Reformed fish paste has never looked so good.
Chikuwa, literally meaning “bamboo rings” because of their shape and the traditional way of making them, are a cheap and cheerful way of filling out meals in Japan. They are made from ground-up fish paste, salt, sugar, starch and egg whites. That may sound like something best avoided, or burnt and the ashes buried in a lead-lined box, but actually they’re surprisingly tasty.
▼ Chikuwa in its most common state
They are also the latest thing to be used in making lunch boxes too beautiful to eat. They are perfect for this latest batch of chara–ben to surface on the internet, and even if the ingredients may not be everyone’s cup of tea, visually they can make for an extremely cute lunch.
▼ With little sausage tentacles
. ちくわ星人 参上! . https://t.co/3arhPVReUg—
小林ゅ (@880_okg) June 29, 2016
▼ Sporting green afros, and with something suspicious-looking in their hair that reminds me of a video I saw once…
NanaAkua（ナナアクヤ） (@NanaAkua) July 05, 2016
▼ If you kind of squint a bit, they look like hearts!
sogaeri♡ (@erimamu) October 12, 2016
▼ How could you eat something that looks so cute? Easily.
ちくわんこ(●´ω`●) お母さん、ありがとう… https://t.co/USSMJPUgxj—
uconeco (@uco_neco) December 16, 2015
▼ Puppies, with a Tsum-Tsum vibe
お家帰ってきたらこの子たちいた… ちくわ＋わんこ=ちくわんこ🐶っていうんだって…！ ゆるすぎてだいすき…笑💕 https://t.co/DuDg2PLVRe—
あかねん (@akanen_ribbon) May 08, 2016
▼ The Chikuwa have provided this ram with horns
あ！先週クックパッドで可愛かった羊ご飯作ったんだった！ 可愛かった… https://t.co/NlH5psPcoT—
あやの (@5196aya) October 10, 2016
Given the size of the ingredients needed to provide the eyes, or even the beaks of the next two images, someone doesn’t have the shaky-hands of an eight-cups-of-tea-a-day writer.
◎今日のお弁当 ちくわ鳥を作ってみた。 今朝、作るのがめちゃ楽しかった💕 キャラ弁にハマったりして😆(笑) 社会人の娘にもちくわ鳥を 入れてやった😆🎶 LINEが来て やられたって(笑) 今度は旦那にも作ってやろう😆 https://t.co/saterk6U1j—
らぶ@糖質制限中 (@D5McZyeluOsQIsK) June 21, 2016
ラムネ31 (@amh9t) June 22, 2016
At around 50 yen (US$0.44) for a pack of four, chikuwa are perfect for the budget-conscious bento artist. Let’s hope they taste as good as they look.