Yum-Yum Bento Box

The cute recipes in Crystal Watanabe and Maki Ogawa‘s Yum-Yum Bento Box (Quirk 2010) will turn ordinary box lunches into amazing creations full of animal characters, ready to spark little kids’ imaginations – or bring a smile to anyone having a tough day at work.

You’ll need to kit yourself out with plenty of cookie cutters, onigiri boxes, food dividers, toothpicks, and the like, as well as a cute bento box to tuck your creations in. Once you are set, the authors lead you through making treasures from mostly healthy ingredients – fruits and veggies, rice, grains and pasta, and plenty of well-placed seaweed. Once you master the basic recipes, you can create ever more complex boxes and more personal.

The first section of recipes are based on animals – Cuties and Critters and include boxes like Baby Bear (p. 17) that contains a rice filled tofu skin, tiny meatballs for ears, crispy fried fish, broccoli and lettuce. Some of the recipes are less-Asian inspired like Eek! A Mouse! (p. 23) that is a Mac n’ Cheese topped with a mouse face complete with nori whiskers, and sautéed basil cherry tomatoes. These are intricate lunches requiring great patience to assemble. The photos of each box by Maki are indispensable. The next section called Fairy-Tale Friends, is full of even more complex boxes, suggesting stories like I’m Bringin’ Home a Baby Bumblebee (p. 63) with a flower garden of mushrooms, pink rice and sugar snap peas. The Little Red Hen (p. 69) has three animals – a pig, a duck, and a cat made out of quail eggs on a bed of cabbage with a red hen made of roast beef. The last section, Special Day Treats with themes like Rainy-Day Umbrellas (p. 119) with chicken dumplings and umbrellas made of bologna or fish sausage.

Bento boxes are all about playing with your food, creating expressive tiny packages that are meant to delight and be delicious. If you want to start creating fun, silly and oh-so cute lunches, Yum-Yum Bento Box will be a great guide.

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