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Wed, 15 Feb ’12

Midweek Munchies: The Wild World of Charaben

Lunch just got a whole lot cuter

To paraphrase Justin Timberlake, charabens are “a gift real special / so take off the top / take a look inside / it’s my lunch in a box.” Say hello to the brightly colored, delicious world of charaben (short for “character bento”), a style of elaborately arranged Japanese bento box featuring food that looks like characters from popular anime, manga and more. Finally, you can have your Pokemon and eat them too.

Decorated bento boxes were originally a clever ploy by Japanese moms to get their children to eat healthier by making their meals cuter. Not only did it work, but making charaben has grown so popular that national contests have popped up across the globe. Bento makers have shown some incredible creativity and dedication to recreating their favorite characters in food form. From Hello Kitty to Black Butler to The Legend of Zelda and beyond, charaben is an otaku foodie’s dream come true.

So, you’re ready to add some kawaii to your diet, are you? We recommend checking out handy video tutorials by Cooking with Dog in which Francis (a dog) and an adorable female chef walk you through recipes step-by-step. Not a dog person? Prefer your recipes to be seen and not heard? Then, check out the phenomenal Just Bento Cookbook by JustBento.com guru Makiko Itoh. Have a specific character you’d like to make/eat? Chances are that Anna the Red has just the guide for you. Now you should have all the tools necessary to make bento boxes of your very own. Also, if you ever need some constructive criticism, our stomachs are always rumbling; just make sure it’s something that will keep in the mail.