Asian Cuisine: The Far Eastern Art of Preparing Appetizing Food

October 19, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
A hearty Sausage Platter garnished with decorative tomato roses (Verena N./
A hearty Sausage Platter garnished with decorative tomato roses (Verena N./

People make much to-do about the advantages of Asian cuisine for health and well-being, emphasizing the shorter cooking times.

Less well publicized is the cuisine's fondness to detail in food presentation. Indulging oneself with taste and visual pleasure play an important role during meals and presentation is celebrated all over Asia as a serious art form.

Though the majority of Asians have to work hard to earn enough for their daily bowl of rice and perhaps a condiment to go with it, plus an occasional morsel of meat, those who can afford the time and money do more: they take eating quite seriously and pay attention to satisfying the senses by presenting the food in attractive ways.

This is especially so in upscale Asian restaurants the world over. Japanese cuisine is well known for food presentation. The feast is for the eyes also, so the cook places particular emphasis on arrangement and color. It might be worth your while to try this yourself, with simple techniques that do not require special tools or foreknowledge.

Affirming the Beauty of Deliciously Prepared Food

The professional Japanese chef has specific ways and means to serve fruit as dessert, preserving the natural forms and highlighting a dish's esthetics. To garnish a steaming bowl of noodles with bright green rings of spring onion (scallion) represents a declaration of love to the natural ingredients in a meal. To harmoniously integrate the mixture of textures, colors and flavors in one meal is part of the philosophy of Asian cuisine: crunchy and soft, spicy and mild, chewy and meltingly tender.

High cuisine in Thailand and Vietnam and China concentrates on the artful presentation of a meal, but usually only at formal occasions, or in those households that are wealthy enough to afford a professional chef.

Some of the decorations amount to works of art:  radish carved into ornaments or animals, magically transforming vegetables or fruit into blossoms, accenting fish balls with kefir lime leaves so they appear to be alive, having whole melons looking like Ming Dynasty vases that actually hold soups.

It is fairly easy to try a few simple food decoration tricks with your own family—time and inclination permitting—though in these hard economic times it is important to make the entire decor actually edible, to avoid wasting money and resources.

Try Carrot Curls:

1 potato peeler, preferably nice and sharp
1 carrot.
ice cubes
cold water
a bowl

Peel the carrot well, and then use the peeler to slice long, thin strips from the carrot. Wrap each strip around your finger into a loop and fasten it with a toothpick. Place into a bowl of ice water and let sit for a couple of hours. When ready to decorate the food, remove the carrots, drain and dry, remove the toothpicks and place the curls attractively around the food.

For the tomato rose (as shown in the picture), the process is simple:

Take a firm tomato; peel it horizontally around the fruit, discarding the liquid and seeds, ending up with a strip. Wrap this strip around your finger and place it onto the platter to be decorated, maneuvering the coil into place to resemble a "rose."

To Make a Butterfly From Fruit:

1 potato peeler
1 fruit knife
1 kiwi fruit

Peel the kiwi skin, and then slice the fruit. Now cut the slices into butterfly shapes. The result is very appetizing, and decorative.

Try it—you might like it. Small children especially like their vitamins presented this way.

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