You look at what looks like a delicious dish. But the strange thing is that this “food” has no flavor, aroma or nutritional value. It will never spoil and does not need to be in the refrigerator. What are we talking about? In Japan replicas of food known as Tabemono no Sanpuru [食べ物のサンプル] and these replicas have the same size, shape and color as the real dish.
They range from traditional Japanese dishes to favorite Western dishes like pizza and hamburgers. There are also replicas of drinks, appetizers and desserts. The variety is huge! Some manufacturers of food samples even offer more than ten thousand different dishes.
Counterfeit and replica foods are used in a variety of ways, such as props for backgrounds in films, television programs, plays, television commercials, print ads, fairs, and in many other cases where real foods cannot be displayed. Another use is in consumer nutritional research and education. Another way to find these detailed samples is on toys and key chains. Even in these objects, modelers seek perfection in detail.
But its most well-known use is in Japanese restaurants. That's because plastic food looks real. Details like the crispy appearance of a chicken's skin, a slice of watermelon with its seeds, even the shine and sauce of the food are perfectly imitated. But how did plastic food become so popular in restaurants in Japan?
How did the food samples come about?
In the late 19th century, Japanese restaurants began to display their samples of foreign food. This way, people who passed in front of the restaurants could see what the food was like without having to enter. Of course, these samples attracted not only people, but also insects and animals. Food spoiled due to heat and humidity, so it was expensive to prepare these dishes every day to avoid sampling.
Over time, these food samples were replaced by replicas of painted wax. But wax had the great disadvantage of deteriorating in hot weather and was eventually replaced by vinyl plastics. This was finally a durable product, able to withstand heat and, at the same time, attract just the right type of customer.
What is done first is a mold of the food. To make a sandwich for example, each component needs to be shaped separately. After that, the process is the same as preparing a real sandwich. The items are placed on top of each other between the slices of bread.
Such food samples are displayed on windows or outside restaurants to show potential customers what is available on the restaurant's menu. Although less common than it used to be, plastic food models are still seen frequently in several restaurants in Japan.
You are most likely to be in doubt about what requires more skill - making a plastic imitation or preparing real food. If you pass a restaurant in Japan and see these delicious dishes in the window, remember the meticulous work that was done in their manufacture. These food samples are real art!
Finally, let's leave a video of our friend Santana: