Although it’s been quiet on the blog front recently, some really neat things related to Thai food have been happening in real life. I’ve learned how to make a super delicious new salad, feasted on an absolutely outstanding khao man gai made by a friend, and done some fun Thai test kitchen experiments that I’ll fill you in on soon. However, my absolute favorite experience of recent was taking an introductory Thai fruit carving class!
The class was taught by Petcharee Tamawong-Benjamin, an amazingly talented woman who has been practicing the ancient art of Thai fruit carving for many years. In addition to having an impressive portfolio of some of the most intricately carved fruits and vegetables I’ve seen, she’s also an award-winning photographer, and a genuinely nice person to boot!
Our class started with a little history about this royal art form and an introduction to the agile, but very sharp knife used to create these spectacular pieces. Then it was time to get to work!
We started with a tomato, turning the peel into a delicate rose bloom and the fruit into an ethereal lotus flower. Neither of these tomato carvings required particularly difficult cuts or maneuvers to make, but as I quickly learned, mastery of simple cuts is what differentiates a beautiful fruit carving from something that looks like it’s been bruised, beaten, or gouged out!
Next up was a daikon radish. We sliced it into inch thick rounds and then made diagonal cuts to transform the pieces into cute little plumeria blossoms. This carving required slightly more skilled cuts than the tomato, as you had to angle the knife to scoop out more of the inner part of the radish than the outer to achieve a delicate flower petal. It took me a few attempts before I could create something that resembled a flower :)
These leaves make fantastic garnishes, especially when you use different apple varieties and combine them with other carvings like the tomato skin blossoms. They’re also great practice in making diagonal cuts, which came in handy for our next and final project…
Yes, we actually carved a watermelon in this beginning Thai fruit carving lesson! When Khun Petcharee set out the watermelon she had previously carved, I thought it was just for show, as in, “One day, if you practice hard enough, you’ll be able to create something like this!” But no, that was the model for our last carving of the day! I was so happy :)
Although it looks really intimidating, the watermelon is actually made with just three different triangular patterns. 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.
As soon as I got home, I went out and bought some more fruits and vegetables, excited to keep practicing until I’m good enough to take Khun Petcharee’s intermediate class!
For more information about Thai fruit carving, please see this article.
To buy your own Thai fruit carving knife set, click here.
For more information about Khun Petcharee Tamawong-Benjamin’s fruit carving classes, contact her at email@example.com.