In 2014, a Youtube channel by the name ‘Miniature Space’ paved the way for a fanatical trend of miniature food to emerge in Japan. It entranced people with a series of videos capturing the makings of a variety of miniature meals and dishes prepared with tiny utensils.
Ranging from edible works to models made of clay and plastic, today, miniature food is a phenomenon in itself with enthusiasts across the world taking the craft to a hyper-realistic accuracy that one can’t help but be fascinated with.
There are higher chances of one coming across miniature sushi spreads, or pancakes and burgers on the Internet.
But have you ever seen a miniature plate of chicken biriyani or appam stew?
Now you have!
And wait, there are more.
All of the above-showcased Indian dishes are the handiwork of Shilpa Mitha, a former sound engineer based in Chennai whose miniature food range Sueño Souvenir are nothing less of a visual treat to the eyes.
Every single miniature piece is painstakingly crafted out of clay by Shilpa, a task in which she is assisted by her mother, who kneads and rolls the clay for the dishes. The story behind how the miniaturist in Shilpa came to being is in fact quite amusing.
What had begun as an unlikely pursuit of making a pair of burger earrings for herself seven years ago opened the doors to a very interesting career.
By the time, the first ever pair of burgers took shape in 2011, Shilpa was already hooked on to miniature food art and wanted to explore further.
Though references to cuisines across the world were in plenty, she could hardly find anything on the diverse Indian platters.
Thus miniature biriyanis, masala dosas, appam stew, paneer tikkas and dahi puri made a mouth-watering entry alongside burgers, macarons and calamari.
With hands as creative and meticulous as Shilpa, one would wonder if clay modelling had been something that she had already known. “I was never into clay modelling. I used to enjoy these art classes in school, but that was all,” says Shilpa to The Better India.
Of every other thing that she could have chosen to create, it was her love for food that further propelled Shilpa towards food miniatures.
“Food is colourful with a lot of ingredients. Each one has its own texture and shades, and they look different with different methods of cooking. The plate is the canvas, and the food is art! So why not try to turn them into pieces of art that last longer than your meal time?” she explains.
Shortly after she began making fully-fledged food platters, she found great appreciation from friends and family members. This pushed her to make a Facebook page showcasing a variety of brilliantly handcrafted miniature Indian dishes.
Since then it has been a hectic time for Shilpa, who left her profession to dedicate all of her time to making the miniature pieces. These may be small in appearance, but the effort that goes behind their making is definitely not an easy task. Shilpa works close to 15 hours a day, which includes even weekends.
2016 proved to be a great year for Shilpa when posts about her work became viral and more people from across the world started reaching out for her souvenirs!
So how long does it take Shilpa to make one miniature dish on an average?
“The easiest one would take around 30 minutes, and the difficult ones take close to five days. But it’s all a step-by-step process and can’t be done at once. I have to create the base first, followed by the plate and banana leaf. Then comes the cups and finally the food and condiments. Each component will be of a different colour and texture so I’ll have to work on them individually,” she describes.
Shilpa finds great support from her family in her venture, which keeps her going. Calling real food her inspiration, she adds that if it looks pretty, then she definitely tries making a miniature of it.
You can check out more of her amazing miniatures on Facebook.