The art of bento making has been a staple in Japan. These elaborate lunch boxes were made by mothers who worry about their kids' nutrition due to being picky eaters. This method will definitely work even for the pickiest of the pickiest kid, they would surely start looking forward to their meal every single day just to see what their mother had in store for them.
In present times, there are a lot of seminars and private classes on how to master the art of bento making. Non-Japanese people had already shown interest in this Japanese tradition so they can prepare good and cutely arranged food for their loved ones.
There is a traditional type of bento which is more mature looking or called "grown up" bento boxes, mostly done by housewives for their husbands who are going to work. These are lunch boxes with a main dish along with side dishes, neatly arranged so it would look good and appetizing. On the other hand, there is a cuter or more kawaii version of this edible art that are meant for their children, and those are the kawaii bento boxes. The lunch boxes are more meticulously detailed than the former, and it requires a lot of creativity to somehow create a character out of your arrangements.
There are things that you need to keep in mind in order to create these cute meals for your loved ones, so we've listed all the tools that you have to acquire for your pantry to be able to start your journey on kawaii bento making.
Get a hold of some bento boxes
First off, you need a container to bring together all the components of a bento. Typically, a bento box consists of rice or pasta, or sandwiches, some protein such as meat or fish, and a variety or side dishes such as vegetables and some pickled fruits, all beautifully organized into an edible masterpiece. It can be any plain color or as cute as the food arranged inside, like printed or patterned ones.
Silicone cupcake liners, paper cupcake liners or bento food separators
You may notice how a bento box is organized in a very detailed way, clearly separating a lot of food elements and you can achieve that by using liners or food separators. Usually, the main dish is on the middle or the the very corner, then the side dishes are arranged and separated by these liners so they wouldn't mix around and ruin your creation.
Cute hard boiled egg shapers
Photos: Pinterest, House of Annie
This is one of the must-haves on your road to bento creation. When you look at it, this tool can seem to be complex, but it's really simple to use. All you have to do is put the egg inside the molder, carefully squeeze it in and tightly close it, and leave it for about 30 minutes in the fridge or bowl of iced water. There might be excess egg bits on the sides, but you can just trim them off with a small knife for a cleaner look.
There are many cute designs that you can go for, as far as hard-boiled eggs are concerned, it could be anywhere from cute bunny rabbits, a fish or even a car.
Rice molds / shapers
The rice arrangement is usually the main attraction or center piece of your kawaii bento box, and you can achieve that by using these kawaii rice molders. This tool is pretty much self explanatory, it would give any cute shape to your rice like animals, characters and many more.
One way to put more details to your molded rice is a nori (dried seaweed) cutter. These cutters already has the details you might need like cute panda faces, hearts, stars, flowers and many more. The can have full face details or just one by one, the shapes can be really small so at first it might try to test your patience (just a bit), but hang in there, it will be all worth it!
Even sandwiches can have a way to be kawaii. Molders do exist for this kind of thing. Naturally, bento boxes tend to be small but jam-packed with food items and you need to fit everything as much as you can. Regular sized sandwiches tend to take quite a lot of space, so these cutters really comes in handy. All you have to do is make a sandwich as usual but the filling is lesser because the bread will be cut a lot smaller. The first layer of bread will be pressed against the face molder (this will be placed on top, obviously, for added kawaii-ness), the bottom half of the sandwich to the cutter but don't press it too hard, it will serve as the guide so you would know how much filling you would spread in, then place the sandwich into the molder to cut it and voila! A cute, small sandwich to go with your kawaii bento.
Cookie cutters or vegetable cutters
Photo: LoveInABento, DH Gate
What's a bento without the sides? And what better way to make your dish a little bit more cuter than shaped vegetables or fruits. Using cookie cutters, you can create mini kawaii shaped veggies or fruits to be arranged neatly inside the bento, along with your main dish for the day. You can cut carrots into hearts or flowers, some fruit like melons, watermelons or apples can be good with these cutters as well.
Kawaii bento food picks
Photos: FunWithMama, Bento USA
Another way to decorate the food or put final touches are these cute food picks. If you're able to gather a large collection of picks, you can choose which motif you can do for the day, like if you want to do zoo animals, or maybe other shapes like cars or planes. After you're done assembling every single element to your kawaii bento box, you can choose where you would place these picks in so it would look good and super kawaii.
Cute condiments container
Sometimes, the dishes prepared would require some kind of sauce, like soy sauce, fish sauce, maybe some salad dressing, or ketchup and mayonnaise. There are super cute containers that can go with your bento box, and just for one serving size! They can either be plain, tiny condiment bottles (the fish ones are the most common type) or it can have kawaii little animals faces as the lid. Either of the two would work really well to kawaii-fy your bento further and this is one of the final touches that you have to add.
There are actually a lot of tutorials online on how you can make these kawaii bentos and they are not as hard as you thought they are. You can start slow if you're not yet confident enough, but don't worry, there are simple ways to make them and you can start from there, like this one;
These are easy and cute sandwiches with some simple sides, the perfect snack for your little ones or even for anyone who is a child at heart, I mean, who wouldn't want to eat this box of cuteness? If you already have every item on the list above, this is already doable. You can start from here then try to explore a more intricate one for the next time.
View the simple tutorial here.
Another sample bento box you can make is;
Photo: Little Miss Bento
Now this one is much more detailed but if you just follow the steps, you should be good and end with the best looking bento box ever. Here you will see how a bento is typically arranged and what elements they use along with the main bear shaped rice, like egg rolls, sausages and flower shaped carrots. You can also see how the decorations are made using some tools that are listed above so you have more ideas on how it goes.
Is this too cute to eat or what?
You can view the tutorial here.
And lastly, this one which I think is much easier to do and can be your start up guide to a more detailed kawaii bento box.
Photo: Oh nino
This is pork tonkatsu meal with rice that are shaped as cute little chickens (corn for beaks, just how cute is that?), some side of cucumbers and corn. You can view and try to imitate this bento box here.
Bento making may look like that it's very difficult, specially if you're not into the artistic side, but you better believe that you can create the most kawaii bento box which you never thought yourself to be possible, as long as you have all the right tools and you're passionate about it, it will only take some practice to perfect the art of bento making and you'll get better and better as you make more and more bento boxes in the future. You can also take seminars or private lessons if you want, whichever you prefer, it doesn't matter, just go for it! And have fun in the process.
You think you'll try to start making cute bento boxes? Tell us in the comments below!