Make Your Own Plastic Food…At Home!

DIYFakeFood1

Okay, as the self-diagnosed Queen of Fail when it comes to Japanese crafts (remember the “rabbit” from the animal lollipops workshop?), I was pretty sure that any fake food I made without the experts at the Make Your Own Plastic Food Workshop would look more like something from the compost bin than a reputable kitchen.

But so many people told me they were dying to try making their own food models (even though they were thwarted in signing up for the workshop because it’s only given in Japanese), I decided it was my bounden duty to take one for the team and test the English instructions in the kits, to see just how foolproof they really are.

Here’s what happened!

I chose two that were labeled at the lowest level of difficulty in the store. What could possibly go wrong?

I chose two that were labeled at the lowest level of difficulty in the store. What could possibly go wrong?

Thought I 'd start with the easiest looking one first. Here's what was in the box. The English instructions were actually EXCELLENT. I want to note that any failings you see from here on are due to a) my innate ineptitude or b) failing to follow the perfectly clear instructions written in my mother tongue.

Thought I ‘d start with the easiest looking one first. Here’s what was in the box. The English instructions were actually EXCELLENT. I want to note that any craft lameness you see from here on is due to a) my innate ineptitude or b) failing to follow the perfectly clear instructions written in my mother tongue.

Step One is to melt the plastic pouch of "beer" in a bowl of boiling water, but I discovered it melted perfectly well in hot tap water, and then I didn't have to use the recommended rubber gloves (which I had naturally failed to stock up on).

Step One is to melt the plastic pouch of “beer” in a bowl of boiling water, but I discovered it melted perfectly well in hot tap water, it just took a little longer. (That way, I didn’t have to use the rubber gloves I had naturally failed to stock up on).

Kneading the pouch just the right amount turns out to be key, if you want realistic bubbles in your beer. (By some lucky fluke, I managed to avoid overkneading, but there are handy instructions for how to salvage things if you get too excited and turn your beer into creepy yellow foam instead.)

Kneading the pouch just the right amount turns out to be key, if you want realistic bubbles in your beer. (By some lucky fluke, I managed to avoid overkneading, but there are handy instructions for how to salvage things if you get too excited and turn your beer into creepy yellow foam instead.)

Okay! Not bad! I did have to plop the bag back into new hot water halfway through the pouring process, because it cooled off a lot faster than I thought it would, and began to glop. The key thing with this stage is to make sure the top is totally level, as if it's a liquid.

Okay! Not bad! I did have to plop the bag back into new hot water halfway through the pouring process, because it cooled off a lot faster than I thought it would, and began to glop. The thing I didn’t do quite right at this stage was to make sure the top was totally level, so it looked like a proper liquid. That’s why my beer looks like it’s got some curious anti-gravity properties.

Now, melt the "foam."

Next, I melted the “foam.”

Hmm, not so easy. Even when I softened it up some more, it still sort of lumped onto the yellow part. Am pretty sure someone with more patience/better hand-eye could make this look more realistic without too much trouble, though.

Uh, not so easy. Even when I softened it up some more, it still sort of lumped onto the yellow part. Am pretty sure someone with more patience/better hand-eye could make this look more realistic without too much trouble, though.

So...mine kinda looks like beer with whipped cream on top. (Of course, weirder food concoctions have trended in Japan, so this little project could turn out to be a success after all, due to its excellent trolling potential...)

Hmm, mine kinda looks like beer with whipped cream on top. (Of course, weirder food concoctions have trended in Japan, so this little project could turn out to be a success after all, due to its excellent trolling potential…)

Okay, on to Round Two! Bloodied but unbowed, I tackle the bowl of ramen…

Here's what was in the box. Again, the English instructions were super, and any, uh, imperfections you may note in the finished product are totally mea culpa.

Here’s what was in the box. Again, the English instructions were super, and any, uh, imperfections you may note in the finished product are totally mea culpa.

Showing a singular lack of reading skill, I dropped the entire skein of "noodles" into the hot water at once, instead of doing them in five bundles as suggested. oops.

Showing a singular lack of reading skill, I dropped the entire skein of “noodles” into the hot water at once, instead of doing them in five bundles as suggested. oops.

Still, I thought my scrambling them around in five little bunches looked pretty damn good. I piled them up int he middle a bit, just as the pro tip suggested.

Still, I thought my scrambling them around in five little bunches looked pretty damn good. I piled them up in the middle a bit, just as the pro tip suggested.

Next, I softened up those next ingredients in my old friend, hot water.

Next, I softened up those next ingredients in my old friend, hot water.

Slavishly copied the package photo as closely as I could. You're supposed to anchor these guys with wax dripped from the two little birthday candles they include, but for those of us who are molten wax challenged, this was not really the most successful part of the process.

Slavishly copied the package photo as closely as I could. You’re supposed to anchor these guys with wax dripped from the two little birthday candles they include, but for those of us who are molten wax challenged, this was not really the most successful part of the process.

Finally, after melting the "soup" just like I did the "beer," the moment I'd been waiting for!

Finally, after melting the “soup” just like I did the “beer,” the moment I’d been waiting for!

Yikes, why was I overcome with a strange case of instruction blindness when it came to the all-important "knead well to be sure entire pouch is liquefied" directive? Behold the un-souplike flurp of fake broth.

Yikes, why was I overcome with a strange case of instruction blindness when it came to the all-important “knead well to be sure entire pouch is liquefied” directive? Behold the un-souplike flurp of fake broth.

Unsightly blob discarded and pouch remedially warmed, I poured on the rest, but fell a little short when it came to covering all the noodles. Damn. Maybe I SHOULD have gone with the Ramen Jello look and started a new career as an internet hoaxer...

Unsightly blob discarded and pouch remedially warmed, I poured on the rest, but fell a little short when it came to covering all the noodles. Damn. Maybe I SHOULD have gone with the Ramen Jello look and started a new career as an internet hoaxer…

But anyway – voilá! – here’s the final fake lunch:

Despite my native ineptitude, this doesn't look half bad! (From a distance. With no contacts. SHUT UP.)

Despite my native ineptitude, this doesn’t look half bad! (From a distance. Without your contacts. SHUT UP.)

In the end, I decided this wasn’t quite as much fun as going to the workshop – where we actually got to learn the techniques they use to make pieces of lettuce and tempura – but I’d give this two thumbs up in the gifting department. The kits aren’t cheap (they run about ¥1500-¥3000), but they’re definitely an excellent only-in-Japan find!

There was a pretty good selection of kits you could make – the drinks ranged from beer to melon soda floats with a cherry on top, and the food plates were a good mix of ramen to spaghetti.

There was a pretty good selection of kits you could buy. The drinks ranged from beer to melon soda floats with a cherry on top, and the food plates were a good mix of Japanese and Western foods, from ramen to spaghetti.

You can buy these DIY kits at the Ganso Shop on Kappabashi Street (be sure to ask them to put in the English instructions when you pay at the register). If you’d like to stock up on fake food kits the next time you’re in Tokyo, directions & a map are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

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