The History of Thai Fruit and Vegetable Carving
The story of fruit and vegetable carving begins about 700 years ago in Sukothai, the capital of the Tai people, in what is now the north of central Thailand. Sukothai was the capital of the region from 1240 - 1350. In preparation for one of their major festivals, Loi Kratong, one of the King’s servants, called Nang Noppamart, tried to think how she could make her Kratong more beautiful, in order to please the king. She took a flower and used it as a pattern to carve from. She then carved a bird and set it with its head pointing towards the flower. Loi Kratong is still celebrated today and Sukothai is one of the best places in Thailand to experience it.
Fruit and vegetable carving is also mentioned in the poetry of King Rama 2 who reigned from 1808-1824. He wrote about the beauty of Thai desserts and fruit and vegetable carving.
After the revolution in 1932 fruit and vegetable carving became less popular. Those worried about the art disappearing set up a course to train people to teach the art to everyone in Thailand. Today it is taught from the age of 11 in primary schools through secondary school and on to university where it is an optional subject. The art is now being passed to foreign people and is being practised around the world. It is particularly popular with chefs who use it to improve the presentation of their food.
Everyone can now enjoy this amazing art in hotels, cruise liners, in every Thai restaurant around the world and on the internet. Everyday more and more people are discovering with disbelief and amazement the beauty of this Thai art thanks to the imagination of Nang Noppamart all those years ago.
Sources: Fruit and vegetable carving by Nidda Hongwiwut and Eyewitness Travel Guides - Thailand