Bento-making, as I understand it, is a way to arrange food in small lunch boxes to make them look like animals or cute figures.
The goal is to encourage portion control and make healthy eating fun.
I first heard about the phenomenon from my friend Lei, who has hosted a few bento festivals at ABS-CBN. I also learned more about it from websites like Adventures in Bento-making and looking at cute pictures of bento creations online.
When Lei announced she was hosting another bento festival, I got so excited that I immediately blew hundreds of bucks on groceries. We were so into it, that it turned into a competition of sorts.
Using a sushi panda bento as my visual peg, I set about creating a panda bear out of a bola-bola siopao and food coloring. Then I made squid shapes out of cocktail hotdogs and waves out of scrambled egg strips and pancit canton noodles.
It took me less than 45 minutes to make 4 identical panda and squid bento sets for my family. I didn’t make one for my dad because he thought it was girly.
Five of us journalists (cum epicureans?) met up for lunch at The Loop today to show each other our pretty bento creations. You should have seen all the food court diners stare! Two didn’t make it, but they made some pretty spectacular bento as well (see below).
Here’s a rundown:
Purple’s Face Bento
Bento maker: Purple Romero
Inspiration: Her face
Ingredients: 4 pieces of siomai, rice, Finn crackers and Coco Crunch
Best features: Economical, creative use of sparse ingredients
Rosy’s Centipede Bento
Bento maker: Rosy Mina
Inspiration: the Centipede
Ingredients: Rice, string beans, German sausages and flower-shaped marshmallows
Best feature: Creative use of simple ingredients, environmental theme, beautiful eyelashes. hehe!
Thea’s Dos Puercos Bento and Duck In A Farm Bento
Bento maker: Thea Teves
Inspiration: Ducks and pigs (and an unnamed boy who makes her smile. wink!)
Ingredients: Spam, carrots, tomatoes, salami slices, peas, lettuce, cheese bread sticks and rice
Best features: Balanced diet, design matches ingredients used, cute pigs!
Kristine’s Panda Bento
Bento maker: Kristine Servando
Inspiration: Panda bear and sea creatures
Ingredients: Lettuce, cocktail hotdogs, bola-bola siopao, rabbit-shaped fish cakes, noodles, scrambled eggs
Best features: Artistic, cute, clever use of endangered species
Lei’s Spring Bento
Bento maker: Lei Chavez
Inspiration: Springtime, fish, ducks
Ingredients: Egg, cucumber, carrots, marble potatoes, hotdogs, Knick Knacks, flower-shaped marshmallows
Best features: Colorful, good mix of savory and sweet ingredients, super cute chick carving out of egg (you got lucky finding an egg with two yolks! hehe)
Carmela’s Pucca Bento
Bento maker: Carmela Fonbuena
Inspiration: Pucca, a Korean cartoon character
Ingredients: Rice, hotdogs, raisins and cashew nuts
Best features: Cute, may manliligaw si Pucca!, very healthy
Litz’s South Park Bento
Bento maker: Lilita Balane
Inspiration: South Park
Ingredients: Chicken strips, lettuce, cheese, cucumber, mayonnaise and corn chips
Best feature: It’s super awesome and AMAZING!
You can vote for whose bento box is the best, but I think everyone won (kung beauty contest ito). 🙂 And we got a great lunch out of it!