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Make Your Own Plastic Food!

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.

Everything starts with pots of colored fake food mix.

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!

If you’d like to visit Kappabashi Street  or make a reservation to make your own plastic food the next time you’re in Tokyo, directions and maps are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

Don’t miss The Last Tea Bowl Thief!

Absolute page-turner…the different storylines slowly converge in a profoundly satisfying way”—Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird

In modern-day Tokyo, Robin Swann’s life has sputtered to a stop. She’s stuck in a dead-end job testing antiquities for an auction house, but her true love is poetry, not…read more

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

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!

21 thoughts on “Make Your Own Plastic Food! Leave a comment

  1. What a great day that was! However i put my model in my suit case when returning to the uk and it fell apart!! The tempura was fine tho but everything else crumbled away~

  2. Hi Jonelle – have just discovered your blog and love it! Where did you go to make the fake food I have heard about it but don’t know where to go – Kapppabashi somewhere/ any details would be great.

    • Thanks for the kind words! It makes me so happy to meet other people who love Japan! As for the plastic food making, yes, it was at a shop in Kappabashi. This time it was all arranged for us by my Japanese school, but the place does seem to be set up to do this kind of thing. If you read Japanese, here is their website:

      http://www.ganso-sample.com/shop/kappabashi/experience.html

      If you don’t, in the next two weeks I’ll be finding out about the cost, whether there is a minimum/maximum number of people required, whether it’s okay if you don’t speak Japanese, etc. because I want to arrange a session for another group I’m in. As soon as I know more, I’ll post the details here!

      • Hi,
        We’re actually in Tokyo and your blog is a great source of information !
        Do you have news concerning this workshop because it seems really fun and interesting but we don’t speak Japanese…

      • Oh, I’m so envious that you’re there right now! I’m coming back on Friday, but I’m missing all this beautiful snow!

        Here’s what I would do if I were you: have someone at the front desk of your hotel call the number on the Ganso website and make arrangements for you to join one of the workshops. (Or, if you’re staying with friends who live there, surely they are a Japanese speaker or know someone who could do this for you?) My impression is that nobody there speaks English, but when you’re actually in the workshop, it doesn’t matter. They demonstrate how to do everything, and you just copy what they do. It’s just the reservation-making that requires Japanese communication skills.

        I hope you get a chance to do this, because it’s really fun! Come back and tell me if you end up doing it! (p.s. I don’t know how you found your way to this blog, but I also have one that’s called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had, with all the stuff I love to do there, plus directions. It’s at jonellepatrick.com) FWIW!

      • You are quite welcome!! I dont always reply but I do read.

        I’ll make more of an effort to reply from now on. ^_^

  3. There are many ears (and eyes) into this big black hole, so keep on “shouting (and writing) 😉

    Great posts and pictures! Good job!

    • Thank you, thank you! I’ve had to cut back a bit because I’m behind on writing my third book (please don’t mention the word deadline AIEEEE!) but I’m trying to keep it up every other day. Hearing that you enjoy it really made me smile! Arigato!

  4. Hi Jonelle,

    I can use google translate to make reservation, but my husband and I speak almost no japanese. Will that be a problem in the class? Will they kick us out for not speaking japanese? (because of safety issue, etc)?

    • My impression is that this has become quite a good business for them, and that a lot of their workshop customers are foreigners. When you make the reservation, if they don’t tell you that you need to speak Japanese, I’d assume it’s perfectly fine. They definitely won’t kick you out when you show up at the appointed time!

      You’ve also reminded me that I need to write a blog post about this shop’s newest products: do-it-yourself kits for making your own plastic food at home! I would have snapped up a bunch of these as gifts for my own Japan-challenged friends and relatives, except I noticed that all the instructions are in Japanese, so I’d have to translate them first. (><) Still, kind of fun, and I want to try one and see if you can figure out how to do it if you don't read Japanese…

      Good luck, and I hope you get to take the workshop and enjoy it!^^;;

      • Thanks for the reply, I will try to call them first and if they don’t speak English, I will ask someone else to call for me then:) We will just show up and see how it goes!
        The DIY kit sounds so cool, please do a blog post about it!

      • I’ve got an update for you!

        I stopped by the Ganso shop yesterday to pick up a couple of the DIY kits to write blog posts about, and asked them if it was OK for non-Japanese speakers to take the workshop. They said yes, as long as you had someone who spoke Japanese to translate the instructions for you. (BTW, this is exactly the answer I expected, so don’t despair!)

        When I took the class, my Japanese was much sketchier than it is today, but that didn’t matter one bit: everything you need to know, you can learn by watching, and that’s exactly what I did. There isn’t actually anything dangerous about making plastic food – yes, it’s done in a hot water bath, but it’s not even that hot – the reason I was wearing gloves is that they were worried my sparkly gel nails were in danger (HA! so not true, but you pick your battles, so I just meekly put them on.)

        So I’d suggest that when you call to make the reservation, you claim that the person you’re coming with can speak Japanese (there will not be a test!) and just go and have fun! Alternatively, you can visit the shop and pick up one of the kits – it turns out that they have English instructions for every kit, and they’ll pop into the box at no extra charge.(^O^☆♪

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