10 DIY Bentos: Animated Food From Anna The Red

Japan takes the cake, or the Bento, when it comes to food art. In fact, presentation is nearly everything in Japanese cooking. Bento, an art form that can be traced back about 900 years, is hot right now, and getting hotter as Japanese natives teach the rest of the world how it's done. "Anna The Red," a Japanese-born New Yorker, is such a wonderful teacher that you can easily learn how to create your own bento.

Bento, usually a packaged or boxed lunch in Japan, is an artistic presentation of food, generally consisting of rice, a fish or meat, and vegetables -- pickled, cooked, or raw. It sound like kids would naturally reject this kind of meal, but actually, one of the goals of bento is attract children to healthy eating. The art of kyaraben, or charaben, is in creating well-known characters or cartoon figures out of healthy foods -- like this Wall-E bento below -- so that kids will have fun eating them.


1. Wall-E Bento, Anna The Red



Here are a few more of the many kid-friendly characters Anna The Red has created (and eaten) for kids in the U.S.


2. Rayman Raving Rabbids Bento, Anna The Red

This game gives hours of pleasure to kids and there are even action figures available for the younger ones. Here's an action figure they can eat! By the way, if you create the figures in the second photo, who's to know that they are not Easter bunnies?





3. Head Crab Bento From Half-Life, Anna The Red

For the "adult" game players, you might want to try some Half Life characters. Here are yummy potato salad balls with french fry legs that serve as the centerpiece crabs.




4. Calvin And Hobbes Bento, Anna The Red

Have you ever seen such cute Calvin and Hobbes portrayals? The rice is naturally colored with ketchup. Anna The Red is big on natural; she even gives away her secrets for natural food colorings.





5. Onigiri Big Mouth Girls Bento, Anna The Red

Onigiri are Japanese sushi molds, which look like they would come in very handy in shaping your characters. The girls’ faces are primarily made of rice balls, egg, cheese, and ham.




6. Where The Wild Things Are Bento, Anna The Red

Aww. They do look good enough to frame, but Anna The Red promises they were eaten. One book and DVD that your children will long remember, the characters of Bernard, Max and Moishe from Where The Wild Things Are will surprise and delight your kids.




7. Cooking Mama Bento, Anna The Red

What an inspiration for kids to learn to cook. Not just Cooking Mama, but eating her likeness. Anna The Red makes her recipes for bento easy enough for kids to make with you.




8. Battlestar Galactica Bento, Anna The Red

True to the show, everything in this Battlestar Galactica bento has no corners. Anna The Red, who designs most of her bentos on paper first, used all her creativity to actually make what she drew; but of course having her as your pioneer, it will be much easier for you.




9. Spirited Away Bento, Anna The Red

Spirited Away is one of several animated Japanese films by director Hayao Miyazaki and it is available in English and French, as well as Japanese. The voices in English are created by several well-known American actors. The Spirited Away bento has the sweetest characters!




10. No Face, Kodama, and Makkurokorosuke Bento

All Hayao Miyazaki characters from his animations: No Face, the poignant central figure of this bento is from Spirited Away; Kodama, the white spirits, are from Princess Mononoke; and Makkuro Kurosuke are little soot spirits from My Neighbor Totoro.



Interested in lessons for beginners? Anna The Red has a about as live a blog as a chef can have at her site. Her photographer (alias web-designer, bento taster, and boyfriend) presents great step-by-step photos and Ms. Red writes the descriptions with her whole heart.

There are dozens more incredible bento recipes on her website and many are for Japanese kyaraben! Her site is easy to navigate with great graphics that let you know what ingredients are in each piece of a bento by just pointing to them with your cursor. It is hard to believe that Anna The Red and her photographer work on Anna The Red's Bento Factory in their spare time and that her lessons are avaiable to everyone for free!


Sources: Anna The Red's Bento Factory, IMDB, Wikipedia

See Steve's Japanorama blog to learn more about the wonderful joys of Japan! Make sure you check out his write-up of the Obama character bento.

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