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Before we go to see how lunch can be an art. Please let understand what bento is and where bento comes from.
What is Bento?
Bento is a Japanese to-go food that is put in a container to carry around easily. The container is so called bento box, or in english, lunch box. The food is usually packed in portion nicely to hold each different kind of food separately. Simply speaking, bento is lunch in a box.
In Japan, bento usually includes rice, meat, and side dishes, for example, vegetable, or pickle. The bento box is usually in rectangle-style box, and covered by see-through plastic lid to show the content of the bento. This is very common and can be found at every train station or supermarket.
Art of Bento
The art of bento is varied upon maker's imagination or creation. There are several styles from the simplest to more complicated and detailed bento.
The simplest bento is Onigiri bento which is rice wrapped around by seaweed, or "nori" in Japanese. On the other hand, "kyara-ben" (comes from Character Bento) is a bento elaborately arranged into a character, for example, people, animals, and cartoons, making meal more appetizing and creative. This type of bento are commonly made by mothers to inspire their children to enjoy having lunch and eat what they do not like to eat, for example, vegetable. Japanese mothers of the children in the same group, sometimes can try to make a more adorable bento for their children to be more proud of their lunch when taking their lunch out among their friends.
Many times people ask about what is “bento” and how it differs from container to container. In this post I would like to show you that there are many shapes of containers that you can use to create your bento in a very short amount of time with the correct bento tools. Another major question / remark we get is the size of the bento box, with most Bento boxes they are small as it is normal for Japanese style boxes, but you be surprised what can fit into them. I am going to take the same amount of food, basically make one cute design and place it into six different bento boxes from a normal plate, to a normal Tupperware, to Easylunchboxes, and to traditional bento boxes. I think it is really interesting how you put the food into the box, can really set a different type of mood for the food, but you can see if you feel the same way, as Bento Art is expression of one’s self, but the bento container is your canvas. -- Read more here --
Here is an example of Japanese Character Bento designed as Stitch in a yellow bento box. Stitch face is made of Rice, where the ear and mouse are cut using ham, surrounded by deep fried chicken, and side dish.
The above picture shows 3 animal face rice balls, decorated by egg, seaweed, chopped stir fried pork, bean, mushroom, sesame seeds, egg, and ham. Here is how you can do it in your bento decoration.
1. First creating rice ball to be in face shaped. (Just simply shape in circle, as big or small as you like)
2. For the Bear Bento Meat Rice Ball,
- First put the stir fried ground meat (pork, chicken, beef). If you do not have ground meat, you can chop it in small pieces. Put them about 3/4 of the face.
- Then add rice to create the mouth area.
- Decorate the mouth with black sesame seeds
- Add black bean to create the eyes of the bear. You can also use the seaweed as another option.
- Cut mushroom in half, and put them on the top for the ears of the bear rice ball.
3. For the Pig Bento Ham Rice Ball,
- Chop ham into small pieces and put in all over the top of the rice ball base you created.
- Cut more ham in oval shape and lay it in the area you would like it to be the pig's mouth.
- Slice boiled egg about 0.5 cm (0.20 inches) thick and put on the top of the oval shaped ham. This defines pig's nose.
- Put black bean or cut seaweed and put them as the eyes of the pig rice ball
- For the ears of the pig, fold another piece of ham into triangle shape. You can use food pick to hold the ham in the triangle shape and stick it on the rice ball.
Please note that there is no strict rule in making bento. Anything can be replaced, adjusted, and rearranged. That is why bento decoration is an art that anyone can be a master.
Below picture shows how rice can be made creatively to fit your adorable lunch. First the rice are shaped in a circle rice ball shape and decorated by seaweed, whereas the nose is identified by carrot.