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Print publications from two top charaben/kyaraben artists

wakuwakukyaraben1.jpgAlthough the school year starts in April in Japan, September still means back-to-school time after the summer school holidays, so there are a slew of new bento books and such coming out. Two of top Japanese charaben/kyaraben (character bento) artists and bento bloggers have published things in print this month, which you might be interested in taking a look at if you are into this genre of bentos. (Yes they are all in Japanese, but they both are guaranteed to have big beautiful full color photos!)

First up is a mook (large magazine format book) from the lady who blogs under the nickname akinoichigo, titled akinoichigo’s Fun Fun! Character Bento (akinoichigoのわくわく! キャラクターのお弁当). Her work featured prominently in the Face Food book. I’ve always admired her elaborate, very cute yet refined bentos, especially her wonderful sense of color, which really sets her apart. Being a mook, it’s not that expensive either - only 980yen base price from Amazon Japan. Ms. akinoichigo also conducts bento seminars, so I’m assuming she’s a good teacher too!

The other publication is a supplement to the October 2008 issue of Ohayo Okusan (おはよう奥さん, which translates to Good Morning Mrs. Housewife), a women’s magazine aimed at well, housewives. (It’s sort of like Good Housekeeping in the U.S.) Anyway, the supplement, titled Asa tsukuranai! obentou (Bentos not made in the morning!) is all about bento lunches that are composed of make-ahead components that are just assembled in the morning. It’s authored by the bento artist asami122 (her blog post about it is here, where she has a photo of the supplement too), and includes some quick tips for charaben/kyaraben too. Ms. asami122 is the creator of the traditional kimono-clad Hello Kitty bento mentioned here. The attention to detail in her bentos is simply mind boggling. She too teaches charaben bento skills in small classes. The October issue of Ohayo Okusan isn’t available directly from Amazon Japan at the moment, but most Japanese bookstores such as Kinokuniya should carry it. One issue of Ohayo Okusan is only 540 yen, so it’s a bargain if you can find it!

All natural vegetable based green, pink and orange rice

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Previously, I showed you how to make orange colored carrot rice. The make-in-a-few minutes microwave method was especially popular. So, here’s how to make pink (or purple) and green colored rice just as easily. The best thing about them is that they are colored just with vegetables - no hard to pronounce ingredients in sight.

I’ve used white rice for color clarity, but you could use regular or sprouted brown rice instead. I used leftover rice from the night before; you could also use defrosted frozen rice. continue reading...

Animal sausage magnets!

Just how ubiquitous are decoratively cut wiener sausages in Japan? Well recently, Suntory, the Japanese distributor for Pepsi, included some plastic magnets made to look like wieners (specifically ones from Nippon Ham Co.) made into cute animal shapes as giveaways with 1.5 liter bottles of Pepsi NEX (aka Pepsi Zero).

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The animal sausage magnets are 2.3 cm - 3.9 cm in size (around 1 to 1.5 inches), and they come in 8 shapes: elephant, lion, octopus (with a headband), sheep, bird, seal, hippo and penguin. Each one came with instructions for making the same animal out of a real wiener.

I’m not sure if these were aimed at kids or at their kawaii-things mothers, but judging from the blog reactions in Japan they seem to have been a big hit with the mothers in any case. This blog entry has photos of all 8 figures and how they come packaged. (The Silvania bunnies are there to demonstrate the goods.)

The figures are already showing up on Yahoo! Japan Auctions and such. continue reading...

Natural ways to make your bento colorful

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If you love character bentos (kyaraben), you may wonder how the creators manage to color some of the elements. Do they use food dyes? Not necessarily. Bentobako.net, called Ranchi-ryuu Obentoubako Community (Lunch-style Bento Community) is an attractive and very useful bento resource site in Japanese. One of the most interesting sections that they have recently set up is the Bento Coloring Dictionary, a reader-contributed section with lots of ideas for making various bento elements colorful without resorting solely to food dyes. Here are some of the ideas listed there, arranged by color, with my notes in parentheses.

I’ve added the formulas for deriving 3 (or 4) different colors from one ingredient - red cabbage juice! continue reading...

Bento no. 13: Mixed-noodle pasta with pepper confit and wiener flowers

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(click on image for a larger view)

Bento contents:

  • Mixed capellini (angel hair) and shirataki noodles, about 1 cup cappellini cooked + 1/2 cup shirataki (220 calories)
  • Sweet pepper and onion confit, about 1 cup (120 calories)
  • 1 1/2 wiener sausages (200 calories)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste (25 calories)
  • Broccoli florets (negligible)

Total calories (approx.): 565 calories (how calories are calculated)

Type: Japanese, novelty continue reading...

Bento decoration: Gerbera-like wiener flowers

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(See the Bento Decoration master page for my general thinking on decorations.)

Japanese people love wiener sausages. They appear quite often in home cooking recipes. Wieners are the Play Doh of the bento making world since they are colorful and easy to manipulate.

I don’t like to use wieners their relatives very often, though living in a Germanic area of Europe we can get pretty good ones that aren’t dyed a bright pink and actually contain real meat. But once in a while they do appear in my bentos. continue reading...

Bento decoration techniques

This is the master page for the Bento Decoration Techiques section. While decorative techniques can be time consuming, they can make your bento box a lot more fun to open. continue reading...

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