Kyaraben Bento, The Beginner’s GuideKatachiware Japanese Style Tableware
Kyaraben Bento or charaben (キャラ弁) which is a short term used in Japanese culture for “character bento” is a way of elaborately preparing your bento meals with food decorated to look like your favourite cartoon characters, people, movie stars, animals, family members, plants or anything else that interests the family.
Originally, Kyaraben bento intended to get children more interested in their lunches and dinners, promoting a wider range of eating habits. Still effective now try serving your next dinner with broccoli and peas decorated to look like a cartoon character and see how quickly it gets gobbled down and asked for again.
Today Kyaraben has evolved into a cultural symbol so much that national yearly contests are held for the best Kyraben drawing thousands of entries. You will find Kyaraben competition entry photos posted all over the internet, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.
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Beginner’s Guide to Making Kyaraben Bento
Though Kyaraben Bento on the face of it seems to be difficult, if you have the required ingredients and tools, making them visually appealing creative shapes can be a lot of fun for the family and with practice can turn into a hobby.
1) Keep stock of your ingredients
Certain ingredients are beneficial while packing a Kyaraben Bento, and they include sliced cheese, carrots, black sesame, nori, ham, rice, and eggs, you can use anything with colour though these are most common. Carrots and ham can be used for cheeks of a character, or they look good when used in the shape of hearts too; black sesame and nori can be used for eyes, nose, eyebrows, mouth; sliced cheese goes towards stars’ cutouts of ham can be a hat or any part of the character. Eggs and rice can be turned into decorative items.
Mayonnaise or a similar sauce can help and is an important ingredient that helps glue individual ingredients together. Other ingredients for adding a dash of colour are broccoli, cherry tomatoes, paprika, cherries, snow peas, etc. You can even opt for using leftovers from yesterdays meal. Anything that won’t go off and has colour can be used to make your eye dropping Kyaraben Bento. Where possible try to include the main four bento food groups so that the meal is nutritious as well and appealing to the eye.
2) Keep the required tools on hand
Your creative work should come very close to the character you want to portray and keeping stock of a few accessories will help. The most common 3 tools used include cut-out shapes or cookie cutters which can be used to cut out main shapes. Delicious seasonings that can be sprinkled and a small pair of scissors to cut out the required shapes. If you have a flair for perfection, a pair of small tweezers or a seaweed hole-punch and rice molds also prove very useful. You can use tiny toothpicks and vibrant silicone cups in shapes of animals or stars for added cuteness.
3) Popular Kyaraben Bento
A popular and easy to make Kyaraben Bento widely made in Hapan includes making a simple main dish. For example, make rice ogre with fleecy hair. You will need some freshly cooked rice, nori seaweed, carrot, cheese, bonito flakes and tuna soboro. Firstly prepare a triangular or circular rice ball. Use cheese to prepare its horn and stripe it with thin nori strips. Stick some nori on the rice ball’s bottom portion with the help of mayonnaise. Use nori for the face parts like eyebrows, mouth, eyes and carrots for cheeks. Top the rice ball with bonito flakes and tuna soboro. This acts as the fleecy hair. The horn will go above the soboro. Your rice ogre with fleecy hair and a horn thereon is ready. To go can prepare meatballs; add a colourful salad of carrot, cherry tomatoes, cheese and cherries, and your Kyaraben Bento ready.
With a little spare time, the right accessories, and some great inspiration, Kyaraben Bento is not as difficult to make as they seem and can be quite rewarding, enjoy…
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