Last week I jumped at the chance to visit a place that makes fake food models for Japanese restaurants and learn the secrets of making tempura and lettuce!
Making fake lettuce is so much easier than making real lettuce. No need to acquire the superpower to create life, no need to construct a carefully balanced ecosystem to grow it in. All you need is hot water, some time-honored techniques, and a few pots of food-model batter.
To make your own lettuce, you use the green and white mixes.
First float a strip of white on top of the water bath, then ladle on a swath of green. Grab the front edge, and carefully begin to submerge it.
As you pull the sheet under, crinkle it between your thumbs and forefingers. When it’s all lettuce-y, begin crumpling it up from the white end.
When you’ve got it patted into a nice ball, cut it open and see if you’re qualified to move on to tempura!
Making tempura requires a different technique. Start with a paper cup of yellow fake food mix and a couple of basic food cores. Dribble the yellow mix into the hot water from about two feet up, making a wiggly puddle about the right size to wrap your piece of “food” in.
When it’s spread out nicely to the right size, swoosh it into the water with the “food” you’re wrapping and pinch it into shape.
No 5-hour kitchen clean-up! No Measle Effect burns on your forearms! No ungrateful recipients comparing it unfavorably to the ebi ten shop down the block!
If you’d like to make a reservation to make your own plastic food models:
- Information is on the Ganso Shop website (Japanese only). The address is Nishi-Asakusa 3-7-6. Map is here.
- Call to make a reservation: 0120-17-1839 between 10:00 and 17:30 (Japanese only).
- It’s ¥1500 per person, with a group limit of twenty people at a time.
- Choose from start times of 11:00, 14:00 or 15:30. It takes about two hours. Check the reservation calendar for availability. White squares mean there are quite a few spots available that day, yellow means only a few spots left, pink means they don’t offer classes on that day, blue means the shop is closed.
- Each person gets to make one piece of tempura and one head of lettuce.
- Instruction is in Japanese, so you either need to speak Japanese or bring your own translator.
And hey, if you want the experience of making plastic food without the workshop, here’s how you can make your own with the DIY kit version!
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“Absolute page-turner…the different storylines slowly converge in a profoundly satisfying way”—Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!