Cat Bento Lunch Box with Cat Onigiri, Mochiko Fried Chicken, Julienned Carrots, Grape Tomatoes, Shelled Edamame (Mukimame), and Miso Soup.
Disclosure: I received products from Bento&co in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
With Evan’s selective eating habits, I have become more and more immersed in the various bento supplies available to help make lunch fun and exciting. I recently teamed up with Bento&co to try out some of their products.
I packed this Cat-Themed Bento with Cat Onigiri, Mochiko Fried Chicken, Julienned Carrots, Grape Tomatoes, Shelled Edamame (Mukimame), and Instant Miso.
Cat Bento Ingredients
I made two Cat Onigiri for the bottom tier of the bento. Onigiri in its most basic form is plain steamed Japanese short grain rice fashioned by hand or with plastic wrap into a ball. Flavorings, fillings, and colorings can be mixed in and they can be wrapped with nori (seaweed). While balls, triangles, and cylinders are the most popular shapes, the possibilities are endless thanks to molds like this Neko Kao Onigiri Set. The packed rice is perfect for lunch boxes since they can be eaten by hand and with less mess.
I made one cat with plain steamed white rice. I also made a second one dyed orange with Carrot Rice. Spots or patches can be created with a variety of natural dyes or a little soy sauce.
I packed the freshly steamed, warm rice in the mold (making sure not to pack the rice too densely), put the two sides together and squeezed them shut using the handle to form the cat’s head. I cut out the desired nori shapes using the specialized nori cutters.
For any onigiri that you want to prepare the night before, wrap the formed onigiri in plastic and wrap additionally with a kitchen towel to help keep the outer layer of rice from drying out and getting hard while in the refrigerator.
I used this White Kokeshi Bento Maneki-Neko as the base for this particular cat bento (also available in black or in larger sizes). The total capacity is 640 ml with each compartment holding 200 ml and the inverted bowl on top holding 240 ml. At first glance, I didn’t think it would hold much food, but was quite surprised at how much I was actually able to fit in each of the compartments.
To make the Cat Onigiri, I used this Neko Kao Onigiri Set. The mold is a helpful way to make kyara onigiri (character rice molds) quickly and easily. It comes with a three-piece mold, two cutters, and a silicone board to cut the nori. The two cutters include four faces that can be mixed and matched (three are for nori, one is for cheese/ham/softer foods) along with a paw print and fish cut-out.
I have a variety of food picks that are an easy way to add some decoration to the boxes and hold food in place. It is amazing how I have to remind Evan to eat every single blueberry in his lunch, but suddenly he will eat them all on his own by spearing each one with his favorite light saber pick. In full disclosure, I save the picks for meals and weekend lunches at home. I don’t put them in his school lunch at this time since they may get accidentally tossed or become a distraction. For this box, I added a few cats from the Wanyan Picks set.
In keeping with the Cat Bento Theme, I paired the bento with these Kao Neko Chopsticks.
For things like the Mochiko Fried Chicken that was leftover or previously frozen, I reheated it thoroughly in the oven then allowed to cool to room temperature before packing. Nami from Just One Cookbook has some great information on bento food safety, as does Just Bento.
Cat Bento Recipe
Onigiri adapted from Just One Cookbook
1 cup uncooked Japanese short grain rice
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 sheet nori
Lettuce leaves for lining the box
Mochiko Fried Chicken, reheated and cooled to room temperature
5 grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon shelled edamame (Mukimame)
Julienned carrots, cooked if desired and seasoned
1 slice cheese
Instant miso packet
Rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in the cold water for 30 minutes, then drain for 15 minutes.
Cook the rice in a rice cooker according to manufacturer’s instructions or place the rice and 1 1/4 cups of water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and cook until all the water has been absorbed, 10-13 minutes. Remove from heat, leave the cover on, and allow to rest for another 10 minutes.
Remove the cover, fluff the rice with a fork or rice scooper and allow to rest until just cool enough to handle. It should still be warm to hot. Pack the freshly steamed, warm rice in the mold (making sure not to pack the rice too densely), put the two sides together and squeeze using the handle to form the cat’s head. If forming by hand, wet your hands with cold water, rub with salt and form the mound of rice into a cat’s head, using plastic wrap if needed. Use the nori punch to cut out the desired cat face or cut out with scissors by hand.
Line the bottom tier of the bento box with lettuce. Add the cat (neko) onigiri. Fill the second tier with Mochiko Fried chicken, grape tomatoes, shelled edamame, and carrots. Cut fish out of the cheese slice using a cutter or by hand with a knife.
Heat the instant miso packet according to package instructions right before serving.