The Cutest Lunch I Ever Had: Charaben

I almost felt bad eating it at the end of the lesson. It was so cute!!!

My name is Mireille, I came to Japan two years ago to study my master’s degree. I loved it too much so I decided to stay here. After leaving two years in Niigata in the middle of nowhere, I live in Tokyo now.  Japanese food is one of the reasons I decided to stay here. I love to learn how to cook it. Last week, out of curiosity, I decided to learn charaben and went to the cooking class with Noriko Sensei.

I am glad that I joined the class. Since Noriko Sensei is mastered the art of charaben, I was able to learn a lot of creative cooking tricks. For example, forming a heart shape with an omelet roll without wasting any part of it, making an octopus out of sausages…I could never imagine myself creating an art from food.

I really appreciated  Noriko Sensei’s style. She was very patient with us and she was encouraging us each time regardless of our mistakes. She explained clearly every step, every ingredient that allowed us to do it by ourselves. For the few parts that she pre-made herself before the class in order to save time, she clearly described how she made them.

The different parts of the obento were done with a special attention and care. We used two tablespoons of sugar and just a pinch of salt for the omelet. The instructor called it Japanese omelet. She added that we need to perforate the little bubbles which form when frying the omelet to keep it flat. And then, she taught us how to roll it carefully to create an omelet roll.

Making an omelet flower was the challenging part. The rectangular omelet is folded in half and the closed side of it is delicately cut following 0.5-centimeter spacing. We then roll the open side letting the blooming flower take shape before our eyes. (I know! You might want to read this part again lol).

To give Kumamon its color, we pounded the roasted sesame seeds by ourselves in an interesting little mortar and mixed it with the cooked rice to then form the rice balls for its head, ears, and arms. She said that pounding the sesame ourselves helps to keep its flavor as opposed to buying it already blended. Every detail was well thought out, from the eyebrows of Kumamon to its blushing cheeks.

This class made me appreciate more the Japanese culture in the sense that the dedication and patience of Japanese mothers preparing obento for their kids are impressive. Although I don’t have kids yet, I will definitely let my imagination overflow and treat myself with some cute obento to go to work.

I would recommend this class to foreigners visiting Tokyo or living here. It is a unique and fun cultural experience.  It is Instagrammable too!!!

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