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Look But Don’t Bite – China’s Mouthwatering Stone Food Banquets

Petrified pasta, juicy braised pork, rocky dried fruits and many other delicious-looking dishes are all part of China’s rare stone food banquets. The spread is nice to look at, but trying to sneak a bite will cost you a few teeth.

People in the mountainous regions of China know how to appreciate beautiful rocks, and some spend their whole lives gathering different kinds of rocks, scouring specialized stone shops and trekking through rugged mountain passes and desserts in search of unique additions to their collections. Strangely shaped or colored rocks are considered a feast for the eyes, and stones that resemble food are considered even more wonderful. It takes a lot of time and luck to find naturally shaped pieces of carnelian or jade that look good enough to eat, but dedicated stone collectors have proven it’s possible, on a number of occasions. Organizing stone food banquets is a long-standing Chinese tradition, and even in modern times it manages to draw media attention and keep stone collecting popular.

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Latest Fake in China – Concrete-Filled Walnuts

China has long had a reputation for making counterfeit goods, but the practice in recent years the practice has been getting really extreme. After news reports of fake eggs and fake beek made of pork, it seems concrete-filled walnuts are the latest invention of ingenious Chinese food counterfeiters.

There’s a set of photos making the rounds on the Internet these days, but even though they recently went viral, they were actually released a year ago. They show a bunch of normal-looking walnuts that when cracked open reveal a very hard filling – concrete pebbles. According to Ministry of Tofu, these fake walnuts were bought by a certain Mr. Li, last February, from a street vendor in Zhengzou, Henan province. When he got home and started cracking them, he noticed that instead of a meaty seed, many were actually filled with concrete pebbles wrapped in tissue. But Li’s case is not an isolated one. Apparently, many Chinese walnut vendors try to maximize their profits by carefully cracking open the hard shell, taking out the nutmeat, replacing it with concrete and tissue so it doesn’t make a strange noise, and gluing it shut. This way they can sell the nuts and the seeds separately.

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Japan’s Mouth-Watering Plastic Food Displays

Fancy menus may be enough for most restaurant diners around the world, but not in Japan. Here, image is everything and before going in for a bite, people want to see exactly what the food they want to order looks like. That’s where Japan’s realistic plastic food displays come into play…

Japanese fake food models can be traced back to 1917, but it wasn’t until 1926 that a restaurant owner decided to use them in a glass casing, to attract more customers. His idea was a big hit and people flocked to his venue hoping to get a serving of the delicious meals displayed outside. Soon, other restaurants followed his example and fake food display making became a lucrative business. In 1932, Iwasaki Ryuzo set up up a company that made and sold fake foods to restaurants and today it’s Japan’s top plastic food manufacturer. Business is very lucrative, as estimates show it produces revenues of billions of yen every year. For an entire menu, executed to perfection, luxury restaurants will pay up to one million yen.

In the old days, fake food models were made from wax. It was melted and pored into molds made from kanten (a seaweed jelly), but today manufacturers use silicon molds in which they pour liquid plastic and heat it up until it hardens. Modern materials and techniques apparently make the food considerably more realistic.  Restaurants send fake food makers the exact item they want replicated, along with photos. Silicon is poured around and over the disk and solidifies into a mold, which is then filled with liquid plastic and cooked in an oven. Then comes the really hard part – getting the details right. Oil based paints, regular brushes, air brushes, knives and carving tools are all part of fake food artist’s arsenal, but they all keep their techniques a secret.

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