Fruit & Vegetable Carving 101

Lotus blossom carved out of a plum tomato

As I discussed earlier, food in Thailand is very important. There's an artisan sensibility about it. One night I splurged on a dinner at a lovely restaurant. Each dish came with a different garnish....chrysanthemums carved out of root vegetables, the most delicate leaves carved out of carrots, etc. It was so beautiful (see photo below).

One day, my cooking class kicked off with a lesson in vegetable carving. My only brag-worthy effort was a rose carved out of a plum tomato. Above, the instructor is demonstrating the method for carving a lotus blossom. It's extremely delicate work as you trim the interior around the cluster of seeds. I enjoyed this aspect of the class very much and when I learned I could schedule a private session, I booked it immediately.

My class was with Roong and she was an excellent instructor (see examples of her work here).

We started by carving a rose out of the flesh and rind of a watermelon. The knife is like an exacto knife with a long curved blade. I'd never seen anything like it and it took me a long time just to get the feel of how to use the knife properly. Adjusting the angle of the blade as you cut through the rind, I'd cut past the deep green exterior to reveal the pale rind and red flesh. First use a steep angle to make the petals thin, then point the blade differently to express the base of the petal as it gets thicker. Trim out the excess flesh to reveal the petals, being careful not to cut too far or you lop of the petal that you just cut.

Um, yeah. I did that.

"No worry," Noong assured me.

"We have Thai super glue."

She picked up the dislodged petal and put it back in its place, secured with a toothpick--which was cleverly concealed. Nice!

Concentrating on my cutting, she kept saying, "Be happy! Smile, be hap-py!" and she'd then break into a chorus of "Don't happy now."

I'm a long way from needing a kit like this, but I did send 3 knives home. I'm looking forward to playing with those....and keeping my Thai super glue handy!

(Above) Carvings from my private class: Roses made out of small, round watermelons (the watermelons in the US are larger and oblong shaped), white swans and leaves out of daikon radishes, and small swans out of plum tomatoes. Eyes are black peppercorns. Beaks are carved carrots or the tip off red chilis.

Chrysanthemum carved out of a root vegetable