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Simple Recipes to Make Cute Japanese Character Bento Lunch Boxes (with Pikachu Bento Recipe)

Kyara-ben are bento boxes depicting cute animals and popular characters. It's fun just looking at pictures of kyara-ben on social media, but with the basic points and tools introduced here, you can easily make these seemingly difficult kyara-ben, too!

Kyara-ben: A Trend Born Out of the World-Famous Japanese Bento Culture

There is a long history behind Japanese bento (lunch boxes), and once upon a time, only a portion of very high standing figures could eat them. The culture of bento evolved over the years and unique bento such as Makunouchi Bento and Ekiben were introduced. Kyara-ben was also another type of bento that was developed, and is said to have its roots in the fun-loving spirit of being creative with ingredients by, for example, forming wiener sausages into octopus and crabs and cutting apples into the shape of rabbits. Kyara-ben eventually developed into what it is now, depicting popular animal and anime characters with food. The way a variety of colorful food is presented in a small bento box is popular worldwide as a uniquely Japanese culture.

Easy Ways to Make Kyara-ben

Kyara-ben may appear difficult to prepare at first glance, but it is actually quite easy if you know the basics. Read on to learn about the key steps for making kyara-ben.

Create Faces Using Rice and Seaweed

One of the fundamentals for making kyara-ben is to form an animal or character's face with rice and cut and paste nori (seaweed) onto the rice. Tip: start with animals such as pandas that are easy to depict. Use saffron rice, for example, to make it even more realistic. If you're good with your hands, try using the nori to create cut-out pictures.

Utilize Thin and Flat Ingredients

Use ingredients such as sliced cheese and ham, which can be cut like nori, to create colorful kyara-ben. Even ingredients which may appear unsuited for kyara-ben can be used creatively by, for example, using carrots to color cheeks, green peppers to make dinosaurs, and red peppers for fire engines. This may even lead to children overcoming fussy eating habits!

Utilize Cookie Cutters and Other Tools

Cutting parts using knives and scissors can be more difficult than it seems, so use tools such as cookie cutters to make kyara-ben easily in a short amount of time.

Convenients Items for Making Kyara-ben

Items that are convenient for making kyara-ben are sold at supermarkets, but there are also a variety of items that can be purchased at 100 yen stores. Three recommended items are molds for shaping onigiri (rice balls), bread, and other food, cookie cutters, and nori punches to easily cut out parts with nori.

Kyara-ben Recipes for Popular Characters

Finally, here is a kyara-ben recipe of the globally beloved character Pikachu in Pikachu Omurice (omelet rice) form!

Ingredients

Two thin omelets, fried rice with ketchup, ham, 1/2 sheet of nori, cheese, ketchup

Method

1. Create the face using fried rice with ketchup. If it is difficult to get the shape just right, simply make a circle. Make the ears in proportion to the face with ham or other ingredients. Use nori for the tip of the ears, eyes, and nose.
2. Use plastic wrap to wrap the fried rice and ham with a thin omelet. Leave it wrapped for a while to keep the shape.
3. Place the ears first, then the face, and add the parts made with nori. Draw the cheeks and mouth using ketchup. Use cheese or something similar to add whites to the eyes to make it more like Pikachu.
4. It is recommended to put cheese inside when forming the face with the ketchup fried rice.

Kyara-ben is a wonderful new culture of Japan. It may appear difficult to make, but it is actually quite easy if you know the basics and utilize convenient tools. What's important is that the person eating the bento is happy, but it's also fun to bump up the quality of your bento with kyara-ben, so try making many different types of characters!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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