Bento is a Japanese term for (basically) a meal that is designed to include small portions of different things, and is generally arranged into interesting designs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento
It can be a way to get kids to eat vegetables, and makes for an exciting lunchbox. Here are some ideas for making Bento lunches, particularly for kids.
Traditionally it’s supposed to contain 4 parts carbohydrates (rice/noodles for example), 2 parts protein (eg meats/egg) and 1 part other stuff (vegetables and fruit for example). However you can make them with any combination of foods. For those wanting to limit carbs and encourage healthy eating, it’s probably best to focus on the vegetables and leave protein and carbs to about 1-2 parts.
- Use craft (scrapbooking) punches to cut out nori (seaweed) sheets for interesting designs. These n ori cutouts can be brushed with water and “stuck” to things to decorate them, or sprinkled over foods. Store the precuts in ziplock bag or container with a sachet of the moisture absorbing crystals.
- Soak rice paper in coloured water and then use instead of nori sheets for coloured sushi or allow to dry and harden again and cut designs as above
- Use metal piping tips as small cutters (for eyes etc.)
- Dress up a salad/fried rice with scattering of hearts/stars etc cut from capsicum, carrot etc..
- 2 Colour shapes. Cut a larger shape (eg heart, flower, star etc.) from one food (Cucumber, cheese etc.), then use a smaller cutter to cut out the centre. Then use that small cutter to cut that shape from another food (contrasting colour, like red capsicum, or carrot) and put that smaller piece into the centre of the larger piece. eg have a carrot heart with cucumber centre.
- Use (cooked) decorative pasta shapes to decorate
- Peel carrot slices and roll them into a decorative scroll
- Cut nori into eyes and mouth to make creatures from anything, such as balls of rice or hard boiled eggs
- Colour eggwhite to cut shapes from (presumably pour into a flat container and put that in a pot of boiling water to poach it, then cut from it?)
- Pea pods/beans make good grass/leaves
- Black sesame seeds look cool, and can be used for nostrils and other details.
- Mix and match colours – like a pair of mushrooms made with cheese stalks and a cap of ham on one and egg yolk sheet on the other, with contrasting spots….
- Swirl cutouts can make zany eyes
- Silicone flan/muffin/cupcake pans can be used to hold foods in individual portions and create dividers between foods.
- Save the soy sauce “fish” you get with takeaway sushi, and refill the containers with sauces for the bento
- Colourants for rice etc. here and here
- Coloured hard boiled eggs (boil, then peel and soak in coloured water for a few moments. You can press these into egg molds too to make moulded eggs.
- Make mottled coloured rice by putting rice in the rice cooker and drop food colouring in, then be careful not to disrupt it too much when adding water, cook without stirring…. the rice should cook with light and dark patches, or you can blend colours.
- Toothpick/skewer with peas and corn, or beans threaded on
- halved cherry tomato with nori spots makes a ladybird
- Octodogs (wonder if they work with kabana?)
- Easy frogs – green rice sushi with cut green olives for eyes
- Sliced corn kernels with a pea centre makes a daisy
- Skewer/toothpick with lots of the same shape cut vegies (eg stars) but in different colours – eg carrot, cucumber, capsicum
- Make samosas or other pastry items and cut the airholes in a face shape (eyes and mouth)
- Cook quiche/frittata in disposable metal patty pans so they can be included in the bento lunch
- Freeze riceballs and other things in premade portions for quick bentos
- Sliced cooked corn on the cobb
- Mini Nigiri
- Fake fish eggs
- Plain rice cut into squares – you could colour the squares by brushing on diluted food colouring!
- When you’re making something like shepherds pie, lasagne etc. – make a few extra portions in cupcake pans to freeze for bento lunches
- Toothpicks with peas and corn threaded onto them
- Frozen spaghetti cups
Links to cool Bentos you could probably do:
Tulip Egg Bento
Hatching chick Bento
Cute Sandwich idea
Standard non-fancy type bento (noodles, fruit etc.)
Strawberry sushi (among other things) – I don’t know what mamenori, but I guess rice paper could work
very cool banana leaf rice idea
Cute cucumber animals and nori cutouts on rice
Artist’s palette bento (personally I’d use a pancake as the palette)
Basic fish Bento
Very pretty bento
Another very pretty flowery bento
Funny face sandwich