If you are new to the world of deco-ben, or decorated Japanese lunchboxes, and are not sure where to start, this easy decorative bento recipe is for you. This recipe explains how to create a relatively simple yet eye-catching and delicious bento lunch from scratch. Make rice of different colours for fun onigiri rice ball decorations, learn how to prepare your bento equipment so that rice does not get stuck to it, find out how to use onigiri moulds, discover ways to add decoration to your bento, and more. Be inspired to make your lunches more joyful with deco-ben.
150g cooked japanese white or brown rice 1 sheet nori seaweed 1/4 tsp curry powder 1 tsp spicy cod roe mentaiko fresh salad leaves ankake meatballs chipolata sausages japanese fried chicken fresh fruit/vegetables cut into bite-sized pieces
First, let’s make the onigiri. To colour your onigiri, add the amounts of either the curry powder or spice cod roe and mix it into the cooked rice. You can use half of the rice for each to add more colour to your bento. Mix until evenly distributed and then you have a rice that is both coloured and more flavourful. Carefully dampen your onigiri moulds before scooping up some rice and pressing closed with the lid. Pop off the lid and carefully tip out your onigiri.
To decorate the onigiri, use a nori seaweed punch to create some fun faces with 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 with ham or cheese. Alternatively you can use bento cutters 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 cutter's shape.
Next, make any of the meat dishes you want to put into your bento. These can include Japanese fried chicken, ankake meatballs, or small sausages scored with a criss-cross pattern to add a decorative finish.
Cut and prepare any vegetables or fruits that you want to include in your bento.
Now let’s assemble the bento. First, put in your onigiri. Place or adjust any decorations on them. Then, add any meat dishes to your bento. You can use fresh salad leaves as dividers to help keep your meats and any sauces from seeping into the rice balls. Finish off with any fruits and vegetables. Now you can enjoy a cute and decorative bento for lunch.
• If our beginner’s bento has 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. Remember deco-ben are supposed to show off your decoration skills as well as your culinary prowess.