Recipe: Bento Bear lunch box
Bento bear set by Shirley Wong, founder of Bento Singapore. PHOTOS: ST

Turn every meal into a work of art with carefully arranged Japanese bento boxes.

Shirley Wong, 30, founder of Bento Singapore conducts bento-making classes and posts bento tutorials on her blog, www.littlemissonigiri.blogspot.sg.

Here, she demonstrates how to make a bento box featuring a bear and several decorative side dishes.

She has this tip for handling the rice: “When mixing the soya sauce into the rice, use a slicing motion and not a smashing motion, otherwise the rice will become gooey.”

Recipe: Bento Bear lunch box
The ingredients that you need

INGREDIENTS
One slice of ham
One slice of cheese
Half a cucumber
Cookie cutters (any shape, about the size of a 50 cent coin)
Two toothpicks
Two prawns
Knife
Assorted vegetables
65g of cooked rice
A dash of light soya sauce
Cling film
One piece of seaweed
Scissors
One cocktail sausage
One stick of angel hair pasta
Bento box (available at Daiso)

DIRECTIONS

To make the side dishes
1. Make two layered “cakes” of ham, cheese and cucumber. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the three ingredients, and stack the slices on top of one another. Each stack should be about four to five layers thick. Push a toothpick through the middle of the stack to secure the pieces together.

2. Make two “inside-out” prawns. Shell and clean the prawns, then use a sharp knife to make a 3cm cut through the back of the prawn.

Recipe: Bento Bear lunch box
The “inside out” prawns

3. Bend the tail of the prawn backwards and tuck it into the hole. Steam the prawns for about five minutes, until cooked.

4. Saute the leftover pieces of ham with assorted vegetables to create a base to arrange the rest of the bento on later.

To make the bear
1. Set half a teaspoon of cooked rice aside to make the muzzle of the bear, and add a dash of light soya sauce to the rest of the rice for colour. Mix until the rice is evenly coated.

2. Make the head of the bear. Take a sheet of cling film, and put about 50g of rice in the middle of the sheet. Twist the cling film to close, and use your hands to shape it into an oval. Use the same method to shape two rounded ovals for the hands of the bear, and use white rice to make a flattened oval for the muzzle.

Recipe: Bento Bear lunch box Bento bear ham ears Recipe: Bento Bear lunch box
Shaping the head of the bear

3. To make the ears of the bear, cut a cocktail sausage in half and skewer it with a 2cm piece of uncooked angel hair spaghetti. Put the other end of the spaghetti into the rice. Repeat with another 2cm piece for the other ear.

Tip: Ms Wong says the pasta should soften after a few hours, and can be eaten along with the rest of the bear.

4. Use scissors to cut out two round pieces of seaweed for the eyes of the bear, and one smaller round piece for the nose.

5. Also cut out a thin line, about 1cm long, for the mouth of the bear. Press the muzzle and the pieces of seaweed into place. The moisture from the rice should be sufficient to hold them.

To arrange the bento box
1. The box can be lined with waxed paper so that it will be easier to clean after eating.

2. Begin by putting the sauteed ham and vegetables at the bottom of the bento box.

3. Arrange the ham, cheese and cucumber cakes at the back of the box, then put the bear, outwards, at the front of the box.

4. Finish off by putting the hands of the bear in front of its head, and arranging the two steamed prawns around it.

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on June 14, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.