Small wonders: the Vietnamese artist making tiny food

HANOI : Squinting in concentration, Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thi Ha An drops a bright red chilli onto a bowl of pho noodles barely bigger than a coin — the finishing touch to a miniature clay model that has eaten up days of her time.

A tiny clay model of a ‘banh mi’ sandwich created by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thi Ha An. AFP

An –a 28-year-old architecture graduate – began crafting food miniatures a year ago, spotting a chance to capitalise on the world’s growing love of Vietnamese cuisine.

This photograph taken on August 18, 2020 shows miniature artist Nguyen Thi Ha An working at her studio in Hanoi. — AFP pic
This photograph taken on August 18, 2020 shows miniature artist Nguyen Thi Ha An working at her studio in Hanoi. — AFP pic

“Each Vietnamese dish has its specific beauty,“ she says, using tweezers to softly lay a scallion beside a “banh mi” sandwich.

“I want the models to help people see that.”

Tiny clay models of Vietnamese dishes created by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thi Ha An. Photo: AFP

Less globally well-known dishes such as sweet rice dessert “che com” are also on the menu at An’s Hanoi studio.

But the classics get plenty of attention, with An modelling tiny bottles of chilli sauce and pickled garlic to accompany her bowls of pho.

“Each model comes with its own difficulty,“ she tells AFP.

This photograph taken August 18, 2020 shows a plate of banh mi at an eatery in Hanoi. — AFP pic
This photograph taken August 18, 2020 shows a plate of banh mi at an eatery in Hanoi. — AFP pic

“The bowls have to be very clean and neat, while we must show the lines on a scallion to convey its texture.”

An’s assistant, 21-year-old Nguyen Ngan Ha, agrees their work must be “meticulous at every stage”.

“People must be able to believe this is real food,“ she says.

Miniature artist Nguyen Thi Ha An holding her creation ‘Pho Ha Noi’ at her studio in Hanoi. — AFP pic
Miniature artist Nguyen Thi Ha An holding her creation ‘Pho Ha Noi’ at her studio in Hanoi. — AFP pic

Ninety percent clay and 10 percent liquid plastic, the models can take up to five days each to make, and An sells them for up to $80.

She also plans to expand the business to beverages — including Vietnamese coffee and beer — as they are served at a traditional open-air “bia hoi” bar.

And although she has given up a potentially more stable career in architecture to pursue this niche craft, she believes she made the right choice.

Artist Nguyen Thi Ha An holds one of her miniature food models. Photo: AFP

“I really want to make my work the best that it can be,“ she says.

“And I want to help more people see the beauty of Vietnamese culture.” – AFP

AFP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s