Most people are familiar with the concept of bento, the Japanese home-packed or store bought pre-prepared meal, similar to a lunch box meal but better. Something that not everyone is familiar with however is the quirky, fun and kawaii style of bento known as kyaraben! So here’s a little insight into the wonderful world of kyaraben.
What is Kyaraben?
So what exactly is this kyaraben style of bento? Well, kyaraben (aka Charaben), short for Character Bento, is a bento lunch where the food is arranged in elaborate styles to look like popular characters, portraits, plants, animals etc. It is a relatively new style of bento and is said to have originated as a way to stop fussy eating in young children and make lunchtime meals more interesting. Kyaraben is now popular with adults too and has grown in such popularity that there are many kyaraben bloggers, Instagrammers, Youtubers and there are even kyaraben competitions for the expert bento artists out there!
Popular choices for Kyaraben
Kelly Polizzi on Flickr
There are plenty of characters, animals or plants to choose from as your kyaraben theme and inspiration is never hard to find! Popular choices for characters are Disney characters (particularly Mickey and Minnie mouse), Ghibli characters, Sanrio characters (particularly Hello Kitty, Gudetama and My Melody), Anpanman, Doraemon and many more! For animals popular choices are pandas, bears, cute farm animals and fish (although any animal is fine to create!) As for plants, flowers in many shapes and forms are the most popular!
Kyaraben is made easily with the help of some super handy bento tools. The essentials that I recommend are rice moulds (for shaping rice into the character/animal etc), vegetable cutters, stencil plates (which help to create features), nori hole punches (these punch out various shapes), bento picks, and silicone cups. You can find all of these items in kitchen stores, children’s goods stores, supermarkets and even 100 yen stores, so it doesn’t have to be difficult or costly to make a super cute lunch!
Tanya Dawn on Flickr
As with any cooking/art related hobby there are various levels for kyaraben making, ranging from beginner style (simple and easy designs) to intermediate and advanced (more intricate and time consuming designs). For those who are new to the kyaraben world, there are many simple/easy recipes online to follow! For those who are already familiar and want to try something more advanced, the online world also has some good tips and ideas for you too! You can also find Youtube videos that show how to make cool and cute kyaraben. Apps such as Instagram and Pinterest are also great for sparking ideas, just search for things like #kyaraben, #charaben, #bentoart, etc and if you are more of a book person bento books and more specifically kyaraben books are readily available for purchase at many book stores!
So now that you’re familiarised with kyaraben here are a few helpful websites so that you can get started making your own!!