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From the "Things I Didn't Know I Needed To Know" File: Making Japanese Wax Foods

Posted on 16 October 2015

Most folks even casually acquainted with Asian restaurants will recall the bafflingly realistic (if sometimes dusty) model foods often found in their windows and displays. These beautiful appetizing foods that you definitely can't eat are part of an interesting Japanese tradition and massive craft industry.

Having a permanent version of the treats on the menu seems to date back to early street food carts in larger cities like Tokyo, where a representative bowl or tray would lure walkers in to roost. Nowadays the decorative plates take artificial routes to their convincing goal, with plastic and wax pieces carefully formed and colored to convey maximal lifelike flavor. No food is too obscure or difficult to be turned into a permanent object - soups, sushi, drinks and deserts all get preserved. Sometimes the fake foods are poised mysteriously in mid-air, as though being slowly enjoyed by a ghost. Usually they're simple plates, with great texture and delicious glints that could almost fool you into thinking their steam and grease are fresh and waiting to satisfy you. 

How do they do it? It's a total art form. While mass produced plastic pieces are increasingly used, hand-formed models taken from casts of real foods are still prevalent. Most companies safeguard their methods fiercely, but here are some awesome examples of the process.

Do you suddenly want a filing cabinet full of beautifully sliced wax lemons? I do. 

There are even toysets allowing you to make your own useless foods. Which sounds like a cluttery nightmare of DIY toys beyond even Gundam scope, though it also sounds way more fun than playing with your run of the mill Playskool rubber foods.

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