Every mother wants her child to enjoy meal time. But sometimes, kids might get “bored” with having more of the same in their lunch boxes. Did you know that you change it up by making bentos?
Bento is a Japanese home cooked meal packed in a lunch box. Some Japanese mothers probably spend a lot of time making their child’s favorite characters out of rice balls and cut fruits as a way of showing love. It is thought that the feelings of the person who prepared the food may be communicated through the food. Essentially, bento is the Japanese version of the Filipino “baon”. However, particular attention is given to presentation and attractiveness, calorie content and speed and ease.
Sabs Marquez, a first time working mom, enjoys making character bentos for her daughter Bea. She got into bento-making last year because she wanted to make her daughter’s school snacks more lively, animated and colorful. At that time, her daughter Bea was going to Playschool in Zamboanga. She researched about bento making and made simple ones first. She then started joining bento workshops and winning best bento in those workshops.
This adorable bento called “ Mommy and her Chikadees” was one of the bentos Sabs created in a workshop she attended. She made use of plain rice, and mini rice balls colored with turmeric powder, chicken karaage, steamed broccoli and grapes.
Sabs, who trains aspiring flight attendants, views bento-making as an outlet to express her crafty and creative side. She enjoys buying tools and looking at different kinds of bentos for inspiration. Aside from the various kinds of bentos, she also draws inspiration from her daughter’s favorite cartoon characters, animals and thinks. Moreover, she makes interesting shapes from the fruits that her daughter enjoys.Her daughter is truly the main reason why she got into bento-making in the first place. She does this hobby out of love for her.
Making popular anime characters, cute animals or even scenery out of food is called “kyaraben” or “character bento”. This bento style has quickly gained popularity especially among modern moms probably due to its “kawaii” appeal.
“Molang the Bunny”. The elements of this bento box include rice, pork chop bits and honeydew slices.
Let’s take a look at some of the other amazing bentos she has made for her daughter. She has also named these meals that are almost too cute to eat!
This bento entitled “ Off to the Zoo” made use of a chocolate sandwich, hotdogs, cheese cupcake, biscuits and ponkan.
Sabs skillfully transformed a choco-hazelnut sandwich, honey ponkan and some biscuits into this “Hello Panda” bento.
She shares some tips and inspiration for mommies who would like to change up their kid’s baon. According to her, for newbie bento-making, tools are highly helpful. She started with just simple-shaped cookie cutters and some colorful food picks she bought from Japanese thrift stores such as Daiso and Japan Home Center. Using these tools, she says would make snack time preparations more fun and food cuter and more enticing. The more experienced Bento makers, she elaborates, use freehand, scissors, carvers and molders.Nori(Seaweed) also plays an important role in enhancing and decorating their work.
This bento which she called “Energizer Bea” imaginatively transformed cream bread, spam and mandarin slices into a cute prairie scene. Notice the nori used for her eyes! Very intricate work!
So, would you like to make your very own bento? Sabs details the steps on how to make this “Frosty the Snowman” bento.
Cooked Jasmine rice
Homemade breaded pork chops, cut into small strips
Ripe mango slices
Cheese (for the buttons)
Ham (for the cheeks)
Nori sheet (for the eyes/mouth)
Apple skin (for the scarf)
1. Using a rice ball moulder, make 2 balls of rice. Mold the rice while still hot. This helps to retain the shape.
2. Cut the mango into bite sizes.
3. Arrange the balls on top one another.
4. Use a silicone cup (I used a star-shaped one) to hold the breaded pork chop strips; arrange in the lunchbox.
5. Decorate your snowman by cutting a nori sheet to form eyes and a mouth. Use scissors for this.
6. Shape 2 small circles from a ham slice and make these the cheeks
7. Shape 3 small circles from a cheese slice and make these the buttons
8. Peel an apple and use the skin to carve strips to make a scarf.
9. Cut a small thick round chunk of carrot and a thin circle slice to make the hat. Attach to the head of the snowman using an uncooked pasta noodle.
10. Fill your lunchbox with steamed cauliflower.
11. Make carrot flowers to decorate your cauliflower
12. Use food picks to add more fun to your bento. Use 2 “star” food picks as the snowman’s hands
When asked about her future plans related to this interesting hobby, she divulged, “If it is in God’s hands, I do intend to conduct workshops starting with my friends/colleagues who have been encouraging me to have one for them, just for starters. I also intend to make bentos for birthday parties, starting with my daughter and some family or friends. I also have attended workshops myself and intend to attend more this year and hopefully be more professional at this craft and get certified”.
To date, she has made about 40 bentos. She has also been featured in 700 Club Asia in an episode entitled “Moms who Rock the Cradle”. Meanwhile, while waiting for her workshop schedule, you can find and enjoy looking at her awesome bentos on Instagram by searching for #sabsimbento.
Hope you got some new ideas for your child’s baon! Share your best bentos with us!
Note: Please take note of the following that maybe safety and choking hazards to children below 4 y/o: toothpicks, nuts and seeds, marshmallows, grapes, hard/chewy/sticky candy, chunks of meat and cheese, chunks of peanut butter popcorn, raw vegetables. Please double check other ingredients before using them in making your bentos.