If you’re ever kicking about the internet and feel the urge to open up a world of cuteness, type kyraben into a Google image search and watch the awesomeness unfold. Kyraben (or charaben キャラ弁 ) the Japanese art of ‘character bento’, is basically a really time consuming way to impress your colleagues or get your kids to eat their lunch. These have become so popular that there are now national competitions held to create kyraben masterpieces. (I think I have found my sport!)

It’s quite amazing to see what is possible with a few rice balls and some veggies. Like Miffy holding a little meaty umbrella…


Or a box of cats… or panda bears… or a cat dressed as a bear…


Or this guy, who is taking a nap under an omelette…

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Or this… not sure if this looks very appetising, but it sure is impressive!


So we thought we’d give it a go ourselves and Clem, Marghe and I came up with this guy: the egg fish! We haven’t used any rice moulds or omelettes, this is more of an entry-level bento I guess, so the fish is super easy and you can find all the ingredients at a Western supermarket.

Go as nuts as you like with the veggies, you just need a sharp paring knife to carve the shapes.

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A boiled egg,  for the fish’s body
Carrot, for his fins
Black sesame seeds, for his eyes
A pitted green olive for his mouth

Various veggies for the salad – we used baby corn, carrot, steamed broccoli, radish and lettuce.
Rice or a sandwich at the bottom of the box to stick everything into

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For the fish:

1. First boil and peel your egg. Then make tiny slits in the egg white for the fins. One in each side and one at the back for the tail.

2. Cut up some raw carrot into thin, flat strips, then use kitchen scissors to cut them into four heart shapes. Insert the pointy end of the hearts into the slits in the egg white. One for each fin and two for the tail.

3. Now slice the end off a pitted olive to form the mouth. Stick this onto the egg using a little scrape of butter. If it’s warm where you are, it may slide off so you could use a toothpick to hold it in place.

4. Next stick on the black sesame seeds. We used tweezers to get them into the right spot.


For the coral garden:

1. We put a sandwich at the bottom of the lunch box to form a good base. Use fluffy white bread which forms a smooth, soft base. Take some small salad leaves and tuck them in around the sides of the sandwich. Then add in some crudites. Baby corn is really easy and looks great, as is broccoli. You could steam it first so it’s a bit more edible.

2. Marghe and Clem are pretty deft with paring knives, so they carved the radishes and carrots into some coral shapes and a little carrot starfish.

3. Now you can dazzle your colleagues with a healthy desk lunch that looks about a thousand times cooler than a Pret chicken sandwich!

Photography: Dee Ramadan
Stying: Emma Scott-Child, Margherita Poggiali and Clementine Larvor
Words: Emma Scott-Child