The best part of my profession is that I get to go places and enjoy culinary delights from all over the world, in the garb of ‘opening my eyes’. But my recent trip to Penang in Malaysia (where I was judging the Asian Pastry Competition) made my eyes pop out in wonder. Wonderfood Museum in Penang, that opened in November last year, is a speciality museum that celebrates Penang’s huge variety cooking in particular and Malaysia’s culinary smorgasbord in general.
The museum is within an Art Deco building that dates to 1940s and that itself is an added charm. It is a feast for the eyes, literally and figuratively. Here are the three reasons that make the Wonderfood Museum an absolute must visit:
1. It is ultra-realistic
The Wonderfood Museum showcases the region’s culinary delights, but is a fine example of ultra realistic food replicas. Every item is so lifelike, they could easily have been picked up right off the woks in the best hawker stalls or restaurants in Penang.
The museum is the brainchild of Sean Lau, who is famous for making food replicas for restaurants. It was from Khoo Chooi Hooi, Malaysia’s prominent sculptor that Sean initially learnt the craft, which he later honed with food replication techniques from China and Japan. Sean uses multiple materials to make food replicas appear even more realistic, so much so, that it tempts you to actually take a bite! Visitors can pose beside massive models of Penang delicacies such as cendol, laksa, curry mee, rojak, char kuey teow and many others. The Wonderfood Museum also explores the surreal aspects of food. How would you appreciate food if you are colour blind, and your whole world is in black and white? What if food no longer come in the colours you are familiar with? There are exhibits that show you.
2. It is all-encompassing
The museum is divided into three galleries called Info Zone, Wow Zone, and Educational Zone. The Wow Zone, that has many giant replicas in the food section, is the most popular. But what is truly amazing is how it showcases the cuisines from the three predominant cultures in Malaysia – Malay, Chinese and Indian. And within those displays, there is a mix of street food, traditional food cooked in homes and fine dining.
3. It is educative
Do you know how many teaspoons of sugar is found in the food you consume? Or what negative impact the food choices of humans can have on the environment? Within the Education Zone, there are several displays that will educate you. I was particularly moved by the display of a table that’s scattered with models of bloodied sharks to highlight the inhuman process of producing shark fin soup.
Trust me, make that pilgrimage to this museum where food is truly art and art is food! The only negative – all that feast for the eyes leaves you feeling really hungry!
Text and images by Chef Neha Lakhani
Trained at Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Neha Lakhani brings fresh and innovative culinary skills to the art of baking inspired by classic training and world travels. Chef Neha is consulting at Lavaash Deli, a restaurant that has Armenian influences. Neha is a member of the Indian Culinary Forum, the Penang Chefs Association, Saudi Arabian Chef’s Table Circle and also Indian Federation of Chefs Association (IFCA). One can catch a glimpse of her life and her love for food through her social media platforms and Youtube channel where she loves to showcase her classic creations and the magic that she makes at her Patisserie Royale.