If you’ve ever spent any time in Japan, you’ve probably been to at least one restaurant whose front window is full of surprisingly realistic food samples. In fact, they’re realistic enough that if you’re jet-lagged and starving, like my first day in Osaka, you too may have wondered, “How do they keep the food from rotting and smelling?!” Obviously, the “samples” aren’t samples of food but wax replicas made to look as delicious (or maybe even more delicious) than the food served inside.
But where do those food samples comes from? Well, there are a variety of shops that make them — both for restaurants and people who just love replica food. But at Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya, you can make your own! We recently headed to Asakusa and created several of our own food samples. Join us after the jump to read about how we made lettuce and tempura food samples, and watch a video of the whole creation process!
▼ Looking and touching are fine, but don’t try to eat it!
All of the images you’re about to see are completely real…and completely inedible. As someone who has a bit of a sweet tooth, this shop is like walking into the greatest candy store ever…without even a dime.
▼ Nope, still not edible.
The items on display on the first floor are made for anyone to walk in and buy. Even if you’re not a restaurant owner, you can grab a few for home or office decorations. We recommend not staring at them too close to lunch time though – it will drive you mad. The products aren’t exactly cheap but they are high quality and everything in the shop is made by hand.
▼ With the exchange rate, this magnet set would cost about US$31.60.
There is a wide variety of food replicas available including:
▼ Ice cream!
▼ Pasta and pizza!
▼ And some Japanese dishes.
Many of these items, including the drinks, ice cream, pasta and Japanese dishes, are actually kits that you can make yourself at home. If you enjoy desserts and crafts, we definitely recommend adding Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya to your list of destinations. Each of the kits is grouped by difficulty, so even if you’re all thumbs, you can still find something fun to do at home.
▼ Shaved ice kits
But shopping wasn’t all we came to do! We also got a chance to make some food samples ourselves – and you can too! The shop’s second floor is dedicated to providing the chance to make samples, usually tempura and lettuce. They emphasize that if you don’t speak Japanese, you’ll need to bring someone to translate for you as the process does involve hot wax and you definitely don’t want to misunderstand the instructions and burn yourself.
Making the tempura samples and the lettuce samples are both similar and yet very different processes. To make the tempura samples, you’ll actually start with a pre-made wax core, like the one pictured above and below. There are a variety of choices, and we selected the shrimp and green peppers.
Once you have your “core” for the tempura, you’ll use the melted yellow wax pictured below to make the surrounding batter. The green and white wax are for making lettuce replicas.
But rather than pouring the wax directly on the core, you actually pour it onto the warm water in the photo below! By zigzagging it back and forth, it creates a surprisingly realistic wax breading that you then wrap around the core before plunging it into a cool water bath to solidify everything.
Making the lettuce is a bit more complicated, but also a bit more fun, since everything is made by hand! First, the white wax is poured onto the water to form the core, and then the green wax is poured onto the water and stretched out to form the “leaves.” The entire process is a bit more complicated than that, though, so we highly recommend you watch the video we took of the whole process. It’s almost magical to see how the melted wax turns into something you really want to eat!
Here are the samples we made! On the left are lettuce and shrimp tempura and on the right are lettuce and green pepper tempura.
The company that runs Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya has actually been producing food samples for restaurants for many decades, using a wide variety of techniques. The process is far from easy, and everything they sell to restaurants is made by hand, though they do use molds for certain parts of the process.
▼ After this mold is used to shape a “hamburger patty,” it is painted to look like…
▼ …this! (Obviously, the cheese is added separately.)
The store has a variety of food samples available, some taking slightly unusual forms! For example, you can get a light switch cover that looks like a slice of toast…
…or learn to count with plates of food! We’re not sure if this is a great way to teach kindergarten kids one to 11 or if it would just result in a group of kids with terribly upset stomachs…
▼ This was my personal favorite display though.
There are three showrooms in Tokyo where you can buy their delicious-looking samples and try making your own. We visited the location on Asakusa’s Kappabashi Dougu Street, which is famous for a multitude of kitchen supply stores.
All photos © RocketNews24