Joan is this year's international bento contest winner. It wasn't easy to choose among the (roughly) 180 participant's pictures and decide who would come visit us in Kyoto. This said, it was clear for all of us (judges at Bento&co) that his creation deserved the 1st prize: such cooking mastery and clever ideas in a single box had to be justly rewarded!
We asked Joan to give us more details about his bento and its background. Here is his answer:
My additional ingredient is Basilic.
Since the contest's theme was about limiting the ingredients choice (and most of the available ones vegetables), it was just natural for me to put them under the spotlights thanks to several cooking techniques.
Regarding the bento appearance, all this greenery led me to picture a garden. The "Adding Fujisan" decision came from memories about the Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji (Hokusai) and pictures of the actual mountain with the typical tea/cherry fields in front of it.
From left to right, we go from an organized garden to the wild Fuji, with free nature parts somewhere in between.
On the left, from the seedling to the plant :
1) "The Seedling" : Lying on jellied tomato water are small jellied tomato and basilic dots. I drew my inspiration from the work Chef Frédéric Anton who made an amazing use of it in some of his creation.
2) "The Shoot" : Carrot purée with young, yellow and red carrot lattices on top of it. I got this idea from one of Rie San's bento but sadly, it's hard to fully appreciate here because of the picture's altered colors.
3) "The Plant" : fried, small carotts that has been cut and planted in wild rice, with fried carrot leaf stalks on sides.
Let's move on to the right part: There are steamed potatoes (pommes-de-terre nouvelles and bleues d'Artois types), rolled chicken supreme with a basilic leaf inside (which was poached in a bouillon, glazed in a pan and cut in thin slices).
Then finally are some Nigirisushi made of Thaï rice, with jellied broccoli and cherry tomatoes topping it. (Hint to get this ladybug-like shape for tomatoes : Scald for 10 seconds and immediately cool them down afterwards. This will let you easily cut and pull the wing-shaped part out. Finally, dry the tomatoes by briefly putting them in the oven (medium fire)).
The last part (on the top left) has been designed to represent a flourishing forest: it consists of finely carved vegetables (yellow, purple and orange carrots, broccolis) that where cooked à l'anglaise and completed with quail eggs and green/purple basilic leaves.
Then on the top right:
First compartment (fore front): French style meringue baked in the oven (at low temperature, long timer) with tomato cream and jellied basilic round "roof" (plus small leaves).
Second compartment (Fuji): The sacred mountain of Japan is made of slightly glazed italian meringue and rest on a bed of sweet tomato spheres. To make those, you will need agar agar, and add your mix drop by drop in a cold (around 95°F or 35°C) grape seed oil solution.