Japanese Factory Makes Plastic Food That Looks Tantalizingly Real

Mar 15, 2016 By Archit Tripathi

I'll admit that when it comes to food, I can be a little snobby sometimes. It's not that I only want caviar and champagne, because I'll totally get down on a well-made bowl of Ramen noodles too. I'm a snob in the sense that my food has to be made right and ideally it has to be made using good ingredients. If I make sloppy joes, I'm the kinda guy that'll get really high-quality ground beef and add my own special blend of carefully selected seasonings. One of the things that I always look for when I'm food shopping is buying things that are organic and all-natural. I don't like fake, processed food. It tastes gross and my body honestly disagrees with it. Imitation cheese product? No thanks, I'll pay a few extra dollars for some real Wisconsin cheddar (would that be cheddar for cheddar? You decide!).

Ask me about "fake" food and I could launch into a long diatribe about its evils and the policy changes we need to enact to fix it. There is, however, one type of fake food that I have a genuine admiration for - the plastic display dishes used in many Asian restaurants to show customers what the dish looks like. These plastic replicas are everywhere in Japan, and have also spread to China and Korea. Here in the U.S., you may have seen them one of these establishments in your neighborhood (my local Taiwanese place has them). 

These fake display foods are known as "sampuru" in Japan, which is just a local pronunciation of the English word, "sample." While they were once made from wax, these days plastic is the most commonly used material. Food artists take great pains to ensure authenticity, and many of the "ingredients" in a dish are even chopped and combined the same way as they would if they were real items of food. Each dish is even tailored to the restaurant which ordered it, with even common items like ramen being customized to match that specific restaurant's dish. The fake food industry in Japan is fairly lucrative too - recreating an individual restaurant's full menu can cost around 1 million yen (roughly $9,000). 

H/T: Great Big Story

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