A Feast for the Eyes

Thai cuisine involves the balancing of contrasting flavours, spicy and subtle, sweet and sharp. It is also concerned with aesthetic values, for the Thais believe that food should please the eye as well as the palate. This of course is in keeping with traditional Ayurvedic principles.

One particularly delightful aspect of Thai cuisine and the reflection of a more leisured age is the art of carving fruit and vegetables. This is a traditional craft which is still popular.

fruit and vegie carvings:

I took a wander around some of the restaurants in the Bangkok hotel I was staying at, not to eat, but to photograph some of the amazing fruit and vegetable sculpture that is always a centrepoint in any Thai banquet.

Fruit and vegie carvings up close:

Notice the beautiful melon, radish, cucumber and carrot carvings. I was not able to identify the yellow fruit/vegetable. I think it is a local gourd/pumpkin.

In the fruit carver’s skilled hands and using a small and very sharp pointed knife, an ordinary papaya or pumpkin is turned into a bouquet of flowers, a radish becomes a tiny rabbit or daisy or a carrot a rare orchid. Almost any kind of fruit or vegetable can be used. The carver must understand the texture of each and use its natural colour to imitate that of the chosen subject.

more intricate carvings:

Not all the carvings are as small as a flower; a large round watermelon becomes a richly decorated and lidded bowl to be used as a container for fruit salad. The green outer skin is cut away to make a pattern in relief of flowers or even characters in Thai literature.

Thai sweets:

Here’s a selection of Thai sweets, once again all beautifully presented. Ingredients like corn, coconut milk, glutinous rice flour, pandanus, palm sugar, fresh coconut, and tapioca are used, and wrapped in tiny strips of banana leaf. I didn’t taste them – being unsure of the actual ingredients, and being in a hurry to catch my onward flight – but I thought you’d like to see them.

Thai sweets up close:

Notice the famous tiny sweets in the centre that are made and hand-painted with edible food colouring to look like miniature fruits. A feast for the eyes!
Posted by Kurma on 29/6/06; 11:46:56 PM

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