Never knew that bento-making could be made into a fun bonding session with friends 😉 At my age, bonding/get-togethers normally mean just meals or drinks so I was a little apprehensive at first. As it turned out, it was pretty entertaining!
We used several items, as I’ll list out below, to assemble our bentos. They may not be perfect but I think its the experience that counts ;D
This is just a short picture post as there aren’t any instructions… just do whatever you like and go crazy with your food!
- Cute and colourful picks
- Panda rice mold
- Seaweed cutters (panda shaped and various smileys)
- Small knife
- Small scissors
- Plain white cooked short grain rice
- cooked white short grain rice mixed with salmon furikake topping
- An assortment of fruits
- Shiso leaves
- Cheese slices
- Cocktail sausages
- Boiled eggs
- Wasabi peas
So here’s my bento, the pandas, the failed hatched chick and cheese swirls:
apple, apple designs, bento, character bento, Crayon Shin-chan, cutters, easy, flower shaped apples, food art, furikake, Home Cooking, Kyaraben, lunchbox, nori, quick, salmon furikake, seaweed, seaweed art, shin chan
Here’s an easy kyaraben (Character bento) that you could attempt. This anime character is Shin Chan, one of the many anime characters that bring back a wave of university nostalgia. For the list of tools used, please refer to my first bento post.To make Shin Chan’s face, I used some rice mixed with Salmon furikake (to make the flesh tone). I couldn’t find a furikake that had no seaweed in it so unfortunately my flesh tone had little specks of seaweed in them T___T. It turned out ok in the end though.
For the hair, eyes and eyebrows I cut out strips of seaweed using a sharp design cutter as shown in my first bento post.
As usual, I drew my design on paper, just to make the face fit in with the other food I wanted to put into my bento. Using this design as a template, you can then cut out the hair, eyes and eyebrows by clipping the paper on top of a sheet of nori on a cutting board as shown in the pictures below.
So the sequence is: Paper, seaweed and then cutting board. All fastened together to make it easier to cut out the delicate pieces of seaweed. Then you mix your Salmon furikake into the rice, place it into the bento box and shape it into the form that you’ve drawn in the design, roughly in the same size as accurately as possible. Then add the seaweed hair, eyes and eyebrows.
If added the seaweed directly onto the rice, the seaweed will shrivel. However I find that cutting out cheese to form the base for the seaweed infinitely cumbersome so I skipped that step. Cheese normally should be the base for any form of seaweed art so that the seaweed remains nice and flat instead of all crumpled and shriveled like it was in my bento T____TSo there it is. I cut out some flowers from an apple, added an egg and some chicken. Then I used a chunk of chilli for Shin Chan’s mouth. I suppose you could use ketchup or do it the professional way and use an egg sheet dyed red. Too much trouble to make the egg sheet for such a small area. Plus I like the spicy kick that the chilli lent. This is the second part of the bento. Just a compilation of the stuff I wanted to eat. Make sure that moist foods like fruits are separated from dry foods using rubber separators or in this case, leaves 😉 I wouldn’t want that egg tart to turn soggy!
I’d like to draw your attention to the apples. I saw these designs in a magazine but couldn’t understand how it was made so I freestyled it… basically I winged it. I cut some apple chunks with the skin still on, in large cubes. Then I made four shallow cuts in the skin with a small knife, in the form of a hashtag # (I hope you understand what I’m bumbling on about, guess this is where a video would be much more educational than my incoherent words). Use the knife to gently peel off the skin slices in alternate blocks, leaving the skin on in some blocks so that it forms the design as shown. It is actually easier than it looks.
And there you have it, a Shin Chan bento. This was quick, delicious and fun to prepare. Definitely fun to eat as well 😉
So for my next bento, I did a Naruto Kyaraben seaweed art. Again, I used the same tools as before but its easier this time around as the ingredients required for the seaweed art is only cheese and seaweed. I thought ikura would be perfect for giving him that volcanic bubbly nine-fox demon effect so I added that in as well. It helps that I love ikura 😉
So first, you draw an outline of your bento so you can draw your design within these boundaries. And then you draw your character, emphasizing on the black areas. You will cut out only the white bits. I think I shot myself in the foot by finding a drawing so intricate that it was difficult to cut the white bits properly T___T
I put some rice into the bento, topped with seaweed and placed the slice of cheese where I wanted it. I’m not sure if it was a lucky mistake that I placed the cheese on the rice while it was still hot! So basically my cheese was warm and sticky such that anything that stuck to it cannot be removed! Therefore if you mess up the placement of the character here, its all ruined! On the bright side, the seaweed is more adhesive and very unlikely to fly away.
Once you’ve stuck the seaweed character onto the cheese, build your bento! Ikura against a dark seaweed background lends a little mystery to the overall effect 😉 and the tiny yellow tomatoes were just there to contrast with the smaller ikura.
Time taken to complete: 1.5 hours
I wonder what possessed me to attempt character bentos. I’ve never even made a proper bento before! According to this website, there are several skill levels in making bento:
Yours truly here was too eager to start making BAMMMM cute bentos right away without mastering the basics, so this post is about my attempt at the “Advanced level”. Explains why perhaps my bentos arent as awesome as some out there but oh well, its my first go at it!
I’ll try to share how I made the bento as well to the best of my knowledge. There are a lot of books out there on Bento-making, but the best are always in Japanese. I bought them anyways, I find that you can still follow the pictures. Good bento-making books include a step-by-step, so head down to Kinokuniya for books on 弁当!
- a cutting mat (for seaweed)
- cutting board (for bread, ham and cheese)
- 2 binder clips/paper clips (for gripping the seaweed and the cutting mat
- a cutter (the blade has to be small enough to be used for intricate detailed cutting)
- small and sharp scissors (very important that it be sharp and sharp ended, not those safe and clumsy round tip blades that could wreck your seaweed)
- tweezers (life savers)
- pencil, pen, eraser
- Baking paper/tracing paper
- Bento box
- Cute toothpicks and wooden toothpicks
- Small brush, thoroughly cleaned, for painting the food colouring on
- 2 slices of bread with the brown edges cut off to fit into the bento box
- Sliced cheese
- Tamago bought from the Japanese supermarket (just because it was a nice bright yellow and I was lazy to make thin Japanese omelettes. I should have… because this tamago that i bought was really hard to use!)
- Ham (light coloured ham and darker coloured ham) – as thin as possible, so yours doesnt turn up too thick and chunky like mine. Also makes it easier to cut
- Cherry tomatoes (1 for each bento)
- Blue food colouring
- Roasted seaweed (comes in large squares), get the unseasoned ones, those are easier to cut.
- Fruit and cooked meats and vegetables of your choice
- Cooked rice
- A dab of mayo to act as a sticking agent
Below, my loot from collecting bento making tools. The bento boxes can be bought from takashimaya, Japanese supermarkets or online. I bought some of the cutters from Takashimaya, some from Daiso. Tweezers are from Daiso as well.
Above, the tools used. Starting from the top: Cutting mat, binder clips, pen knifes for intricate cutting (don’t buy the usual pen knifes, those are too big for the work you’ll be doing), eraser, pencil, pen, small scissors, tweezers.
First of all, you have to outline your bento box on a piece of paper. This is to make the bento easier to design and will give you a gauge of how much food you need to buy.
Then you choose your favourite character and draw him/her within the bento box line. I started off with Rukia from Bleach just because her hair is black, and not some funky colour like green or pink etc. So its easier for me. Also Naruto’s colours are made up of orange, flesh tones, white and black. Not too bad as well.
I’ve compiled a list of foods to match the colours:
- Pink/flesh toned – Ham, salami, pickled ginger, pink powder (you see this sprinkled on rice sometimes, not sure what is the exact name)
- Brown – Spam, sausage, egg yolk omelette with soy sauce
- White – cheese, rice, kamaboko, fish cake
- Yellow – cheddar cheese, egg yolk omelette, pickle,
- Black – seaweed, cooked konbu (dark variety)
- Red – Crab stick, red pepper (I think I”ll just stick with food colouring), tomato
- Orange – sausage, carrot, egg yolk omelette with less soy sauce than the brown
- Green – lighter coloured konbu
- Purple – Yukari (purple seasoning)
- Enoki and button mushrooms make great pebbles/stones interpretation in the bentos, while broccoli and english parsley make great shrubs 😉 Use your imagination!
Below, Naruto and Rukia sketched onto a piece of paper:
With this, you’ll be able to shop for groceries 😉
For Naruto, many layers are involved. A lot of ham and egg layers as well as seaweed. So, you need a base to hold everything. which is what you see in the top left outline of Naruto. This will be the foundation to hold the rest of the layers. I drew all the layering on a piece of baking paper. Then I cut up the paper into smaller sections so its easier to work with.
Lay out the sketch outline onto the ham and cut slowly along the lines.
Trace out the seaweed parts onto a tracing paper, and fasten the tracing paper on top of a piece of seaweed onto the cutting mat. Trace along the lines with your blade to cut out the seaweed in the desired shape.
Then you need to cut out the yellow egg for the eyes. This is where straws of different sizes would come in handy as they cut perfect circles. But I forgot to buy them, so now I have uneven eyes T____T. It is a little difficult to trace out small strips of seaweed for the eyes and mouth, so I used the scissors to create them. Its useful to have a dab of mayonnaise at hand to get the seaweed to stick to the ham.
For Rukia there won’t be any layering, because this is going to be a seaweed art piece. So all I used for her is a slice of cheese, seaweed and a little bit of food colouring.
Rukia layers on the baking paper. When you do seaweed art it is important to emphasize the black areas on the piece, as you will need to cut out the white bits.
First, cut out the foundation: instead of using a toothpick, you can trace the on the line with a knife, and remove the paper to cut the cheese. Much easier that way as it is easy to see the trace lines on cheese rather than say, ham.
Fasten securely on the cutting mat.
Place her hair onto the foundation, and add seaweed for the blacks of her eyes (since I accidentally tore it off). Then cut out a piece of seaweed for her clothes. Then you will need to use a pair of scissors to cut fine seaweed lines for her nose, mouth and chin, as well as her clothes.