Too Small to Eat!

This miniature clay food is so life-like, it can make your tummy rumble!

Rituparna Roy

You can almost feel the crunch of the dosa and taste the drumstick in the sambar. Even the vada pav sitting with a fiery red chutney and fried green chillies make your tongue burn. While a pretty cupcake carousel with all things sweet give you an instant dessert craving. Have we got you drooling already? Hold on, you cannot eat this food.

Sueno Sounevir’s Instagram profile is all about miniature food. There’s a lot to (eat) see - tiny papadums about the size of a coin, mini burgers that can sit on the edge of your index finger, a plate of chicken biryani with condiments smaller than a choco-chip cookie and an Indore-special poha and jalebi wrapped in newspaper. While the textures are lifelike, the attention to detail is unreal.

Also read:

Poha and other items India likes to pair its much-loved jalebi with

Even while working as a sound engineer, miniature food artiste Shilpa Mitha enjoyed 3D paper quilling in her free time. When she decided to take a break from her job, it was time to move to a more versatile medium such as clay. Today, the self-taught artiste retails her creations in the form of magnets and collectibles.

So, how did food become the subject? “I was always fascinated by the south Indian festival that coincides with Navratri called Kolu. Looking at the miniature scenes of the dolls and figurines, I’d get super excited by the food elements in them,” says Mitha who soon started toying with the idea of creating tiny food. Although there were several artistes dabbling in international cuisines, she realised nobody was doing the same with Indian food. “Most people outside India ain’t familiar with anything beyond naan and curries. The purpose of my art is to showcase our food to the world,” she adds.

The English breakfast spread at Sueno Souvenir

Each and every piece goes through a laborious process. Once the dish is decided, Mitha’s research involves studying the recipe as well as the ingredient list. She also collects multiple pictures of the dish to understand it better. “I start with the basic shape of the key ingredient and then build from that,” says the Chennai-based artiste. Her paraphernalia includes clay, colours, glue and pointed tools to shape the figures. A final coat of varnish not only makes them water resistant but also gives the required glaze on meats, fish et al.

This may not be real food, but Mitha takes every care to make them look close to life. That it requires several years of practice is evident. Even the minutest of seasoning, for instance a curd rice that Mitha created stands out for the microscopic mustard seeds and curry leaves. “It's always challenging to make rice because volume is crucial and I need a lot of it to fill a tiny space. And for biryani, I have to consider the different shades of rice. Even making the curry leaves can be tedious as they hang on precision,” she says adding that rice dishes take almost five days to complete.

While there are mini chocolate tarts, Kerala-style fish fry, cute little
idlis, luscious palak paneer and elaborate sadyas, it is the miniature dosas that her fans cannot seem to get over with. “I have been making dosas for several years and they still remain the bestseller. You can say it’s my favourite dish to create,” smiles Mitha adding she receives requests from her followers in the US, UK, Australia and even Taiwan.

Also read: LF's ultimate guide to sadyas

Shilpa Mitha will be conducting a miniature food workshop in Mumbai on August 25 at Magazine Street Kitchen. Details are on Instagram @suenosouvenir


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