Cute Yummy Time: Adorable recipes that think outside the bento box

Cute Yummy Time: Adorable recipes that think outside the bento box

A new cookbook "Cute Yummy Time" gives a favorite Indian recipe the Japanese bento treatment in this first of four recipes

In Japanese home kitchens, cute (“kawaii”) cooking takes the cake. Mothers wake at dawn to transform a few strips of ham, cheese and seaweed into the spitting image of Super Mario or Totoro -- all in the hope the kids will smile when they open their bento boxes.

Inspired by this trend, I wrote a recipe book, Cute Yummy Time, out now from Perigee/Penguin USA. The concept is “think outside the bento box.” I riff and remix Japanese character bentos (“charaben”). All the recipes are healthy and use global ingredients.

This is the first in a series, that gives a tigerish makeover to India's chicken tikka masala. Future selections will include Indian, Japanese, Southeast Asian and Chinese recipes. Check back next Thursday for the next cute recipe.

Tiger chicken tikka masala

Chicken breast ♥ Greek yogurt ♥ Indian spices ♥ naan

I love to make a big batch of this recipe and nibble on it all week long. The brown rice and Greek yogurt lighten the load and ensure that -- unlike when I eat most other Indian food -- I don’t fall asleep afterwards.

Cute Yummy TimeTiger Chicken Tikka Masala: So cute, you could just eat it up. Really though, you can.

Ingredients
3 (8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, for the skillet
1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
4 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
5 dark green lettuce leaves, for garnish
2 red lettuce leaves, for garnish
1 piece round naan bread
1 whole raw almond, for garnish


Yogurt marinade
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice




Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, garlic, ginger, turmeric, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and lime juice. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture, ensuring that all sides are well coated. Marinade for 30 minutes to overnight.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onions until browned. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes. Stir in the turmeric, chili, cumin, and coriander. Add the tomatoes and green pepper and sauté until heated through, about two minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade, ensuring that the pieces remain well coated, and stir into the tomato mixture. Cover the saucepan, bring to a boil, and then simmer on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a shallow dish.

To make the tiger: Rinse hands with salt water or oil for easier handling of the rice. Mold the rice into one (2.5x3-inch) tiger’s head, two (1-inch-wide) round paws, and two (2-inch-wide) round feet. Arrange the rice in the curry. To form the ears, cut two (0.5-inch-wide) crescents from the green lettuce leaves. To form the stripes, cut five (0.75x0.5-inch) triangles from the green lettuce. To form the eyes, cut two (0.5-inch-wide) circles from the red lettuce; for highlights, place one grain of rice on each. To form the nose, cut one (0.25x0.25-inch) triangle from the red lettuce. To form the mouth, cut one (0.5-inch-wide) W-shape from the red lettuce. Press the facial features onto the rice 'head.'

To form the paw prints, cut two (1.5-inch-wide) circles and six (0.75-inch-wide) circles from the green lettuce. Press the features onto the rice 'feet.'

You can see more cute food on my site and pick up Cute Yummy Time from Amazon.

Reprinted from Cute Yummy Time by La Carmina by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2009 by Carmen Yuen.

La Carmina writes about Harajuku pop culture and all things spooky-cute. She is the author of three books about Japanese pop culture and food, including "Cute Yummy Time" and "Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo" -- for which she did all the photos and illustrations. Both books were released in October, accompanied by a U.S. major city book tour.

For more, please visit her website.

Read more about La Carmina
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