Friday, April 19, 2013

Bento 1 - Totoro Rice

I have always been a big fan of Japanese animation and, well, anything kawaii (cute) from the Land of the Rising Sun. I practically grew up watching Astroboy and Doraemon  all the time. One of the things that I love about Japan is the way mothers prepare lunch for their children. And so today, I decided to add another category on this blog which will be called Bento.

Bento does not mean lunch box in Japanese. Bento is defined as a home-packed meal that contains rice, meat and vegetables that are placed in a box-shaped container.  Probably bento is associated with lunch boxes because housewives often prepare them as lunch for their children. In most cases, mothers prepare lunch boxes that are inspired by anime characters. This particular bento is called kyaraben (chara-ben).

Anyway, I woke up early today and decided to make Totoro rice for my daughter. Even as an adult, I always love watching Studio Ghibli films and Totoro happens to be one of my favorites. To make Totoro rice, all you need are the following:

Totoro Rice

* 1 tbsp. Ground black sesame seeds
* 1 cup rice
* A pinch of salt
* Nori (seaweed) sheet (for the face details)
* Sliced cheese
* Clean toothpick or tweezers
* Pair of scissors
* A lot of patience (for first timers like me ^_^)

Toast the black sesame seeds for two minutes. The sesame seeds will be used to color the rice black (or gray). Using a mortar and pestle, grind the sesame seeds until fine. 

You can use more than a tablespoon of black sesame seeds if you want to make your rice black. However, the flavor of sesame seeds can be overpowering so just use enough to slightly add color to your rice.

Add the toasted sesame seeds to the steaming rice. Use a spoon and mix the rice and seeds together. You can add salt to flavor the sesame rice. Wet your hands and start forming Totoro’s body and ears. Set them aside.

Using a pair of clean kitchen scissors, cut the nori sheets to form the details of Totoro’s face and body. You need two small circles for the eyes, whiskers and the body details.  For the eyes and stomach, use cheese sliced cheese to create the details. Assemble everything and it is ready to serve with your favorite dish.

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