While in Britain the idea of a packed lunch box all too often conjures up images of curled-up ham sandwiches mouldering in a Tupperware, the Japanese have for many years refined the packed lunch or bento box into a real art form. They are an indispensable part of Japan’s food culture, and one of the most exciting variants are the endlessly inventive cute creations known as kawaii bento.
Lunch With Character
Another interesting strand of Japanese culture is the prevalence of cartoon characters in even serious aspects of everyday life, so it was perhaps inevitable that lunchboxes taking the form of cute characters would become a phenomenon. These are sometimes referred to as chara-ben, a contraction of “character bento”. They are thought to have started out as a method of getting children to eat their lunches, but have since taken on a life of their own.
One striking aspect is the great time and care that is taken to create some of these truly stunning culinary creations, which in many cases will be wolfed down during lunch-break by hungry school children or salarymen. But then again the Japanese have always taken great care in the presentation of food, giving consideration to the colours and shapes used, as well as the serving dish.
Get Stuck In
The HYPER JAPAN Christmas Market offers a great opportunity to experience an array of kawaii bento at first hand, and marvel at the intricate and mouth-watering displays. What is more, if you feel like having a go yourself, you’ll be able to buy a wide range of authentic Japanese ingredients. After all, practice makes perfect and after being inspired by the examples on display we’re sure you’ll be keen to pull your own amazing bento designs out of the box!
Bin the Bun
Talking of interesting things to do with rice, have you tried replacing a burger bun with a crispy fried rice disc? It’s not a completely new idea, as Japanese fast-food chain MOS Burger first sold it back in 1987. However, with the recent trend for novel burger casings (ramen burgers, lettuce leaves, etc.), rice burgers are gaining in popularity around the world. They’re a deliciously different taste sensation, and perfect for enjoying your favourite Japanese dishes while on the go! (Photo courtesy of Sticky Bundits.)