Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Kyaraben On Steroids (キャラ弁)

Ever since I was a child, I have loved Japanese animation (“anime”) characters. More recently, I started discovering the world of “kyaraben” (or “charaben”), which is derived from the longer phrase “character bento.” Kyarabens are elaborately decorated boxed lunches comprised of food made to look like famous characters. When Foodbuzz asked for proposals for 24,24,24, I immediately thought that I would try to make “Kyaraben on Steroids.” Instead of just a boxed lunch, I would try to cook a dinner party for 6 where all the food would be made to resemble my favorite Japanese anime characters.

Before we begin with the food, here is a brief introduction to my favorite characters!

Meet Totoro. Totoro is one of the main characters in the movie “My Neighbor Totoro.” The totoros are silent, magical creatures who can only be seen by children. In the movie, Totoro and his friends meet Satsuki and Mei, two girls living in the countryside. When Mei gets lost searching for her sick mother (who is in the hospital), Totoro ends up helping the rest of the family find her. Though the story is simple, the art in the movie is beautiful, the portrayal of Japanese country life is enriching, and of course, the characters are really cute!
Domo-kun is the official mascot of NHK, one of Japan’s national broadcasting services. He appeared in a series of 2 minute commercials that aired in Japan. In the shorts, Domo hatches from an egg and lands into a rabbit’s home. The first word he hears, which is an announcer on TV, is “dōmo, konnichiwa” which in Japanese means “Well, hello there” but can also mean “Hello Domo!” After Domo hears that, he immediately thinks Domo’s his name.

Kerokerokeroppi (or “Keroppi”for short) is a frog character made by Sanrio, who also makes the much more famous Hello Kitty. Keroppi loves to sing and swim, and lives at Donut Pond. He has a brother named Koroppi and a sister named Pikki. Keroppi was born in 1988 and was really popular in the early 90’s but has since faded. I loved Keroppi when I was a kid, and I bought tons of paraphernalia associated with him.

Doraemon is a robot cat from the future who was sent back in time by the descendants of Nobita Nobi, the boy in the cartoon (manga) series, to make improve his life. Doaremon has no ears because they were eaten by a mouse long ago. Doraemon has lots of cool gadgets that come out of his little pocket, and he often uses them to save the day. Doraemon loves doraeyaki – a snack that consists of red bean pasted sandwiched between two pancakes.
I invited six people over for dinner, and here is what we ate!

Appetizers – Sushi and Rice Balls!


Inarizushi (Totoro)

Inarizushi is sushi that is made from marinated tofu skins and sushi rice. For the Totoro Inarizushi, I cut dried seaweed sheets with scissors into the shape of his nose and the markings on his chest. For his eyes, I used black sesame seeds. Click here for a tutorial on how to make Inarizushi.

Onigiri (Doraemon)

Onigiri (also known as omusubi) is a rice ball that can be filled with a variety of fillings. Common fillings include salted salmon and pickled ume (plum). For this onigiri, I used seaweed as an outer covering to make his head and his whiskers. I cut out eyes with a straw from fish cake (kamaboko). I use scissors to cut the seaweed.

Maki is a specific type of sushi where rice and other ingredients are rolled up into a roll, usually using seaweed. I decided to make Maki rolls that, when cut, revealed the face of Keroppi.

Here is the step by step tutorial for how to make Keroppi Maki Rolls.

Main Dish #1: Domo Japanese “Hamburg” (ハンバーグ)
The Japanese rendition of hamburger has ground beef mixed with panko and sauteed onions. It is usually served with a brown sauce (like Bulldog Sauce) or curry. This Asian-interpretation of a western dish has almost become a separate type of cuisine in the states, and you can find restaurants that serve Japanese style hamburgers in the US.

I decided to make Domo-themed Japanese Hamburgers with brown sauce.

Domo has black beans for his eyes, red bell pepper for his mouth, and daikon for his teeth. For the recipe and tutorial on how to make Domo Japananese “Hamburg”, click here

Main Dish #2: Totoro Rice and Korean Spinach Salad

This was the centerpiece of the meal. The dish was inspired by a scene from the movie in My Neighbor Totoro where Totoro is holding an umbrella because it is raining. It is one of the most famous scenes from the movie. Due to limitations in what foods I had available, I was unable to really recreate the scene. So, instead, here is an inspired picture that is loosely based on a scene from the movie.

The flowers are made out of red peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. The sun is a picked daikon, and Totoro is made out of sesame rice and also regular rice. For a tutorial on how to make your own Totoro, click here.

For the Korean Spinach Salad recipe, click here.

Other sides dishes that were served at this meal but did not necessarily make it into the final centerpiece included the Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad and the Taiwanese Meat Sauce over Rice.

Dessert: Rice Crispy Treats and Chocolate

Rice Crispy Treats

Having made Japanese style rice crispy snacks before, I was somewhat familiar with how to handle rice crispy treats. Here, I shaped them into Totoros and stuck on some eyes using white chocolate chips and melted dark chocolate. For a more detailed tutorial, click here. I also played around with some other shapes.
Can you recognize who this is?

Finally, I made some chocolates in the shape of Keroppi. I used food coloring to color white chocolate green. I used white chocolate chips for his eyeballs. For a step by step look into how I made the Keroppi chocolates, click here.

It was a crazy Saturday filled with many hours of cooking. Thanks so much to Foodbuzz for sponsoring this event. I never would have attempted so many interesting dishes otherwise! This is my first time making many of these things, and I’m definitely still a novice! I have to acknowledge two great sites that I used as wonderful resources: Just Bento and Anna the Red’s Bento Factory.  I learned a lot from these sites, and you should definitely check them out. Just Bento has a ton of great tips about bento making in general, and Anna the Red makes incredibly detailed and crazy cute bentos that I can only dream of recreating.

Enjoy! And thanks for reading this far!

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  1. says

    I really enjoyed reading all of your recent posts about how to make all those bentos!

    The inarizushi is great as it is but I bet it tastes better when it’s in character form 😛

  2. says

    absolutely amazingggg, they’re all too cute! i especially adore the domokun burgers hahah.
    those keroppi maki rolls look quite complicated.: P

  3. Anonymous says

    I am sorry- you a novice? Your creations are AMAZING :O I felt soooo hungry just looking at it, but it’s soooo cute that if I were your guests I would not bear to eat it 😀

  4. says

    Wow those chocolates are so cute! I had a similar dish to the inarizushi one for my blog but I was also thinking of making chocolates. I have drawn so many designs for anime-themed chocolates but there are so many ideas running through my head, haha.

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