Food carving


BY CchattyArticleChinese Culture
Release time:2018-01-29
Tag: Chinese Food
  •  593
  • 1
  • 0
Food carving has a long history of 2500 years in China, the cooks carve all kinds of vegetables into beautiful shapes through skilled knife work.
part 1

Food carving

Food carving - 6

Food carving is an old skill lasting a long time. According to the historical records, food carving had appeared in the Spring and Autumn Period (771 to 476 BC) “Guan Zhong 管仲” mentioned the picture carved on the egg. According to the record on “Notes in Gaily-painted Pleasure-boats of Yangzhou 扬州画舫录” in Qing Dynasty, the watermelon peels were used to engrave the figures and flowers, worms and fish. The works were called watermelon lamp. This watermelon lamp specific for appreciation had appeared on the banquets in Yangzhou City in Emperor Qianlong periods of Qing Dynasty. But there were few records with the making tools and process.


part 2

Food carving in Changchun City

Food carving in changchun city

During the Xianfeng Emperor (1831 – 1861 AD) of Qing Dynasty, because of severe drought or heavy waterlogging in Shandong region of China, some persons left their home and business at this time, rushing to northeast China, called as Brave the Journey to Northeast 闯关东. During this Brave the Journey to Northeast, they actually brought Shandong Cuisine to the Northeast China, and to Changchun city. As for the said Shandong Cuisine, there were a lot of very skillful people among those braving the journey to Northeast, some cooks opening the restaurant and some persons with high workmanship also came to Changchun city in Northeast China. The inheritance and development of this skill have a very deep connection with some folk customs on this land.

Any skill cannot sprout and take root on a ground without reason. Every inspiring work will surely have deep and rich contents. When the old skills for food carving sparked with natural humanistic custom unique in Changchun city, it is not strange for the group of carvings to leave a deep impression.


part 3

how to choose the materials

Food carving - how to choose the materials

While the cooks choose the materials by judging whether these melons, vegetables, and fruits have pure colors and dense textures. Originally, materials they used for carving were these melons, vegetables, and fruits that could not be more common. They choose the materials according to the appearance because this directly involves whether the works made of these materials have the best visual effect.


part 4

carving tools

Food carving - carving tools

There are 13 types of carving tools. Such hand knife is often used because we cannot carve anything without it. When we repair large carving and carve common horses, we will use this knife to achieve the detailed shape. For example, this watermelon flower is completed with this knife. This is a V-shaped stabbing knife, which is mainly used for carving the triangular seals and laces. Was the hair on the bird feather carved with this knife? This large round - mouth knife and U - shaped stabbing knife are mainly used for carving the God of longevity. Round forehead was knocked with it. 


part 5

the appearance of food carving and folk customs

Food carving - Large carving Flying 2

The appearance of food carving as the folk custom had something to do with the etiquette and custom of Northeast China. The so-called etiquette and custom mean that the wedding custom in Northeast China is very complex, particularly that of Manchu people.

For example, in the wedding custom of Man nationality, the third day after marriage is called the Day for Returning Home. In the Day for Returning Home, the couple cannot return home with hands empty and shall take this big box, which is elaborately made with a fruit plate, on which there shall be the very distinct style of being planted and inserted with dragon and Phoenix, which is called Getting Better and Better.

Any skill cannot sprout and take root on the ground without reason. Every inspiring work will surely have deep and rich contents. The old skills for food carving sparked with natural humanistic custom unique in Changchun city.


part 6

Clivia Miniata 君子兰

Food carving - Clivia Miniata

Clivia Miniata is the most familiar and favorite flower of the Changchun people. It is the city flower of Changchun. The delicate and charming bush lily is an artificial flower looking genuine. But it is rather than a pot of ordinary artificial flower. With vivid and lively decorations on these cold dishes, all these were meticulously carved by a group of cooks taking carving as the profession with high level food carving technology. When they are present on the table, the charm of delicious foods might fail.


part 7

Chrysanthemum Mushroom Tofu 菊花松茸豆腐

Food carving - Chrysanthemum Mushroom Tofu

The raw material for Steam Tofu with Mushroom was a piece of common boxed tender tofu. Under the knife of the cook, it was cut for more than 200 times. When this piece of tofu with the surface looked like the soil, it was put into waster. When the excessive part was carefully removed, it was amazing that a piece of coral – shaped tofu appeared, whose upper part was as fine as the hair, and the lower part was still complete.


part 8

Large carving: Flying

Food carving - Large carving Flying

The large group sculptures created by the cooks amounted to dozens of types, with various styles and the contents involving flowers, birds, fishes and worms, figures, water, and mountain. These carving works on this table were extremely beautiful. And even only to appreciate the pictures of these works would astonish people.

A large table capable of holding more than 40 persons with the diameter of 9.5 meters, the cooks are making final assembly and touchup for a large double-layered three-dimensional carving works. This group of large carving is called “Flying”, which consists of 34 horses symbolizing the administrative zones in China, and 56 peony flowers symbolizing Chinese nationalities. The implication wising the flying of our nation is self – evident. Such large carving works were all made by manual carving.

This group of large carvings named “Flying” is the works with the highest level, representing the food carving skills and fully reflecting superb skills and elaborate conception of the cooks. This group of works was made of more than 200 kilograms radish more than 150 kilograms pumpkin and Chinese wax gourd. Other would take more than 20 cooks more than 10 hours to complete the carving.

Food carving - the appearance of food carving and folk customs

What are the horses with different postures and the flowers with various colors are made of? The chef chooses the materials by judging whether these melons, vegetables, and fruits have pure colors and dense textures. Originally, materials they used for carving were these melons, vegetables, and fruits that could not be more common. They choose the materials according to the appearance because this directly involves whether the works made of these materials have the best visual effect.  

When the cooks prepared a group of new large carvings, these melons, vegetables, and fruits ordinary to every family would experience the change as if being born again in their hands. After a while, a small vivid child was carved out. Very quickly, a lifelike ginseng was shaped in a twinkle. Anything that can be imagined seemed to be easily created in their hands. This skill is called as the unique skill of Chinese cooks and is considered as the Pearl of the Oriental Food Art. When all parts had been carved, the chef started the final assembly. They finished the large works with the method of the assembly with scattered carvings. Firstly the raw materials were carved into parts, and they were assembled and spliced into an integral part. At this moment, it had been very difficult to imagine the original shape of every component.


part 9

Ginseng Child 人参娃

Food carving - Ginseng Child

In the primitive forest with the altitude of 1500 to 2000 meters. Changbai Mountain 长白山 incubates a wild ginseng which is a natural treasure hardly seen by people and No.1 of the Three Treasures in Northeast China. It is extremely difficult to collect wild ginseng. There are many beautiful legends about it.

Rich natural produces, and resources in Changchun city have provided the inspiration and materials for large food carvings in Changchun city. Because ginseng is rich in Changchun city, it has a fable story called “Ginseng Child”, where the image of ginseng was completely in the form of the child. So when talking about Changchun city, it relied on ginseng child on the one hand. None of the ginseng fruit, ginseng, and ginseng child can lack in the group of large carvings.

But only these are far from enough for the group of carvings. With good materials, we also need good workmanship. Ginseng tails are made float up, with the floating sense, where every small defect cannot be ignored. For cooks, any imperfection of the detail cannot be tolerated.

Food carving is more than a plastic art for beautifying the banquet and illuminating the ambiance. With regard to the matching of the foods, it can better manifest its unique places, and complex workmanship for the assembly with individual carvings has very high requirements for the percentage of various positions. The assembly also raised very high requirements for overall structure and shaping capability of the cooks. When the group today carving was finally put on the table, to enable the sitting guests to have the perfect experience when they appreciated the carvings at a short distance while they enjoyed the delicious foods, they have been meticulous to carve the lively veins in the positive and negative sides of the leaf.


part 10

All in All

Food carving - all in all

This old and young skill for food carving has attracted many youngsters. Only with good emotion, the moving works could be carved.