Trend alert: Museums are cropping up in China singularly devoted to cuisine and culinary heritage. All hail the food museum!

Chef and English food-writer Fuchsia Dunlop reports on the cuisine museum in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, which has hundreds of life-sized painted plastic models of mouth-watering food on display.

The cuisine museum in the eastern city of Hangzhou is one of a growing number of food museums in China, but it’s probably the most magnificent,” writes Dunlop.

Photo: Hi Center

Visitors look at lifelike artificial dishes displayed at the Hangzhou Cuisine Museum. (Photo: Hi Center)

Other marvels on display at the Hangzhou cuisine museum include:

  • Replicas of Buddhist vegetarian dishes
  • Snacks eaten by canal-dwellers in the Middle Ages
  • The delicate sweet pastries made in Hangzhou during the Song Dynasty, 800 years ago.
  • A whole cabinet filled with different kinds of zongzi—the leaf-wrapped rice parcels eaten at the Dragon Boat Festival each spring, illustrating their historical evolution.
  • An entire exhibit devoted to the Qing Dynasty poet and gourmet Yuan Mei

Chef Hu Zhongying—who was put in charge of creating the museum—and his team spent two years researching historical Chinese dishes, and six months working with food technicians (the kind who make models of sushi for Japanese restaurants).

They cooked every recipe, photographed the dishes, and then used them to make moulds, which were cast and painted in lifelike detail.


If all of the shimmering, glorious Hangzhou food on display leaves you feeling hungry, not to worry—there’s a huge restaurant serving many of the classic dishes from the exhibition just beyond the galleries.

Dunlop concludes her visit to the museum with a revelation about China’s thriving food culture:

By the time I reach the rotating Man-Han banquet, I am feeling awestruck, yet again, at the brilliance of Chinese food culture. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” I say to the Chinese man standing next to me, as a suckling pig glides past. “Yes,” he says. “You Westerners just eat sandwiches, hamburgers and that kind of thing. We’re a little more particular about our food.” Normally, when Chinese people make this kind of remark, I am fierce in my defence of European cuisines. But somehow, faced with this dazzling pageant of gastronomy from the last eight centuries, I feel I am on shaky ground. For once, I just shut up.

Photo: BBC News

Photo: BBC News

[via BBC News]