Review and Book Giveway - Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes

book-face-food-cover.jpgAs you may know already if you’ve been following Just Bento for a while, cute, highly decorated bentos known as kyaraben (or charaben, short for character bento), or oekaki bento (picture-drawing bento) are not my style, or what this site is largely about. But I am drawn to the sheer work and creativity that goes into those bentos, most of which are made for little kids, as I’ve noted before.

Now there is a new book in English about this type of bento. Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes by Christopher D. Salyers is a compact hardcover book with page after page of full color photos of kyaraben, mostly made by Japanese mothers (and one Japanese father) for their little children. continue reading...

Shiso is the best herb to grow for bento making

I don’t know where the days are going. It’s already February 15th, and time to decide which vegetable and herb seeds to get for spring. (For me, flowers come in a distinct second after edible gardening.) This weekend I’m going to try to be a bit more organized than most years and sort through the seeds I’ve kept from last year, and figure out what I need to order.

If you are a gardener, even if your garden is limited to some pots on a sunny windowsill, if there’s one herb you should try to grow it’s shiso. Shiso, or perilla to give its botanical name, is a very refreshing herb that can be used in all manner of ways. For bentos though one interesting aspect of shiso is that it has some antibacterial qualities. That’s one reason why you see green shiso leaves being used as a garnish with sashimi. You can use the fully grown leaves as edible dividers, to wrap rice or meat or other things, and a lot more. See this bento from last summer where I used salted shiso leaves as onigiri wrappers. I love shiso-wrapped onigiri, they taste so fresh! I think that shiso is used quite a lot in the winning Hello Kitty bento too (for the head wrapper and the paws). continue reading...

Bento item of the week: Handmade bunny bento bag from Etsy

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An adorable handmade bento bag from Etsy. continue reading...

Sanrio character bento contest

Oh rats. It seems I’ve missed the deadline for submissions for the 2nd edition of the Sanrio Kyaraben Contest, which was on the 7th. Well ok, I’m kidding - since cute kyaraben or character bentos are not really my style. I do admire them as a sort of edible art form though - the time and patience required to make something that will, ultimately, be eaten in a few minutes (more often than not by a kid who will stir it around and mess it up first) is mindboggling.

This bento was the grand prize winner of the first edition of the contest, starring of course, Her Royal Kittyness. Wow, just wow.

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Check out the other winners on this page. continue reading...

Skinny bento vs. not skinny bento: how to (and how not to) fill a bento box

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Even if you have a small bento box, you can still go overboard on the calories. Here’s how to, and how not to, fill a bento box if you’re using bento lunches to try to lose weight. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 8: Hijiki and chirimenjako (tiny tiny fish)

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I’m cheating a bit here since this recipe has been featured already on Just Hungry. But it did get rather buried in a general article about seaweed, so here it is again in the Homemade Furikake series.

This combines hijiki, which is full of fiber and minerals, with chirimenjako, tiny little whole salted fish. You can find both at Japanese grocery stores, and Chinese grocery stores carry something similar. Since they are whole fish, they are full of calcium, and also pack a lot of umami. Many Japanese people are lactose intolerant, so they get their calcium by eating things like chirimenjako. continue reading...

Bento no. 20: Shrimp chirashizushi, an easy sushi bento

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Bento contents:

  • 3/4 cup (about 160ml) white rice with sushi vinegar (180cal)
  • 5 peeled shrimp cooked with sake (90cal)
  • 1/2 chikuwa (80cal)
  • Cucumber with seasoning (10cal)
  • 1/4 carrot (30cal)
  • 1 T. edamame (20cal)

Total calories (approx): 400 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15-20 minutes in the morning, 5 the night before

Type: Japanese, sushi

Chirashizushi is just a bed of sushi rice with toppings of your choice. Here I have used peeled frozen shrimp that is steam-cooked with a little salt and sake in a dry pan, half of a chikuwa (a fish paste produce that looks like a bamboo branch), plus cucumber, edamame and carrots. If you cut the carrots in decorative shapes, allow a little more time. It will be pretty anyway with the colorful toppings. Since the protein components of this bento are quite low fat and low calorie, the whole bento is under 400 calories. This bento was inspired by one in Yaseru Obento Recipes. continue reading...