Wonderfood Museum Penang (GPS: 5.41632, 100.34117) is a specialty museum celebrating Malaysia's food heritage and in particular, Penang's dazzling array of street and local home cooking. It is housed at 49 Beach Street, an Art Deco building from the 1940s that is sandwiched between the Ban Hin Lee Bank Building and the Tiger Balm Building. The building was formerly occupied by one of the campuses of Wawasan Open University, which vacated the premises in March 2015.
Me with a giant ice kacang at Wonderfood Museum Penang (25 November, 2015)
Here I am with Mr Sean Lau (left), the principal owner of Wonderfood Museum Penang (25 November, 2015)
Not only is it a showcase of Penang's culinary delights, the Wonderfood Museum Penang is also a celebration of the art of making ultra realistic food replicas. To say the least, it's a metaphorical feast for the eyes, and not a place to visit on an empty stomach. Every item is so lifelike, they could have come from the best hawker stall and restaurant kitchen in penang.
It is not an accident that the museum is the brainchild of Sean Lau. Sean is after all the person in the business of making food replicas for restaurants. Sean was introduced to me by Penang's imminent sculptor Khoo Chooi Hooi, whose work I have followed for over ten years and whom I consider one of Penang's true living treasures. Sean had turned to Chooi Hooi for guidance and mentoring when he was mastering the art of sculpturing food replicas, and it was from Chooi Hooi that Sean learned some of the techniques. Of these, he further improves upon, fusing his body of knowledge with existing food replication techniques from countries like Japan. And it was Chooi Hooi who contacted me and got me in touch with Sean Lau, so that this brilliant work could be exposed to all on Penang Travel Tips.
Sean is aware that the Japanese has a long tradition in making food replicas. He learned everything he could from their techniques, and then he pushes the envelop further. According to him, the Japanese usually makes use of only a single type of material to create their replicas. However, to make food replicas appear even more alive, Sean's team of replica artisans use various materials in combination. The effect is magic you wish you could bite into!
As you enter the museum, you move from one gallery to another, where you get to admire a plethora of local food. On one wall, in almost clinical fashion, is an array of Malaysia's street food. These are presented life size, as though they have been brought to you right from the stalls. And on the next wall, you see an ostentatious platter of yong tau foo.
Chee Cheong Fun Seller, Wonderfood Museum Penang (15 May, 2016)
Life-size replica of the nasi lemak with kuih and teh tarik to go. All's fake! (25 November, 2015)
Enjoying a meal at a mamak warung. (25 November, 2015)
The centrepiece of this gallery is the array of Nyonya food. There is so much to feast your eyes on. There is sambal petai, curries, Nyonya kueh, prawns in soya sauce, fresh fruits, served in the best Nyonya porcelain.
A feast of Nyonya food. (25 November, 2015)
And this is not the only grand display. As I make my way into the museum, I come upon more and more such glorious displays of fake food, all done so realistically you would wish they are edible. Just look at this gorgeous array of nasi kandar dishes.
Trays of nasi kandar dishes for you to feast (your eyes) on. (25 November, 2015)
The Wonderfood Museum has the most magnificent phoonchoy ("dish in a basin"), with other Chinese favourites arrayed around it. There's the yeesang, the tau sah pneah, the kueh enee, the tau tay, and so much more!
A magnificent Chinese feast. (25 November, 2015)
Next we spread out the mat for a kenduri of Muslim fare. There is nasi briyani, satay, lemang, pulut inti, ketupat and satay sauce.
A magnificent Chinese feast. (25 November, 2015)
And how could Malaysian food be complete without also checking out Indian cuisine. And it's another major feast, of muruku, curries, papadam, samosas, putus, butter milk, and shockingly sweet candies.
Colourful and tasty Indian treats. (25 November, 2015)
Sinfully sweet Indian candies - only that none is edible (25 November, 2015)
The Wonderfood Museum also explores food in surrealism. 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? Wonder no further, this museum will show you.
Food as seen by the colour blind. (25 November, 2015)
When food colours go mad. (25 November, 2015)
Perhaps the favourite gallery for visitors to the Wonderfood Museum Penang is the Gallery of Giant Food. In this gallery, everything becomes larger than life. There's a towering cendol, and many huge bowls of Penang's most famous hawker food.
Here I am with Wonderfood Museum's towering cendol. (25 November, 2015)
Giant size Penang laksa. (25 November, 2015)
In addition to the giant food displays, the museum also has a few props which you can use to pose, as though you are making teh tarik or frying mee.
Here I am making teh tarik. (25 November, 2015)
I'm a cong1phor3 frying mee! (25 November, 2015)
And for those among us with the wallet to splurge, Penang also offers the best in fine dining. The museum offers a display of the ultimate in fine dining, with goldleaf encased food.
Fine dining at Wonderfood Museum Penang. (25 November, 2015)
My wife and I with "all that rich food" of the Wonderfoom Museum Penang (25 November, 2015)
Finally, while we enjoy our affair with food, let us be mindful of the impact some of our food habits may have on the environment and on wildlife. Do we continue consuming sharkfin soup made with real sharkfin knowing the brutal waste we are supporting?
Remember what goes on to make sharkfin soup (25 November, 2015)
Remembering those that go without. (25 November, 2015)
There is so much to see in the Wonderfood Museum Penang, I have only covered the tip of the iceberg. The coverage of local food is as complete as I could ever wish it to be.
Wonderfood Mona Lisa
Wonderfood Mona Lisa (9 December, 2015)
Is this food or is it art? At the Wonderfood Museum Penang, food becomes art and art is food.
The Wonderfood Museum Penang is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission fee is RM25 per adult and RM15 per child. Holders of MyKad enter at RM15 and MyKid at RM10.
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9 December, 2015: My wife and I paid a visit to Wonderfood Museum Penang and was received by the owner Sean Lau. It was my wife's first visit to the museum and my second, and I still had such a wonderful time there.
Wonderfood Museum Penang (9 December, 2015)
Putu mayong that looks so real, you wish you could take a bite! (9 December, 2015)
The ultra realistic Nyonya kuih at Wonderfood Museum Penang. (9 December, 2015)
Wonderfood Museum at home
Having befriended Sean, I am privileged to get to bring home some of his creations to be photographed at home. People who follow me on Facebook will be well acquainted with my table, which is where I often photograph the dishes that my wife cooks. For a change I thought it would be fun to photograph the culinary creations of Wonderfood Museum.
Thank you for visiting my website, Penang Travel Tips. Since starting it in 2003, it has become my own online encyclopedia. My name is Timothy Tye, you can call me Tim. I am a full-time website author writing only my own website, to describe things and places I am curious about. To know more about me, go to www.timothytye.com I have been living at home writing my websites full time since 2007. I describe my alternative lifestyle in my Happy Jobless Guy website.
As a Christian, I hope that through this website, I am able to deliver God's Good News to people all over the world.