When I made my first Totoro bento, I used bonito flakes for his gray body color, but it didn’t look quite right. So I thought, “What food is gray?” The first food that came to my mind was konnyaku. I searched the web for “Totoro made out of konnyaku”, but to my surprise I couldn’t find anyone using konnyaku for Totoro… so of course, I had to try it.
Bento #10: The path to Totoro’s forest
Created and eaten on: 10/9/2008
Konnyaku is sometime called “yam-cake” in the U.S., but it looks and feels more like tasteless jelly. It’s made out of konnyaku potato, and it’s rich in minerals and very low in calories. So it’s considered as a great diet food in Japan.
I was packing rice separately for this bento, so I put mashed potato as the background, and made the tunnel to Totoro’s forest with asparagus. I sliced konnyaku and cut it out in the shape of Totoro. Konnyaku is actually harder to cut than I thought it’d be. Very very slippery! As I mentioned, konnyaku doesn’t have taste, so I sauteed it and put a little bit of yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) sauce on it. After the konnyaku cooled down, I cut out cheese for Totoro’s eyes, mouth, and stomach and put them on Totoro’s body. I made mini-Totoro with quail eggs, and placed them in the bento. But then I realized that the bento was missing colors again. So I sliced a carrot, cut out flower shapes with a cookie cutter and spread them around. To finish it off, I put a leaf of parsley on Totoro’s head.
Even though the color of konnyaku was perfect for Totoro, I wasn’t too happy with this bento.
Too many mini-Totoro and too much asparagus. Also it wasn’t very well balanced because Totoro was 2-D and the mini-Totoro were 3-D.
Also, I felt that since Totoro was a pretty big piece of konnyaku, it was still lacking flavor even with BBQ sauce. If I were to use konnyaku for Totoro again, I’d probably make it smaller. But I do think that mini-Totoro looks much better with the white part around his eyes. It’s hard to do and takes a long time to put a black sesame seed in each piece of cut out kamaboko (fish cake)… But they all look so surprised, just like when May was chasing it around in the garden.
- cheese and seaweed for its mouth and stomach
- cheese and black sesame seed for its eyes
- quail egg with kamaboko (fish cake) and black sesame seed
Orange flower and pink flower at the bottom:
- fake sausage (fish cake) and corn
- mashed potato
Not many kyaraben use konnyaku, that’s because the majority of kyaraben are for kids. Many kids may not like konnyaku because it’s is kind of like “tasteless jelly”, and also kids can choke on a large chunk of konnyaku. As a matter of fact, recently they stopped selling “konnyaku jelly” (jelly made with konnyaku for dessert/snack) in Japan, because many young children and elderly people died after choking on them. So while konnyaku is loaded with minerals and great in many dishes for its texture, I’m not recommending using a big piece of konnyaku for bento for kids or elderly people!