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Inside the Bento Box: Exploring the Art of Charaben (#キャラ弁)

To see more photos of beautifully decorated bentos, browse the #キャラ弁 hashtag.

For many Japanese people, having home cooked bentos, or boxed meals, for lunch is a part of everyday life. Often parents will wake up early in the morning to prepare and pack the lunches into individual bento boxes for the whole family before they go to school or work. In recent years, the daily endeavor to prepare a balanced and appetizing meal has evolved into an artistic talent. These have taken the form of “charabens" (キャラ弁), short for "character bentos."

Charabens are bentos that are arranged to resemble famous characters, animals or other cute icons using the ingredients of the meal. Charaben making originally started as a way to encourage fussy kids to eat everything in the bento, including vegetables. Nowadays, with more cooking ideas and specialized tools at hand, this elaborate style of bento creation has become a hobby for many mothers. The bentos are increasingly sophisticated with rice balls shaped into rabbits, eggs baked to form stars and seaweed carved out into kids’ favorite manga characters. Skilled charaben are also beginning to gain recognition for their craft as many mothers have taken to writing blogs and cookbooks about their work, producing new cooking utensils or even entering charaben cooking contests.

Amazing stuff

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The Making Of: Baking Artisanal, Organic Bread with @bakerhands

To learn more about Tara and her baking techniques, follow @bakerhands.

Tara Jensen’s (@bakerhands) love of artisanal baking took root in the pine forests of Maine where she grew up. “My childhood is marked by memories of snow banks, piles of leaves and painting with my mother at the table once the dinner dishes were cleared,” she says. “Spending my life in beautiful but remote environments impressed upon me the importance of self-sufficiency and traditional crafts.”

Tara started baking while studying at the College of the Atlantic. After graduation, she spent the next years of her life traveling the coasts and learning the trade from bakers dedicated to the artisanal and organic food movements. “I would make bread all day and paint all night. Now that I run my own micro-bakery, Smoke Signals, bread has become my primary mode of self-expression.”

When a friend introduced Tara to Instagram, she immediately saw it as a place to share and connect with a global baking community. “I’ve always enjoyed visual documentation and storytelling. Instagram encompassed both of these interests in an easy-to-use format with instant connection to others,” she says. “I may spend 12 hours at the bakery without seeing a single soul or saying a word. Instagram has been my teacher and social connection on these long, solo bakes.” For Tara, the community on Instagram is also a resource for learning more about her craft. “Each picture posted and shared is a gold mine of information. Now, when I’ve run into troubles, I have the wisdom of bakers worldwide at my side. I consider the baking community I have on here to win out any textbook I’ve encountered.”

For more great bakers on Instagram, check out @uneclef, @tartinebaker, @chickenbridgebakery and @jarkkolaine.

It is Christmas for everyone

(Source: thecutestofthecute, via ellekae)

Great dim sum in Hong Kong

londontastin:

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In a nutshell: 3 of my favourite dim sum restaurants in HK

Rating: 5/5


High end dim sum  - Man Wah at Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Man Wah serves amazing high end dim sum (and dinner), such as the abalone taro puff and black truffle siu mai. The beef tenderloin puff with black pepper sauce has an incredible 96 layers giving a super light texture. It’s better to go on weekends when a longer dim sum menu is available. They also do great traditional Chinese desserts like glutinous rice balls (tang yuan), else you can head down to the Mandarin Cake shop which has way too many mouthwatering cakes (they also have Cronut). Prices are high, around $78-108 (£6-8) per plate (3-4 pieces in

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