Take a leaf

Photos courtesy of Bangkok Post

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Read the following story by Karnjana Karnjanatawe from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.

When a dry leaf sheath of betel falls to the ground, it is hard and tough – some would say worthless.


Sumalee Phinyo sees it otherwise. For more than 20 years, she has been turning the leaves into disposable dishes that are environmentally friendly and biodegradable. Sumalee, 58, is a pioneer in producing kab mak (betel palm leaf sheath) food containers in Thailand.

Her project kicked off by accident when she looked at the brown betel nut leaf sheaths scattered around her family’s plantation in Sung Noen district in Nakhon Ratchasima while having lunch from a polystyrene container. Looking at the dry leaf sheaths, an idea popped into her head. She wondered if she could make a food box out of them.

“At that time, I was looking for a creative solution to replace the foam food containers that were used in our Kin Khao Kham [the annual light and sound event] in Sung Noen,” she said.


In 1993, Sung Noen District Office hosted the first three-day light and sound show to promote the Khmer stone sanctuary Prasat Muang Khaek as a major attraction, after the ancient site was renovated by the archaeological team of the Fine Arts Department in 1990.

The event consisted of traditional dances, performances and local food. As a council member of Sung Noen Municipality Office, Sumalee has been in charge of food since the event started. During the first year, she prepared foam food containers for all guests.

“Although the containers were cheap and easy to prepare, they didn’t fit in with the concept of the event which focused on tradition and history. I felt bad when I saw the piles of foam containers littered everywhere after the show,” she said.


In 1994, she used ceramic plates. But some dishes were lost or broken. The following year, she tried serving the food in fresh banana leaf containers. But these were easily torn and the sizes were inconsistent. People complained about the inconvenience and the small food portions.

Sumalee kept experimenting. When she saw the dry betel nut leaves, she decided to try and make dishes out of them. She asked her husband, a mechanic in a military unit, to create a mould based on the size of a foam food container.

It worked. After the leaf sheath was hot pressed in the mould, it turned out to be a durable brown container with a mild fragrance and the box did not lose its shape when used. She showed her work to the district office chief. After getting the green light, she mass-produced her first kab mak plates for the fourth year of the Kin Khao Kham event. She produced about 10,000 plates for the show.

“Normally guests love the performances and food, but that year many people paid attention to my plates. When they discovered that the dishes were made of dry betel palm leaf sheaths, they were amazed. That that made me proud,” she said.

She has produced the leaf sheath plates, which some prefer to call “betel palm leaf plates” for the event every year since.

Section 1

Read through the story and answer the following multiple-choice questions.

1. What is the article about?

a. A traditional festival.
b. A type of local food.
c. Plates.

2. How old is Sumalee Phinyo?

a. 33 years old.
b. 58 years old.
c. 85 years old.

3. Where is her family’s plantation located?

a. In Nakhon Ratchasima.
b. In Nakhon Sri Thammarat.
c. In Nakhon Sawan.

4. The Kin Khao Kham festival has been going on for how long?

a. 28 years.
b. 25 years.
c. 22 years.

5. When did the Department of Fine Arts renovate Prasat Muang Khaek?

a. In 1990.
b. In 1993.
c. In 1996.

6. Which of the following statements is TRUE, according to the article?

a. Sumalee has been producing kab mak for more than three decades.
b. Sumalee started the production of kab mak containers in Thailand.
c. Sumalee has been making the leaf sheath plates since 1993.
7. Which of the following statements is NOT true, according to the article?

a. The leaf sheath plates are also called banana leaf plates.
b. Prasat Muang Khaek is a tourist destination.
c. Sumalee is a council member of Sung Noen Municipality Office.

Section 2

Underline one grammatically incorrect word in each of the following sentences. Then, write down the grammatically correct word in the space given.

8. It was very difficult to finding funding.


9. Sumalee final received a seven-million baht loan from the bank.


10. Thailand have plenty of natural resources.


11. We don’t have to invest millions of baht in building waste management plant.


12. Everybody can take part on reducing waste.


13. Local authorities also wants to promote the kab mak plate business.


Section 3

Read the following passage. Then, fill in the blanks with the correct words from the choices given.

At the time, she did not think about making the disposable plates for …..14….. purposes. An opportunity came when the government …..15….. the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) programme in 2001 to promote local products and as a means of adding value …..16….. home-grown handicrafts. The Sung Noen Municipality Office asked …..17….. to submit the betel palm leaf sheath plate to be …..18….. because of …..19….. uniqueness.


a. commerce 
b. commercially 
c. commercial


a. announces 
b. announce  
c. announced


a. to  
b. from   
c. inside


a. she  
b. her   
c. hers


a. certify  
b. certifying  
c. certified


a. its   
b. it’s   
c. it

Section 4

Write down the noun forms of the following words used in the story in the space given.

20. prepared


21. proud


22. create


23. local


24. replace



Section 1

1. c.
2. b.
3. a.
4. b.
5. a.
6. b.
7. a.

Section 2

8. finding; find
9. final; finally
10. have; has
11. plant; plants
12. on; in
13. wants; want

Section 3

14. c.
15. c.
16. a.
17. b.
18. c.
19. a.

Section 4

20. Preparation.
21. Pride.
22. Creation.
23. Locale/locality.
24. Replacement.


21-24: Excellent!
17-20: Good.
13-16: Fair.
12 or fewer: You’ll do better next time!

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