The Cutest Wombat Bento Box by Pudding Pie Lane

I don’t watch TV much these days but I’m hooked on Top Chef. It showcases France’s up and coming professional chefs, as they battle it out in front of the daunting cameras – all sweat and tears to seduce the eyes and tastebuds of the discerning jury with their innovative dishes based on each set task. The jury? We’re talking Thierry Marx, Jean-François Piege, Ghislaine Arabian, and Christian Constant, s’il vous plaît. One of the surprising tasks last week was to come up with an artistic and healthily balanced bento box. The additional jury was even tougher this time: a group of sophisticated 8-year-old French children.

Bento boxes are something I only discovered recently by visiting Xinmei Wang’s blog, Pudding Pie Lane. If you don’t already know it, then I urge you to check it out. Xinmei’s creatively cute bento boxes are what first caught my eye, then I returned for more doses of her sense of humour. You get a glimpse into her life as a student while at Cambridge University. Yes, Xinmei is a clever cookie and in her spare time in between essay writing, she skillfully bakes and cooks up dishes not only on a limited budget but with the minimum of equipment, perfecting the art of getting by on a microwave. Let me hand you over to Xinmei.

Ever wondered how to be a food blogger as a student, meaning a very stretched budget? I like baking and everything I do is in my spare time (often procrastinating from writing my 10th essay of the term!) I study Economics at Cambridge so have never taken any courses related to baking or cooking, I’ve taught myself from various cookbooks, but occasionally like to make up my own recipes to ‘see what happens’. I especially love baking for my friends at Uni and more recently making bento boxes after I saw them on another site. Not only are they a (quite literally) healthy break from the cakes and cookies, but also look incredibly cute!

You may wonder how I manage to make this bento box in my tiny puny midget University kitchen (aka ‘gyp room’), with just a microwave, kettle and toaster. How did I cook the eggs? How did I boil the rice? And just how did I manage to make the wombat/bear/generic-furry-animal bento so astoundingly amazingly awesomely cute?

For the first two, that’s the Art Of Getting By On A Microwave. For the third one, well, that’s a secret ;)

At my University we’re all catered, so we have limited cooking means, and I’ve often had to make do. I don’t go to the hall to eat very often, however Harry Potteresque Cambridge University dining halls looks like (or should I say ‘however Cambridge-esque Harry Potter looks like!’). Maybe because we have to eat by candlelight at dinner every night. This may sound cool, but the novelty wears off when you’ve accidentally eaten sponge cake instead of chicken.

Not that I have ever done this. But anyway, I’m going to show you how you can make this bento in your very own box of a ‘gyp room’ so you can make one yourself!

You will need:

1. Rice! How to cook them in the microwave? Well:

  • Buy/borrow/find a pyrex bowl with a lid.
  • Put 1 cup of rice in it and rinse the rice. Soak with just over 1 cup of warm water for 15 minutes minimum (this is important!).
  • Microwave, with the lid on, on HIGH for 5 minutes.
  • Stir the rice around to get all the uncooked bits evenly distributed.
  • Do this two more times, or until the rice seems cooked when you stir it. It will depend on your microwave.

2. Eggs!

  • boil them in the kettle (see the bottom of this post). After it is boiled and cooked, separate the yolk from the white and mix it with the rice to colour it yellow. This makes said rice taste creamy and yummy.
  • You can even make scrambled eggs in the microwave by cracking them into a bowl, adding milk and seasonings, then microwaving in about 2 or 3 thirty second bursts (stirring between each one).
  • (I have, however, yet to figure out how to make eggs in the toaster.)

It’s a funny thing about eggs, because, well….

…please don’t judge me, but this one time, I went out to eat at a very posh restaurant where the menus have words like ‘mouli’ and ‘pousse café’. You see, one of the things was some chicken and ‘hen’s egg’ dish. And, seeing that, my thought process went something like this:

1)    Oooh! Hen’s egg! I’ve never had that before.

2)    I’m going to order it.

3)    That was very yummy.

4)    Wait a second.

5)    Hm.

6)    A hen’s egg is just an egg.

7)    Oops.

My friends have never let me forget that.
So moving swiftly on, here is a nice photo of the steps needed to make the wombat bento. You can put anything you like in the bento as extras, I have used random bits of veg, crabsticks, dumplings and pork fritters. You will also need:

  • Seaweed sushi nori for the eyes and mouth
  • Black sesame seeds for the eyelashes
  • Ham for the ears
  • A mushroom (I used a date instead, but you might find that a bit strange) for the nose
  • Ketchup for the cheeks

Et voila! You are done. I hope you like it!

Thanks so much, Xinmei. I think the Top Chef contestants could have done with checking out your bento box for their task last week, especially since one of the young jury members said she hoped to see a bento box with a cute bear’s head and none of them had this wombat beauty. The chefs could have also impressed the jury by telling them it was made with hens’ eggs! You know, I ate out in Paris last night (yes, hubby took me out after 7 months, bless him, so it was posh to shut me up) and the first item on the menu was…”oeuf de poule...” It cracked me up!

I say this is the cutest bento box but believe me, Xinmei has many more wonderful creations over at Pudding Pie Lane: check out her bento panda (‘Pandi’.) Please say hello from me and try not to make any hen jokes.

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46 Responses to The Cutest Wombat Bento Box by Pudding Pie Lane

  1. Choclette March 7, 2012 at 20:43 #

    Xinmei is amazingly creative, but I hadn’t realised until reading this, that it was all done with only a microwave – fantastic. And I love wombats too.

    • Jill March 7, 2012 at 20:48 #

      She is a cool student, n’est-ce pas?

  2. Becky March 5, 2012 at 12:27 #

    Your Bento Box Wombat is adorable, as well as healthy. Your are so creative with so so few resources, and humorous, too.

    Thanks for another great guest blogger.

  3. Gourmantine March 4, 2012 at 22:15 #

    This is just adorable and so creative, I’m sure even my picky nephew would love it!

  4. Maureen March 3, 2012 at 16:47 #

    This is too cute for words :)

  5. Biren @ Roti n Rice March 2, 2012 at 19:58 #

    I applaud you Xinmei for being so creative and taking time to make this bento in your dorm room. The wombat is really cute. :)

    I hope you are doing well Jill. Enjoy your weekend. :)

    • Pudding Pie Lane March 5, 2012 at 11:15 #

      Thanks Biren, it’s a bit crazy trying to balance this and my studies, but it’s always fun!

  6. Ivy March 2, 2012 at 07:10 #

    I’ve only recently learned what Bento boxes are from food bloggers. It takes a lot of talent to make such great looking food with minimal equipment.

    • Jill March 3, 2012 at 21:26 #

      I hear you, Ivy. I would have probably exploded the rice if it was me as a student. These days were dynamite so I stuck to reheated curries and not for the better. Long live bento boxes! Xinmei, you rock.

  7. balvinder ( Neetu) March 2, 2012 at 06:16 #

    My daughter is in high school. But I still love these bento boxes.

    • Jill March 3, 2012 at 21:24 #

      Mine has just started high school too – and I can say I witnessed her hooping with delight on seeing Xinmei’s bento box. Unfortunately they have the canteen and we’re not allowed to give them packed lunches. Och, French schools…

  8. Jeannie March 2, 2012 at 04:02 #

    Really creative of you Xinmei:) you have so much patience doing this! Beautiful and looks delicious!

    • Jill March 3, 2012 at 21:22 #

      I’d definitely have the patience in eating this, Jeannie. Agree that this looks stunning.

  9. 5 Star Foodie March 2, 2012 at 02:45 #

    Awww the wombat is adorable! Must make this for Junior, she’d love this!

    • Jill March 3, 2012 at 21:21 #

      Your junior is fairly getting in to making great dishes like Mum. Hope she gets to making this for your lunch, too, Natasha. ;-)

  10. Marsha @ The Harried Cook March 2, 2012 at 01:42 #

    Wow! These are so cute… Love Xinmei’s creations and this one is no exception… love the little pink cheeks on the little fella :) Great post, Xinmei and Jill! :)

    • Jill March 3, 2012 at 21:20 #

      Agree totally, Marsha – and these wee ears…

  11. Cucina49 March 1, 2012 at 22:20 #

    That is adorable! What kid wouldn’t want that for lunch?

    • Jill March 3, 2012 at 21:19 #

      Too true, Cucina!

    • Pudding Pie Lane March 5, 2012 at 11:17 #

      Haha, I wouldn’t mind it for lunch and I’m wayy past kid age – just too cute! :)

  12. parisbreakfast March 1, 2012 at 17:03 #

    WOW Terrific!
    Who does not want to eat a kid’s Bento everyday?
    Top Chef trailer here:
    wish we could get it in the US
    c’est la vie

    • Jill March 1, 2012 at 17:51 #

      Aahh! Not that trailer… I’ve started recording it, just so I can miss the same first 7 minutes. Isn’t that terrible? Xinmei’s creations are terrific, aren’t they, Carol?

  13. Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb March 1, 2012 at 15:49 #

    I remember seeing bento boxes in the TV when I was a kid. I had asked my mum if she could make those, but then that was over her line in that time. They look adorable, and I would surely start a bento tradition for my future kids.

    • Jill March 1, 2012 at 17:49 #

      Vive your future bento traditions, Helene!

  14. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen March 1, 2012 at 15:43 #

    Oh sooooo cute! I want all my lunches to look like this from now on – no boring sandwiches, even if they are hen’s egg :) Jill, another lovely guest post. I am going to try get Top Chef on the internet – it sounds well worth watching. Have they attempted the ultimate challenge, to produce Macarons to exacting MAM standards and bring the same amount of creativity? Hx

    • Jill March 1, 2012 at 17:49 #

      Macs? Not yet, Hester, hehe. Yep, I agree that this sure beats sandwiches, hen’s egg and all!

      • Pudding Pie Lane March 5, 2012 at 11:16 #

        Thanks :) Ooooh that’s just given me an idea to make wombat bear shaped hens eggs sandwiches – watch this space! :)

  15. lisaiscooking March 1, 2012 at 15:22 #

    This is so cute! What a great way to perk up your lunch.

    • Jill March 1, 2012 at 17:47 #

      Perky wombats, perky bear. Good one.

  16. Emily @ Life on Food March 1, 2012 at 11:49 #

    So cute. I would love to have a lunch like this made for me.

    • Jill March 1, 2012 at 17:47 #

      Ditto! But as nobody makes my lunch, I’ll swoon over Xinmei’s creations.

  17. Kiri W. March 1, 2012 at 01:00 #

    What a cool guest post!
    I love bento, and have ever since visiting Japan when I was 12. When I am not too lazy, my lunch at work is a bento box :)

    • Jill March 1, 2012 at 17:46 #

      Sounds great, Kiri – bento for grown-ups, too. Yes, Xinmei is cool, isn’t she?

  18. Nami | Just One Cookbook February 29, 2012 at 22:17 #

    I’ll be making bento everyday for my son starting next school year. I thought about just making sandwich but my son loves leftover Japanese food. I think I need to pack and re-form nicely into cute little bento. Any tips coming from you will be helpful Xinmei! Great to see you here on Jill’s blog! =) Thanks ladies!

    • Jill March 1, 2012 at 17:45 #

      Your son sounds so lucky, Nami. I’m sure Xinmei will have plenty of tips for you!

  19. FreeSpiritEater February 29, 2012 at 20:56 #

    How exciting to see Xinmei guest posting with you Jill! I’m a huge fan of her site, every visit ends in ooo’s and awww’s. She’s fun, creative, artistic and a total sweetheart all around. So glad you were able to show case her talents here. So excited for you Xinmei, keep kicking butt, your blog is gorgeous! Kisses for you both! <3

    • Jill February 29, 2012 at 21:13 #

      Couldn’t agree more and so happy that Xinmei could show her talents. Top Chef watch out! Now I’m dreaming of eating in a candlelit Harry Potter ambience, or rather – Xinmei audience.

    • Pudding Pie Lane March 5, 2012 at 11:13 #

      Aw thanks, I’m glad you like it :) I hope to carry on as much as possible because bentos are so much fun! Jill – one day you may even be dining in ‘Xinmei’s Bento Wonderland’ – opening in a city near you!

  20. All That I'm Eating February 29, 2012 at 20:52 #

    This is brilliant! I would never have guessed it was sesame seeds for the eyes. When it looks that good, it makes the healthy more appealing I think.

    • Jill February 29, 2012 at 21:11 #

      All that I’m thinking! Cheers to fun and healthy food like this.

  21. Tina@flourtrader February 29, 2012 at 18:32 #

    Bento boxes are not only an art form, they are made up of delicious healthy food. This one hits the mark on both points-glad to see you here on Jill’s site. Great guest post!

    • Jill February 29, 2012 at 21:10 #

      I’m glad to finally get Xinmei here, Tina. She rocks, doesn’t she?

      • Pudding Pie Lane March 5, 2012 at 11:11 #

        Haha thanks! I’m hoping that the healthiness of these bento boxes will cancel out the baking that I otherwise do! :)

  22. Pudding Pie Lane February 29, 2012 at 17:00 #

    Thanks sooo much for having me Jill, this is hentastic! :) xoxo

    • Jill February 29, 2012 at 18:02 #

      Eggsellent. ‘Tis a cracker, Xinmei. You’ll drive folks round the bento with these. J xo

  23. Kiran @ February 29, 2012 at 16:46 #

    Bento boxes are super fun! That looks so cute :)

    I agree about top chef, though it’s been a while since I’ve watched! Gotta catch on my DVR soon!

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