No.117 So, finally Bento&co announced last week the theme of this year’s bento contest: “Chef Bento Contest – Our ingredients, Your bento” and now the gate is open for you to enter with your creation until it closes at 12:00 noon in Japan on Friday July 4. I hope you are participating in this contest or at least you are as excited as I am. Because I have been a tiny part of Bento&co my bento can not unfortunately participate in this contest, but I would like to attempt to take my part in this event by writing some posts which I hope will be of some help to someone out there. 🙂 The rules of this contest is here (just click it and you will jump to Bento&co’s site) and I recommend you to read the rules first before you will continue to read this post so that you get better understanding of what I am talking about. Although I said I have been with Bento&co, I am not serving as a judge nor taking any organizing part of this contest. What I write here is totally my own personal views and it has nothing to do with Bento&co.
When I discovered the theme for this year, honestly speaking I was not surprised. Bento&co had already indicated to us this years contest would be “Chef Bento” and I had guessed it would have something to do with cooking. I think it was about time to have this kind of theme which puts more priority on cooking than just appearance and I am glad it finally came. But Bento&co does state :
“We’re expecting creativity and scrumptious bento which make you hungry at first glance!” (from their FAQ)
So don’t forget your creative twist as well!
Of course this cooking theme is not an easy theme to give to an online contest. Cooking contests usually have a team of judges that actually can taste the presented and decide the winner. I was wondering how Bento&co will manage it on internet and I am so excited to see how it goes.
The rules says you make a bento with these 8 ingredients (7 of their choice and 1 of yours) :
Chicken/Tofu if you are a vegetarian
1 ingredient of your choice
Hmmmm… rice, 1 meat, eggs and 4 kinds of vegetables. Fair enough. But this “choice of yours” is a wild card. I had to smile when I read it, as it is really like Bento&co, they always gives a playful twist! It looks so simple to chose just one more food to add but I am wondering if some of you have already spent a lot of time and yet have been unable to decide it?? I won’t blame you, nor I do not think you will be the only one. This “choice of yours” is the free zone and it can turn to be a wild card but I think it will make this whole contest so interesting! But maybe this is only me and this is totally my personal opinion, the 6 ingredients out of these 7 seem very well together but 1 ingredient is a bit different (It is not Tofu, my vegetarian friends) and I call it an outsider. I don’t know if it was intentionally chosen so by Bento&co to test your cooking sense and ability but I can not help thinking so.
So how should you choose “the choice of yours” successfully?
If you take a good look at the ingredients and divide them into categories, first by colors for example:
White/light color Rice, Potato and Chicken/Tofu
Red/warm color Tomato, Carrot
As you see, colors are already there. Whichever food you may choose to add as the choice of yours, this bento will be a colorful bento. Tomato, carrot, broccoli and eggs will usually keep the color well even if you cook them. Rice, potato and chicken can change its original color with spices and condiments as you know. I don’t think you should make them too dark as tomato, carrot and broccoli are bright and pretty. If you are going for a more artistic type of bento, that is fine. Use colors as your tool of imagination! Black can be an interesting color as it sharpens the whole look.
We should move on! Next, let’s divide them by food groups:
Grains and starch Rice, Potato
Protein Chicken/Tofu, Eggs
Vegetables Tomato, Carrot, Broccoli
Out of 6 basic food groups only fruit and diary are missing and maybe you might feel like adding a cheese or a milk product? But it will be white again and as you looked at the division by colors there are already some white items. You may want to think about it twice. Fruits usually need a little more care of packing. Are you using a 2-tier box? or are you going to pack everything in 1 box? Plan your bento box for the contest.
Let’s keep on rolling! I have not forgotten the most important one and here I divided them by taste:
Sweet Tomato, Carrot
Needed* Rice, Chicken/Tofu, Eggs, Potato, Broccoli, Carrot
Tomato and Carrot are the only ones which can be served raw as they are but most of the 7 ingredients need to be cooked! Yes it is a cooking contest and I really see these ingredients were chosen with thought. Specially chicken, tofu, eggs, potato can be very dull without any flavors. Read Bento&co’s FAQ well and understand the rules about condiments. Also vegetables can give flavors and become good dressing. Your cooking experience may be vital here but if you read a couple of good cooking books I think it will be helpful for you!
I do not want to influence your choice and so I will not mention which one of the seven ingredients I think as a wild card. I will keep it to myself until the end of the contest. Maybe I will be impressed by many bentos which handled it very well and I will be convinced I was wrong. I do hope so, and I hope you will choose the choice of yours soon and you will be very very happy with it.
Continue to Part 2