The origins of vegetable carving are disputed: some believe it to have begun in Japan in ancient times, others believe it to have begun in Sukothai, Thailand years ago, while still others believe that vegetable carving originated in the time of the Tang dynasty AD and the Song dynasty AD in China. Japan has also been referred to as the root of the art of fruit and vegetable carving, called Mukimono in Japanese.
According to the book "Japanese Garnishes, The Ancient Art of Mukimono" by Yukiko and Bob Haydok, Mukimono's origins began in ancient times when food was served on unglazed clay pottery.
These rough platters were covered with a leaf before the food was plated. Artistic chefs realized that the cutting or folding of the leaf in different ways created a more attractive presentation. Mukimono did not become popular until the sixteenth century, the Edo period, when Mukimono gained official recognition.
At this time, street artists created clever garnishes upon request. From these beginnings the art has developed into a very important part of every Japanese chef's training. Another popular theory of the history of vegetable and fruits carving is that it originates in Thailand. It started during the Loi Krathong festival in the 14th century. During Loi Krathong, rafts are individually decorated using many objects, including banana leaves and flowers. Nang carved a flower from a vegetable using a real flower as a pattern.
She carved a bird as well and set it beside the flower. Using these carvings, she created a raft that stood out above the rest. King Phra Ruang was impressed by the grace and beauty of the carving and decreed that every woman should learn this new art.
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As the centuries passed, enthusiasm for this art waxed and waned. In , King Rama II loved vegetable carving so much so that he wrote poetry about it. We started with a tomato, turning the peel into a delicate rose bloom and the fruit into an ethereal lotus flower. Next up was a daikon radish. Although it looks really intimidating, the watermelon is actually made with just three different triangular patterns.
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You start by creating small triangles at the top, then move on to single layer leaves, and finally to double layers. Each cut takes tons of practice and skill to do correctly, but once mastered, you have the ability to make so many different intricate carvings. The three-hour class flew by, between learning all of these new carving techniques, laughing at our initial attempts, and chatting about Thai food and photography.
It was such a wonderful experience, and I came away with a great appreciation for the incredible skill and concentration required to create Thai fruit carvings. For more information about Thai fruit carving, please see this article. Thailand is really awesome when fruit and vegetable carving is concern. I went there last june to take quick crash course for carving.
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Art of Fruit and Vegetable Carving in Thailand
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Fruits Carving Class
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