First, let’s start by making our rice balls. Carefully dampen your onigiri paddles, before scooping up some freshly prepared warm rice and pressing closed with the lid. Pop off the lid and carefully tip out your onigiri. If you want to get fancy you can add a shake of furikake or put some pickles in the middle of your rice before moulding.
Now let’s decorate our onigiri. Use a nori seaweed punch to create some fun faces using nori seaweed. If your rice is still quite warm, you may want to hold off before putting your nori faces on the onigiri, just to stop them getting chewy.
You can also use bento cutters to cut out cute decorations for your onigiri using ham or cheese. Alternatively you can use them to help create themes for your bento creations, by cutting shapes from fruit or lightly steamed vegetables, so all your ingredients have matching shapes. You can also use bento cutters instead of stencils to create shapes on your rice with furikake. Place your bento cutter on top of the rice and using a teaspoon, spoon furikake into the cutter until you get a nice outline of your cutters shape.
It’s not just the way you cook your food that can add fun to a bento, the way you arrange it helps too. Using pickles, goma-ae sesame & spinach salad or even a little bit of spaghetti (a standby in many bento) spoon into bento cups and arrange to make faces or patterns. Some bento cups are specially shaped to resemble animals, stars, weather or vehicles making it even easier to make fun scenes.
Next up tamagoyaki. It’s easy to make cute tamagoyaki hearts, just slice your tamagoyaki diagonally down the middle. If you’re a little bit pressed for time, you can still add cool eggs to your bento with moulded eggs. You can cook them the night before and leave to cool in fridge, just run some hot water before you want to mould it and leave your peeled hard boiled egg in there to soak for a few minutes. This will let it soften a bit and make it less likely to implode when you pop it in the mould. However if you’re the organised type and have freshly cooked, hot eggs you can skip this step. Pop your egg into the mould, pushing down firmly, then close the clasp and leave to soak in cold water for 10 minutes before popping it out again.
Last but not least, bento picks. Even when you’ve got to be on the bus in 5 minutes, you can add a little sunshine to your bento with these. They’re also really great if you’re a karaage chicken fan and don’t like greasy fingers or if you’re not a fan of chopsticks, since there’s no cutlery to make your bag grubby when you’re done with your meal. So pop a few into your fresh vegetables, wiener sausages, cheese or other tasty bento fillers.
• If our beginner’s bento has got you inspired there are lots of cookery books with inventive bento ideas, some great for everyday bento and others for when you really want that ‘wow’ factor.