Shirley Wong — aka Little Miss Bento at www.littlemissonigiri.blogspot.sg
Shirley Wong, 31, aka Little Miss Bento, began packing lunch because, “I didn’t like the food that was being sold out there!” So, she thought, why not make it cute? The rest is history.
Encouraged by her husband, her colleagues and her fans (more than 7,700 of them on Facebook), Wong wakes up at 5.30am daily to create those special treasure boxes. It takes her about an hour, she says, and she snaps pictures of her bentos for her blog that's “a catalogue of my work!”
Inspiration — from pop culture to what’s in the news — hits this creative lass anywhere. For instance, she has even created one that features lead characters from the hit animated movie, Frozen. She also assembled one featuring the British royal family when Prince George was born last year.
She uses basic ingredients like rice and seaweed, fresh vegetables and eggs. One thing she doesn’t use, however, is cheese, because it’s just not practical to work with this dairy product in our weather. And it helps to make sure your containers are microwaveable if you plan to heat up your meal before chowing down.
The hardest part of making such beautiful food? “Trying to find the right balance between nutrition and making it look good,” she says. “People also tell me that my food looks too nice to eat!” she chuckles.
Here, she demonstrates three lunch bentos you could make for your little one!
Panda Rice and Salmon Bento
• One serving of cooked Japanese rice, divided into two parts
• Dried sheet of seaweed
• Steamed carrots, sliced into circles
• Steamed broccoli
• A piece of salmon, steamed or pan-fried
• A lettuce leaf, strawberries, edamame or any other fruit or vegetable sides your child likes
1. Shape the two portions of Japanese rice into oval balls, by wrapping it tightly with heat-resistant cling wrap.
2. Cut out the ears, eyes and nose of the panda from the seaweed sheet using a small pair of scissors.
3. Use tweezers to place the facial features on the panda.
4. Use cookie cutters to punch out shapes in the carrot slices.
5. Arrange the panda onigiri (rice balls), the salmon, carrots, broccoli and other sides in your bento box.
Winnie the Pooh Pasta Bento
• Winnie the Pooh pasta (available at Cold Storage supermarkets)
• 1 quail’s egg
• 40g minced chicken
• 1 tsp chopped onion
• 1 tsp chopped garlic
• 1 brown mushroom, diced
• 1 tsp diced carrots
• 1 cup tomato purée
• ½ cup tomato sauce
• Edamame, long beans and carrots to garnish
• Dried sheet of seaweed
• Sesame seeds
1. Boil the pasta in lightly salted water until it’s the texture that your child likes. Drain, toss in a little olive oil, then set aside.
2. In a small non-stick pan, heat some olive oil, then sauté the chopped onion and garlic, before adding the minced chicken. Toss lightly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. When meat has browned, add diced mushroom and carrots. Add tomato purée and tomato sauce.
4. Add water to achieve the desired consistency.
5. Fry quail’s egg. Use a sharp knife to cut around the yolk (leaving some white) to create an oval shape. Use scissors to cut the bee “stripes” from the dried seaweed, then place them on the yolk with tweezers. Add a sesame seed for the eye. Mark the bee’s cheeks with a drop of pasta sauce.
6. Place the pasta, sauce and egg into a cute bento box like the one shown.
7. To make the flower and leaf garnishes, punch out flower shapes from steamed carrot slices, slice the steamed edamame and long beans on the cross section, then place on the pasta sauce.
For a great variety of cartoon character-inspired boxes, as well as cutters and moulds, visit Bento and Co. Free worldwide shipping when you spend US$100 ($126).
Teddy Bear Baby Porridge Bento
• 1 cup cooked baby porridge
• baby pudding, available at Japanese supermarkets like Meidi-Ya
• A variety of baby biscuits
• A jar of prune purée
1. Make the baby pudding by following the instructions on the pack. Pour into a small container, then set in the fridge for at least an hour.
2. Put prune purée in a squeeze pen (available from Daiso), then add the bear’s features.
3. Use small, round baby biscuits or small pieces of banana for the ears.
4. Pour cooked baby porridge — with chopped-up veggies for colour — into a compartment. Add the pudding as a dessert, as well as several baby biscuits on the side.
Photos: File photos