Now that you’ve got the basic equipment, see How to Bento 1, it’s time to gather the fun stuff. These items allow you to get creative with your Bento box meals and make the prep work more fun. Your Bento accessory collection can be fun to build and grow but keep in mind that you’ll want to think ahead for organization and storage. So many odds n’ ends and little pieces!
Molds and Presses
For every pliable foodstuff, there is an appropriate mold. Rice, egg, and meat molds are among the most popular tools for transforming food into art for Bento Boxes. Traditionally, molds are used in Bento boxes for carbohydrates and proteins, the main food substance.
Typically, the molds work best when hot food is pressed into them, followed by a quick dunk in an ice bath. Rice molds aren’t so difficult to use but work best when you coat the inside of the mold with a light layer of rice vinegar or vegetable oil. Egg molds are trickier and the outcome can vary depending on several factors, including the size of the egg used. I tend to use rice molds only as sushi presses (for making sushi-style sandwiches) or for making basic, un-stuffed rice shapes or mounds. When stuffing rice (for example, when making Onigiri, or rice balls), I prefer to use wet hands and cellophane to mold the desired shape.
Cutters and Slicers
You’re probably familiar with cookie cutters and vegetable cutters but did you ever imagine you could cut out an entire hiragana syllabary? Food cutters come in almost every shape and size. These are pretty simple to work with and can be used on a variety of foods including sandwiches, fruit, veggies, cheese, and seaweed. Cutters are used for embellishments, and side snacks.
Face-makers are most commonly used for children’s lunches but adults have been known to partake in the tradition of Kawaii (or cute) lunches as well. These tools come in several forms; presses and punches, stamps and cutters. Most are packaged in little kits that include a pick tool for cutting, retrieving, and placing the facial elements. These elements are traditionally made with cheese, sliced meat, or seaweed.
There isn’t a whole lot you can’t make with what you already have in the house, but here are a couple of my favorite items that are specific to Japanese cooking. On the left is a takoyaki maker. Takoyaki are savory pancakes with a chewy octopus center. They are made by pouring the batter into the pan molds, tucking in a nice slice of octopus, and then rolling the pancake with just the right timing and speed. Be open-minded about this kitchen tool because there is a lot more you can make using it.
On the right is a Japanese omelette pan. As you can plainly see, the pan is square. The idea is to cook a thin, elongated omelette that you will roll up onto itself to form a layered eggy loaf that is roughly brick-shaped but light and fluffy. Simple omelettes are sweet, rather than savory. Just give Tamago Sushi or sashimi a try if you’re curious.
These last items are purely for fun and decoration and not always edible. Of the items pictured above, you see paper and plastic edging, cups, stickers, and picks. The pens above are edible food coloring pens that can be used to write messages on cheese slices, decorate sandwiches, or add faces to little kawaii figures.
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What’s the weirdest thing in your Bento kit?