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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.

Don’t miss The Last Tea Bowl Thief!

“I don’t know when I’ve been more caught up in a story. A masterful achievement.”—Terry Shames, award-winning author of An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock

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!

15 thoughts on “Make Your Own Plastic Food…At Home! Leave a comment

  1. Hilarious…. Not sure what I enjoyed more, the actual fact you can buy this stuff or your running comentary of how you did it. Can’t wait to visit in November.. Cheers 🙂

    • Ooo, you’re going to Japan in November? LUCKY! That’s such a great time of year! Is it your first time, or are you a veteran Japan-goer? What’s the thing you’re most looking forward to doing this time?

      • First timer, sooooo excited already..
        My friends are going to China but I didn’t want to go to China anywhere near as much as Japan so I’m doing it alone (quite ok about that). I just want to saturate all my senses in a huge crazy city with an alien culture. I’ve watched 100 Japanese dramas and 1000 youtube vids on Tokyo so have a huge desire to just go see… ya know?
        I live in a tiny little town North of Brisbane Aus so Tokyo is just screaming at me to go explore. I want to see the Shrines and the shops and the cat cafes and the robot cafes and the gardens and galleries and ride the bullet train and people watch.. I could go on… and on… 🙂
        Cheers 🙂
        PS Is there anywhere I should see that perhaps isn’t in the travel guides?

  2. OMG, you are going to have so much fun! I’m actually so envious that you’ll be seeing it all for the first time. SO ENVIOUS! In May I spent a few days in Tokyo with someone who did exactly as you’re doing (she was even from Brisbane, how weird is that?) and she had a blast. If you haven’t already been over to The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had (http://jonellepatrick.com), check that out a little, as it’s all the places I take my friends when they come to Tokyo. My friend did a few things that aren’t on the website, (like being dressed as a geisha, then having pro photos taken – they were amazing!), so if you want to do something like that, I can find out from her how to do it. I wish I was going to be in Tokyo in November, because it sounds like you want to do all the stuff I like to do & I’d offer to show you stuff myself, but sadly I have to be back in San Francisco then. ( ; _ ; ) But if you’ve got specific questions about which shrine/temple is best, etc. I’d be really happy to point you in the right direction!

  3. OMG…. your guide is brilliant. Thank you for taking the time to put all that info online for us ‘newbies ‘ I am making myself a little book to take so I don’t have to keep using the computer every 5 mins when I’m there, so I will read all of your suggestions and take notes. I have 17 days to fill and I plan to use every second to explore. I have a talent for getting lost so will try and avoid wasting too much time looking for the train stations.
    Very weird you encountered another Aussie from Brisbane doing Tokyo by herself. Small world after all. .. But encouraging to know I’m not the only one crazy enough to just do it, 😀yay.
    I’m very touched that you would offer to show me around if in Tokyo at the same time, how very kind of you! I will bug you tho when I need assistance trying to work out which shrine is best to see so I don’t have to see them all….
    I bought Nightshade to have a look at and thought I’d keep it for the plane but made the mistake of reading the first few pages, now of course, I have to know what happens so it won’t keep till the end of the week let alone till November! Love the inclusion of the photos, what a great idea.
    I also like the idea of getting dressed up for photos but at 6 foot tall and fuller figure I don’t think anything in Japan is going to come close.😕 I expect to be taller than the vast majority of the population ( and I’m the short one in my family ).
    well, time to go explore your guide.
    Thanks again
    Cheers, Janice 😊

    • You are a traveler after my own heart – getting lost is the best way to see Tokyo! Wandering around the backstreets, I always see something interesting. (And there are subway stations every few blocks, so even if you don’t manage to make your way back to the one you arrived at, you can always get where you’re going!)

      I love how excited you are about seeing everything (don’t hesitate to come back and ask me, if you want more recommendations!) I love meeting other people who see an open door and just walk through it. You’ve cheered me up so much with your enthusiasm for seeing Japan, if you end up liking Nightshade, go over to my Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/JonellePatrickAuthor) and send me your email by the Contact Me button, and I’ll send you Fallen Angel, the next one in the series. That way, you won’t have to save Nightshade for the plane! (^O^☆♪

  4. You ROCK!!
    I’ve filled half my notebook with places from your site, this is exactly the info I was seeking, yay you!!.. I simply cannot wait for the next 16 weeks to go by so I can just go do it… I’ve even done a dummy run with my new suitcase to see if the clothing I want to take all fits! I don’t like taking a lot..
    I am really enjoying Nightshade, and I admit I don’t usually read detective novels but am completely sucked in now (bonus being the added Japan interest written in)..
    Will visit Facebook, thank you for the link 🙂 You really are too kind.. Arigatou….
    Janice
    PS: A jellyfish and shark bar, can Tokyo get any funkier? And it’s only minutes walking from the Hotel I’m staying at.. I just cannot stop smiling…. My face aches.

    • The aching is good training for when you’re actually there – I never stopped smiling for a week the first time I went! Looking forward to connecting with you through my FB page too! ^_^

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