Bento Recipes: How to Make a Simple “Charaben” Kid’s Bento

Bento Recipes: How to Make a Simple “Charaben” Kid’s Bento

Busy schedules, finicky eaters, and messy ingredients can make lunch prep for kids a true struggle! Try to make lunch “cute” on top of that? Feels impossible!
We’re here to show you a couple of our favorite Japanese bento hacks to make an easy Kawaii bento, sure to coax even the pickiest of eaters!

The star of this simple “chara-ben” (Japanese cute character bento) is the “takosan” (Mr. Octopus) wiener, an octopus-shaped sausage that is a Japanese bento staple. The story goes that when sausage was introduced to Japan around 1955, people were struggling to pick them up with chopsticks as the skin was hard and slippery. In 1959, Michiko Sho, a culinary researcher and presenter on NHK's long-running program "Today's Cooking”, came up with the clever cutting technique to make octopus-shaped sausages, and Japan has never been the same since! With the octopus legs that fan out when the sausage is cooked, “takosan” weiner were easier to grasp and pick up with chopsticks, especially for children, and adds some visual delight to lunchtime.

Along with “takosan weiner”, we’ve made hard boiled eggs transformed into friendly critters, rabbit apples, and tomatoes that look like cherries, thanks to some cute leaf picks. No meal is complete without veggies so we’ve also added boiled broccoli, easy for little hands to grab and a perfect pop of color.

Ingredients:

Enough for 2 Kids' Lunches

  • 2 Servings of cooked rice
  • Furikake
  • 2 Eggs
  • 6 Cherry tomatoes
  • 4 Broccoli florets
  • 6 Japanese sausages
  • 1 Apple
  • Salt

Instructions:

Boil Broccoli

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and cook, uncovered, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from water and let cool.



Make “Tako-san” (octopus) Weiner

  • Lay sausage flat against the cutting board.
  • In the middle of the sausage, make a slit about 2/3 the length of the sausage.
  • Roll the sausage 90 degrees and cut it the same way again. Now you have four neatly formed legs.
  • Slice each individual leg in half to create 8 legs total.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the sausage and boil until legs open up.*
  • Remove from water and let cool.
  • Add sesame as eyes for extra realism!

*“Tako-san” (octopus) Weiner can also be cooked by sauteing on a frying pan with a bit of sesame oil.

Make boiled egg characters

  • Boil eggs
  • While still hot, peel the eggs. 
  • Place eggs inside the molds and slowly close the lid. 
  • Remove any egg whites that may have come out of the mold. 
  • Place mold with eggs inside a bowl of ice water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Open the lid and carefully remove the transformed egg!

Prepare tomatoes:

  • Wash Cherry tomatoes and remove stems. 
  • Pierce tomatoes with picks for fun and easy eating

Make rabbit apples 

  • Cut the apple into 8 equal slices and remove the cores.
  • Make a shallow V-shaped incision in the skin of each slice.
  • Use the knife to peel the skin to the point of the “V” shape.
  • Remove peeled skin.
  • To keep apples from discoloring, soak rabbit apples inside salt water while you prep the rest of the bento.



Assemble Bento

  • Add a bed of rice to bento.
  • Add broccoli, egg, sausage, cherry tomatoes and apples.
  • Top rice with furikake.
  • Pack up bento and enjoy later!




Products Featured:
Yukihira Nabe 18cm
Cooking Chopsticks
Blue Totoro Bento Box 650mL
Blue Totoro Chopstick Set
Totoro Drawstring Bento Bag
Yude Tama Egg Molds | Rabbit & Bear
Happa Picks
Furikake Omusubi Yama | Shake Wakame

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