Character bento is where the children's lunch box meets art. Using simple techniques and a bit of personal creativity, every lunch box can be a blank canvas.
- 1 cup cooked Japanese short-grain rice
- ½ tsp tomato ketchup
- ¼ tsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp fine bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
- 1 slice cheese
- 1 sheet nori
- 2 slices carrot, boiled until tender
- 1 dried angel hair pasta strand
- 2 boiled black beans
- 1 stick imitation crab
- salad greens, ham, other leftovers, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Divide the rice into three equal portions. Mix one portion with the tomato sauce until lightly pink. Mix another with the soy sauce until light brown. Leave remaining portion plain.
Using plastic wrap, shape each portion of rice into a ball and place into paper cupcake cases.
To make a cat from the brown rice ball, pinch to form pointy catâ€™s ears. Scatter one ear with fine bonito flakes. Cut an oval from the cheese slice to make a nose. Cut shapes from the nori to make eyes, a mouth and whiskers.
To make a pig from the pink rice ball, cut triangles from the boiled carrot to make ears. Secure to the rice with pieces of the dried angel hair pasta strand. Cut an oval from the boiled carrot to make a nose, using a straw to punch holes for nostrils. Secure to the rice with more dried angel hair pasta. Cut shapes from the nori to make a mouth.
To make a panda from the plain rice ball, add ears by securing the black beans with pieces of the dried angel hair pasta strand. Cut shapes from the nori to make the eyes and mouth. To make rosy cheeks, use a straw to punch holes from the outer layer of the imitation crab.
Arrange the balls in a bento box and fill the remaining space with salad greens, shapes cut from ham and other leftovers.