Team Building with BentoYa Cooking’s Vegan Cooking Class

The BentoYa ladies taught us how to make character bento!

Earlier, we had interviewed BentoYa Cooking, a group of ladies who hold vegan cooking classes in English, so that you can make your own vegan Japanese food. We were recently invited to try their new cooking class geared towards companies. Though we’re just a small design agency, we decided it would be cool to try it out!

A Mini Lesson on Bento

Class started with a brief overview of what bento is and how it came about. We learned a lot of little tidbits about bento. There’s eki-ben at the stations and sora-ben for airports. And who knew there were different bento boxes for the aristocracy versus the plebs? (Not too surprised, though.)

Making Shawn the Sheep Character Bento

Onto the best part! We signed up to learn to make chara-ben, and our subject today would be Shawn the Sheep! They have the license to use the character, which is pretty cool. 

First, we made some decorative carrots with little cookie cutters. They have each of us a chance to fiddle with the cooking equipment.

Using cookie cutters to make shaped carrots
Using cookie cutters to make shaped carrots
Boiling the carrots
Boiling the carrots…

We fumbled our way through the decorative vegetables, then got to the soy “karaage chicken.” They had some oil to deep fry it in. Delicious. 

Adding sesame oil
Add some sesame oil…
Fried soy "chicken" karaage
Voila! “Fried chicken,” made with soy.
"Meat-like soy"
“Meat-like soy”

We also made some “tamagoyaki,” a pseudo-egg roll which, of course, was vegan.

Rolling the "egg" roll
Rolling it is the hardest part

Finally, we worked on Shawn’s head, using the rice and seasoning to create rice balls. We arranged them in a sheep shape, and then put some eyes in.

Seasoned rice
Mix some seasoning to the rice
Rice balls
Make rice balls into the shapes of the face and ears…
Wrap with seaweed
Wrap them with seaweed
Making the shape
Poking out eyeballs with tofu
Poking out eyeballs with tofu

Topped it off with some chest hair made of rice. It was certainly interesting to see how everyone’s sheep came out, as well as the decorations around it. 

Everyone's bento!
Everyone’s bento!

(Were these design decisions made for aesthetics or personal hunger? Hmm.)

Our thoughts

For us, it was a fun little thing to do together, since not all of us see each other all the time. We usually keep it pretty casual so it’s not like we broke down barriers and whatnot (a larger company may benefit). That said, it was great to come together and do something creative without computer screens!

Join a BentoYa class

BentoYa Cooking typically runs classes in Tokyo and Yokohama. You can see if they have upcoming classes on their Facebook page. Otherwise, you can book a class with them on their website, in case your schedule doesn’t quite align with the predetermined class dates.

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