cooking

Why are some Japanese preschools banning awesome, adorable character bento?

Considering how much Japan loves food and cute things, it’s no surprise that the country is in the middle of a chara-ben boom. Chara-ben, bento boxed lunches with their contents arranged like popular characters such as Hello Kitty and Doraemon, are a hit with adults and children alike, as parents seem to be having as much fun making them as their kids are eating them.

But not everyone loves this trend of culinary creativity, though, as some preschools and day care centers have started banning chara-ben.

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When first-try character bentos go wrong 【Photos】

The culinary custom of bento, boxed lunches, goes back for generation in Japan. What’s a little less clear, though, is how long people have been dressing up their bentos to look like cute characters.

We’re sure some creative people with both artistic and culinary talents have been making character bentos, or chara-bens, for a long time. But recently, media coverage of chara-bens has gotten intense, and it’s inspiring a wave of newcomers to try their hand at making one for the first time.

But you know the saying, “The third time’s the charm?” People say that because you’re likely to screw things up the first two times, as this collection of first-try bentos shows.

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Raw, frozen eggs are the new food trend in Japan, apparently

Japan seems like a heaven for lovers of raw food–you can even get raw horse meat, if you’re so inclined. Coming from the midwest of the US, I am seriously disinclined to touch any meat that’s not cooked well-done, especially if it comes from a formerly feathered friend. The very concept of “raw egg” is intrinsically linked to “death by salmonella” in my mind, despite the fact that raw egg dishes have been popular in Japan since long before I was born.

But knowing something logically and accepting it emotionally are two very different things. So, while I’m reluctant to try it, I’m that sure raw, frozen egg dishes are actually exceptionally tasty.

So, if you are interested in trying it, here’s some information on the dish and how to make it yourself.

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Cosplay as you cook with new Sailor Moon aprons!

If you’re a woman in her late twenties in Japan, chances are you grew up obsessed with Naoko Takeuchi’s “Magical Girl” manga series Sailor Moon and its accompanying anime. Given Japan’s love of natsukashii (nostalgic) cuteness, it’s really not that shocking that there’s now a thriving market out there for adult-appropriate Sailor Senshi outfits and accessories – we’ve even recently seen a trend for grown women wearing Sailor Moon undies. Not content with mere ribbon-bedecked panties? Well, now you can replace your dingy old curry-stained cooking apron with a stylish and colorful Sailor Moon version! In the name of the Moon… let’s get cooking!

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Bored of sushi? Level up those rice rolls to sushi gratin!【Recipe】

All right, who loves sushi? The colorful, beautiful little clusters of rice that look and taste like little pieces of art. To many people, sushi is synonymous with Japan, but Japan’s neighboring country Korea has their own version of maki sushi, known as gimbap (or kimbap).

As we’ve previously seen, the Koreans are incredibly creative when it comes to food improvisations, so we weren’t totally surprised when we came across this funky recipe for sushi/gimbap gratin. See the full recipe after the break!

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Onigiri without the nigiri – Japan’s traditional rice balls get an update

Onigiri are rice balls, and they’re basically the Japanese version of sandwiches. They’re a fast, convenient snack that you can eat without getting your hands messy, and they’ve been a staple of Japanese lunches since medieval times. But now there’s a hip new version that’s trying to take over from the long-established practice of molding the rice by hand.

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Top 10 food disasters prepared by Japanese wives who have extraordinary talent in the kitchen

So, a week or two ago, we saw this video of a Japanese woman explaining why she thinks Japanese women great girlfriends or wives, and one of the reasons she stated was that Japanese women care a lot about cooking. That’s a wonderful thing. I mean, there’s even a saying that says the best way to win a man’s heart is to first win his stomach.

However, caring about cooking and having the talent and taste buds for cooking are two entirely separate issues. Sorry to burst your bubble if you were thinking that all Japanese girls make fantastic home-cooked meals, because among the Japanese, there is a group of women collectively referred to as meshimazu yome, which means “wives who make unpalatable meals”. A survey by Goo Ranking reveals the top 10 shocking meals made by Japanese wives with… unique tastes. Are you in for a treat?

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Rice cooker oden: Quick, cheap, and delicious

Between rising sales tax and the dropping value of the yen, prices are on the rise for food in Japan. That puts us in a bit of a bind, since food is one of our favorite things to buy, along with swell stuff like shelter and clothing (although if you’re a work-from-home Internet writer, you can sometimes get away without that last one).

Thankfully, we recently found a way to make a delicious, hot meal that’s also dirt cheap, by tossing the stewed vegetable contents of a pack of oden from 7-Eleven into our rice cooker.

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Master Japanese chef’s knife skills turn cucumber into edible art in just three minutes

Artists of different disciplines each have their own unique tools of the trade. A painter has his brushes and canvas, while a sculptor’s skills might call for a chisel and block of marble.

And a Japanese chef? All he needs to make beautiful, edible artwork is a cucumber and a kitchen knife.

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16 fancy eggs from Japanese bento lunch boxes

Eggs are greatly underrated in the bento world. It’s usually rice and all the fun forms it can be molded into or seaweed and its ability to be cut into any shape that takes center stage in lunch boxes across Japan. But the humble egg can be quite fancy in the hands of a highly skilled and creative cook. Let’s take a look at 16 fancy eggs from Japanese kitchens!

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From Ponyo to Italy: Four delicious ways to improve instant ramen while your water’s boiling

August 25 is Instant Ramen Day in Japan, in commemoration of the day back in 1958 when Nissin unveiled Chicken Ramen, the very first instant version of the country’s favorite noodle dish. In celebration, we were going to chow down on some instant ramen, but since we do that all the time anyway, somehow a bowl of plain ramen didn’t seem quite special enough.

So instead, we drew on our love of anime, world travel, and the simple joy of not sweating profusely to come up with four recipes to spruce up instant ramen, specially tailored to be simple enough for anyone whose cooking skills mean their home is always well-stocked with the stuff.

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This little bear just popped up from your toast to say good morning!

Breakfast has never looked this cute! With the help of a clever little cutter and mold from Japan, you can make your toast smile every morning. Details on exactly how and where you can buy this meal-enhancing device after the break!

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Make a map of Japan in your oven with these intricate cookie cutters

Think you can identify all the prefectures of Japan? Yeah, neither can we. But that’s okay because now with the help of this impressively accurate cookie cutter set, you can study and eat a map of Japan at the same time. Mmmm, knowledge.

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What’s better than sushi? Ramen sushi!

If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see that inside this sushi roll there’s no rice. Instead, it’s filled with the goodness of instant noodles!

The lifeblood of students, singles and people who just don’t have time to cook, the humble noodle has been used in many ways over the years and now it’s seeing a new dawn, wrapped in a roll and plated up as sushi. And did I mention this baby is wrapped in bacon?

We’ll give you the easy, step-by-step recipe after the jump, but purists be warned: the following images may disturb. Everybody else: come on in and take a seat!

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Put your washing machine to better use – cook Chinese soup with it!【Video】

There are all sorts of electrical household appliances designed to make cooking easier these days. Multi-functional microwave ovens, bread makers, noodle makers, you name it. Advertisements make these kitchen gadgets look so easy to use, they tend to make us forget that these machines were created to help people who actually cook. They’re probably not going to turn folks who don’t usually cook (microwaveable food doesn’t count!) into instant chefs.

This might sound crazy, but your washing machine might just be the fool-proof cooking appliance! Not convinced? We weren’t either, until we saw this Chinese guy cook soup with his washing machine!

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Defrost a steak in 5 minutes without using heat or the microwave? What is this sorcery!?【Video】

Buying in bulk and freezing some of your purchase to cook another day is a great way to save money. But the problem with freezing things is that then you have to unfreeze them. That’s right, my friend. We need to talk about defrosting.

If I told you there was a super-fast way to defrost meat that doesn’t require a heat source, a microwave, or even hot water, you’d probably think I’d been drinking too much Lemon Coke or something. But, dear reader, never again will you feel depressed about the single-person servings lined up neatly in your freezer. Never again will a good steak go to waste for want of an eater. Never again. And it’s all thanks to the magic of physics. Yes. Magic.

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Our recipe for green tea rice-cooker pancakes: amazingly tasty, ridiculously easy

We recently found out that you can use a rice cooker to make awesome, gigantic pancakes. Our first reaction was surprise, as we’d honestly never even thought to try. Soon enough, though, our surprise faded and was replaced by something even stronger: hunger.

So we decided to get off the culinary sidelines and whip up a batch for ourselves. Since we were using Japan’s most beloved kitchen appliance, we decided to take another cue from our adopted country and spruce things up a bit by making matcha green tea pancakes.

We’re going to spoil the ending right now and tell you that they taste amazing. Want to make them yourself? Read on and we’ll give you the whole incredibly easy recipe.

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Want your cooking to taste like world-famous chef Nobu’s? Here’s the seasoning you need

One of the few Japanese restaurateurs to gain international fame and popularity is Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Better known by his professional moniker Nobu, the Saitama-born chef began his culinary career in Tokyo, before leaving Japan to open restaurants in Peru, Argentina, and the U.S.

Being so far away from the birthplace of Japanese cuisine, though, meant Nobu had to come up with new recipes and flavors that would suit the palates of his non-Japanese clientele. This often meant finding roles for locally available ingredients, but in one case, Nobu took things a step further by developing one of his own: miso powder.

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How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker

Every summer, I try to spend as many days as possible on the beach at Enoshima, and each time I get out of the station and walk towards the sand, I pass a long line of people waiting for a seat at the local pancake restaurant. This isn’t Japan’s only pancake joint with a lengthy wait, either, as you can find similar eateries with comparable lines in Tokyo, too.

It used to strike me as a little weird. After all, whipping up a stack of pancakes isn’t exactly the most challenging culinary feat. It can get tedious, though, as you settle into a monotonous pattern of plopping batter into the pan, flipping the half-cooked cake, and repeating over and over again.

Or, you could bypass all that by making an entire batch of pancakes all at once in a rice cooker.

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No time to cook? No problem! Three easy ways to improve instant curry

Even though it’s pretty easy to make, there are times when you just can’t be bothered to whip up a regular batch of curry. While the individual steps might be simple, the total process of peeling, chopping, and boiling all those ingredients can take a long time, so often people who are busy, lazy, or bachelors take the easy way out and just microwave a pack of instant stuff.

Convenient as it may be, though, instant curry isn’t always the tastiest version of the dish. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways to spruce it up.

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