This Toronto chef uses traditional Chinese food carving techniques to turn veggies into art

Young girl looks at radish carved in the shape of a dragon
A radish carved in the shape of a dragon in Qingdao, China
Photo: Hong Wu (Getty Images)

I’ve always found food sculpture to be the most whimsical of high art forms (hello, butter sculpture). But I had no idea about cultural implications of food sculpture, particularly as it pertains to Asian tradition. This morning, however, I read an article in the Toronto Star by immigration reporter Nicholas Keung, and it totally changed my outlook on carrot possibilities.

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The article introduces Franky Yeung Pui Kee, a Toronto-based master of the declining art of Chinese fruit and vegetable carving. In the piece, Keung describes how Yeung uses a paring knife to carve elaborate designs—ducks, dragons, smiling Buddhas, and that’s just for starters—from veggies like carrots and radishes. Keung reports that Yeung is one of the last remaining masters of traditional fruit and vegetable carving, an art form with centuries of history in Chinese culinary tradition.

The art form is beautiful and intricate, but Keung reports that it’s disappeared in restaurants in recent years. Good carving is understandably labor-intensive and may not help restaurants generate meaningful profits. (Yeung told the Star that he learned how to sculpt in the wee hours while juggling with other chores around the kitchen where he worked as a young man.) Still, that doesn’t stop people like Yeung; in 2019, NPR reported on several Asian-American food sculptors using the art form to connect with their cultural heritage, and 70-year-old Yeung doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

You can read the full article in the Star here.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

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Manic Otti

You can read the full article in the Star here.”

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