Thailand's Spectacular Fruit Carving Tradition

A carved watermelon
A carved watermelon | AnnaER/Pixabay
Kyle Hulme

With its sumptuous combinations of flavours, colours and textures, it’s not a stretch to say that Thai cuisine constitutes a work of art. However, when it comes to Thai fruits, they’re quite often transformed into a literal piece of art — here’s more about it.

Edible art

Looks good enough to eat

Known in Thai as kae sa luk, fruit carving is an art form that requires extreme dedication to learn the craft, carve the food perfectly and intricately, and obviously not to eat it as you’re going along. From shaping tomato skin into roses and turning cucumbers into flower petals, as well as transforming an apple into a swan, it’s an unmistakably Thai tradition that’s as beautiful as it is delicious. Whilst most fruits can be shaped in this manner, one of the most popular fruits to use is a watermelon. Soft to work with and deep enough to allow a fair amount of detail, it’s common to walk into fancy restaurants and hotels and see watermelons turned into wonderful works of art. These often include layered flowers, three-dimensional roses, and whatever the artists can come up with.

Carving a slice of history

The carving of fruits and vegetables in Thailand isn’t a new phenomenon, but something that’s been happening for hundreds of years. The origins of the practice can be traced all the way back to the 14th century during the Sukhothai dynasty. However, rather than adorning breakfast buffets and restaurant tables, as in modern times, it was originally performed exclusively for royal families. Fruits were carved both for decorative purposes and for the food to look more appealing before it was eaten. Some tales attribute it to a royal servant looking to create a beautiful float for the Loy Krathong festival. Whilst the tradition’s popularity might have waned over the centuries, it’s not gone completely. Recent efforts to keep the art form alive might see it making a resurgence in the future.

The tradition today

Carving in action

Amid real risk of losing the art form forever, the government moved to introduce fruit carving in education. Available as an optional subject in some schools, there’s hope that one day the practice will again be as widespread as it once was.

Although it’s thought by some experts to be a difficult trade in which to earn a profit in today’s world, there will always be space for talented artists in this medium. Aside from food carving competitions occurring annually in the Land of Smiles, carved fruits are also popular items to donate in temples and to present at weddings.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article