Land Of A Thousand Smiles

Remember my meeting with Sunisa from Chicken Up Cholesterol Down post? Well, we were discussing Zaza’s (short for Sunisa) passion for Fruit and Vegetable Carving. I was intrigued by this ancient art and Zaza graciously agreed to arrange a session for me to witness her hobby in the comfort of Lana’s home where we would also partake authentic Thai dishes for lunch prepared by Lana herself! The genuine hospitality of the Thais is so generous and infectious, the country is nicknamed as Land of A Thousand Smiles!

The origins of fruit and vegetable carving are disputed with many believing it to have derived from Sukothai, Thailand 700 years ago, still others believe that this craft began in the time of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906) and the Sung Dynasty (AD 960-1279) in China. Or perhaps Japan is the root of this ancient art of fruit and vegetable carving, called Mukimono?

Regardless the way this art originated, it is now known and practiced worldwide. You can see them flaunted in many Asian restaurants, especially those offering Thai cuisine. You will also find them displayed in common food festivals, significant culinary events, at the buffet stations of hotels and cruises, etc… etc…

The most interesting story of the origin of this ancient art has to be from Thailand where the art of fruit and vegetable carving began about 700 years ago when Sukothai was the capital of the region from 1240 – 1350. In preparation for one of Thailand’s major festivals, Loi Kratong, Nang Noppamart (one of the palace servants) desired to make her Kratong more beautiful in order to please King Phra Ruang. She used a flower as a pattern to fashion after and further carved a bird, set it with its head pointing towards the flower. The king was so pleased and impressed by the beauty and grace of her handicraft that he decreed every women should learn this art. Loi Kratong is still celebrated today and Sukothai is one of the best places in Thailand to experience it.

King Rama the second, who reigned from 1808-1824, penned about the beauty of Thai desserts in his poem which also mentioned fruit and vegetable carving. However, 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 (I’m not sure if they still do that). In the mid twentieth century, the art was passed to foreign cultures and is currently practised around the world, particularly popular with chefs who use it to improve the presentation of their food.

The products of fruit and vegetable carving are generally flowers and birds and the only limitation is one’s imagination. The techniques of fruit and vegetable carvings vary from individual to individual as does the final result, to present simple or complicated, realistic and artistic details of beautiful shapes. While these creations are often used as garnishings or centrepieces, they are also used as props for flower arrangements.

Without further adieu, let me introduce you Zaza, my talented Thai friend! I hope you enjoy her amazing art on today’s post. Thank you, Zaza, for your time and kind contribution to Bonding Tool’s blog 🙂

Zaza commencing her carving for today's post.

Zaza commencing her carving for today’s post.

Let's take a closer look.

Let’s take a closer look.

In the gallery below, Zaza created something beautiful with a plain piece of white radish using only a small blade. Click on the first photo for sequential view and commentary.

Realistic intricate carvings need time and that can test a person's patience.

Realistic intricate carvings need time and that can test a person’s patience.

Zaza not only carves out of fruits and vegetables, soap is also a medium she likes to work on.

Zaza not only carves out of fruits and vegetables, soap is another medium she likes to work on.

Zaza also works on bigger fruits like papayas, cantaloupes, honeydews, pumpkins and watermelons.

Zaza also works on bigger fruits like papayas, cantaloupes, honeydews, pumpkins and watermelons.

Apples, beetroots, carrots and cucumbers are some of her favourite canvasses.

Apples, beetroots, carrots and cucumbers are some of her favourite canvasses.

Isn't this a pretty sight?

Isn’t this a pretty sight?

Zaza has stayed true to this hobby for 10 years now. She's just passionate about it.

Zaza has stayed true to this hobby for 10 years now. She’s just passionate about it!

These two flowers were carved on the spot right before my eyes and in quick time too!

These two flowers were carved on the spot right before my eyes and in quick time too!

I asked Zaza, "Where's your template, any blueprint?"

I asked Zaza, “Where’s your template, any blueprint, sketches…?”

To which she humbly replied, "It's all in my mind's eye."

To which she humbly replied, “It’s all in my mind’s eye.”

Zara's white roses displayed textured petals that were very realistic. Truly the work of an artisan.

Zara’s white roses displayed textured petals that were very realistic. Truly the work of an artisan.

And Zaza presents to each and everyone of you reading this - her gift of beauty in a pure white rose. She has seen wonder in something "normal" and brought it to its fullest potential.

And Zaza presents to each and everyone of you reading this – her gift of beauty in a pure white rose. She has seen wonder in something “normal” and brought it to its fullest potential. She had changed and dorn on her Thai costume at my request and did a video showing live carving but alas, my fault. I had filmed it in portrait frame and could not upload it. I’ll see if I could do something and post it up later. Sorry folks, my bad 😦

It's alright if you haven't been to Thailand. You have just witnessed 1000 smiles in this lovely face of Zaza.

It’s alright if you haven’t been to Thailand. You have just witnessed 1000 smiles in this kind and lovely face of Zaza.

Background: Zaza is married to Billy Lyons, an expatriate, and has been living in Singapore for several years now. She spends her time teaching (part-time) fruit and vegetable carving as well as volunteering in many charitable (non-profit) events held in Singapore. Zaza spend at least 3 hours a week practising her skill like true artisans devoted to their craft. Billy happily “complained” about the amount of fruits he had to pay for each month. Zaza has a humble, jovial and unpretentious personality which allows people to like her instantaneously.

Happy Sunday 🙂

Here’s a sneak preview to my lunch at Lana’s. Watch out for Lana’s kind contribution of an authentic Thai recipe in my next post!

Can you guess what we had for lunch last Friday?

Can you guess what we had for lunch last Friday?

Comments
12 Responses to “Land Of A Thousand Smiles”
  1. Sofia says:

    Oh wow I’ve always wondered how they make those beautiful carvings on the food. Thank you for this post.

  2. Be Well And Happy says:

    So beautiful….. an artform in itself…..Three minutes?? I’m sure it would take me all day…

  3. Suphannee Kingkaeo says:

    So beautiful carvings on the food from her. Now I learn from her being carved. Thanks for all the beautiful pictures.

    • Sam Han says:

      Hi Suphannee, thanks for visiting! Sunisa is a wonderful person to work with and I am very happy to be able to be able to do a post on her art. I am glad you enjoy her classes and I’m sure the other students share your enthusiasm. You can watch a video of her carving here http://bit.ly/12FmQOm I hope you’ll enjoy it 😀

  4. Angela Low says:

    Hi! Does she have a website or facebook? I’d like to know when I can see her in carving workshops!

  5. Samantha says:

    Hi, is she still living in Singapore? I would like to enquire about her services for a Health Fair in our company.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.