The Exquisite Art of Food Carving

Just like Thai cuisine, Chinese cooking is also well-known for its delicate food carving techniques. Not only restaurant chefs but also ordinary households are fond of decorating dishes with the art of food sculpture. While the Thai chefs usually have their designs carved with floral patterns, chefs in China specialize in carving figures of animals, fairy and mythical characters. Vegetables such as melons, carrots, Chinese radishes, taros and pumpkins are frequently used, of which the melon carving technique is especially well known. Chefs usually take out the pulp of a melon, carve exquisite patterns on the melon’s skin, and then use the melon as a container. The dish features a refreshing, sweet and cool taste.

The purpose of fruit and vegetable carving is to make food more attractive, more appetizing, and also easier to eat. The accomplished homemaker welcomes her guests with fruit carefully pared, seeded, and perhaps cut into bite-size slices depending on the type. Vegetables are first delicately carved, then cooked, and finally arranged attractively to decorate the dish which they are part of. Needless to say, guests are greatly pleased to be honored with such a gracious welcome, displaying as it does the good feelings and willing hospitality of the maker. 

Decorating fresh, well-formed, and colorful fruits and vegetables through artistic carving is by no means difficult; all it takes is concentration. Starting out, there is no need for special carving knives; one sharp-pointed knife is enough to carve fruits and vegetables beautifully. The knife, however, must be sharp at all times, and so you should always have a small whetstone nearby.

Before Carving 

1. Before carving, fruits and vegetables must be washed and cleaned thoroughly.

2. Use knives with stainless steel or bronze blades. Knives with ordinary steel blades will cause discoloration of fruits and vegetables.

3. Do not carve excessively so as to avoid waste and loss of nutritional value.

4. Vegetables chosen for carving should be appropriate to the dish in which they are to be used, and they should be vegetables which are resistant to wilting, such as carrots and Chinese radishes.

5. Care must be exercised during carving so as to avoid bruising fruit and vegetables.

Simple White Lotus Cucumber Garnish 

1 long cucumber and 1 carrot
Sharp pointed knife and carving knife

1. Wash the cucumbers. Cut into 3 sections.

2. Divide the circumference of each into 8 equal parts and then make cuts about 3mm deep between each part down the length of the section.

3. Slice beneath each part down the length almost to the base to separate it from the flesh, thus forming the 8 outer petals.

4. Trim the flesh to remove ridges and then divide into 8 parts as before to make the inner ring of petals. These should be centered between those of the outer ring.

5. Remove the core of the cucumber, trim each petal so it tapers to a point, and then insert the center of the flower.

6. For the center, use 1/4" thick disk cut from a small carrot. Cut small grooves in a crisscross pattern on one face, and place up in the lotus flower.