The broth sizzles in a tiny pot hung over a flame on a miniature irori, or “hearth.” A knife the size of a pinkie finger nudges minuscule cubes of tofu from a palm-size cutting board. Flakes of seaweed tumble off a spoon pinched between a thumb and finger. A couple of minutes later, a tiny ladle dishes the finished miso soup into bowls no bigger than a thumbnail.
YouTube is replete with Japanese tiny-food videos. Their creators shrink recipes to Lilliputian dimensions: pancakes the size of nickels, burgers compact enough to flip with chopsticks. The meals may be extremely diminutive, but they’re edible. Most of the ingredients are hulking compared with the finished products, but whenever possible, the chefs choose smaller stand-ins: Pearl onions or shallots sub for their bigger counterparts, and quail eggs replace chicken eggs.
Some of the YouTube channels devoted to tiny food post only periodically, while others roll out new installments a few times a week. Miniature Space, to take one example, has more than 1 million subscribers; its most popular video—a strawberry shortcake made from a single berry—has been viewed more than 8.5 million times. The videos are addictive; there’s something at once mesmerizing and weirdly funny about a gigantic hand trying to chisel a tiny sliver of meat, or smooth whisker-thin coats of icing on a multitiered “cake” cut from a single slice of bread.