Random Blatherings of a Geeky / Gamer Girl

Mario Charaben – Play with Your Food!

Since the last Totoro bento, I had been thinking about making another charaben. Also, I wanted to show case my boyfriend’s time-lapse app for the Google Android (more info at http://www.sheado.net). This time, I wanted the character to have something to do with video games and settled on Mario – why not! Well, I discovered it was pretty hard – despite all my plannings and preparations, certain things didn’t turn out the way I expected.

But here it is, in all its finished glory:

Mario complete

I did a lot of research on AnnaTheRed’s bento blog (her visualization skills are impeccable!). This time I had the blueprint in my mind – I didn’t bother drawing it out. I knew I wanted 1. Mario 2. a question box 3. a couple of Mario mushroom 4. a couple of piranha plants.

paper Mario

I used this template for Mario. I converted it to a simple black/white lined image and then lightened the color to gray (might as well save ink and color!) On paper, his height was about 6 inches, and I printed two copies since I was planning to destroy one with scissors as I cut food based on its size/shape. So the most important lesson I’ve learned with this bento – the more tiny details your character has, the more difficult it is going to be. I had a tough time controlling the food sizes. I should have made Mario the size of my plate!

Small details are why this Mario bento doesn’t look as good. But it looks good, if you take a step back and look at your monitor across the room. XD

Preparation – Egg Sheet

1 tbs of water
.5 tbs of corn starch into the water, mixed it well
pour mixture into 1 egg and scramble

The corn starch makes the egg tougher, not so easy to tear. That was really cool! You want to pour it into a wide pan on high heat, then tilt the pan to distribute the egg flatly. This is what happens when I cook the egg on heat too low (I waited too long to tilt the pan).


I made another sheet and did a horrible job of flipping it, so it folded onto itself. *sigh* however, there’s still a portion of it that was usable, so I’ll keep it. =D


I learned from the Totoro bento that using rice immediately after it’s cooked burns your fingers, so this time I was going to cool it by spreading it on a flat plate (like making sushi!)

cool rice

I bought some shabu shabu beef (thinly sliced meat) and had envisioned results similar to medallions, and I was planning to line the bottom of the plate with this (as well as put some seaweed lines on it to simulate the floor in the video game). However, as I cooked it in soy sauce, all the meat got stuck on each other and refused to roll open. =( Hence I got blobs of meat that look like poop! *sigh* I decided to press on.


I prepared a big huge red ? out of little red pepper blocks and prepared the red M that was going to be on Mario’s hat.

red pepper

Preparation – mushroom

Here’s a summary of what I had to go through for each mushroom. It’s really hard to take photos by yourself making bentos! My radishes are more oblong than spherical in shape.

Mario mushroom
Mario mushroom full

AnnaTheRed has a radish mushroom tutorial where she explains the steps and has better quality photos.

Preparation – piranha plants

And from that I was able to envision the piranha plant.
piranha plant
1. Since my radishes are oblong, I made 90 degree cuts in order to create the mouth.
2. Shave the radish around the mouth in order to form lips
3. Shave little circles into the radish (like the mushroom). You can stop after this step, unless you’re truly masochistic!
4. This step was difficult and not easily reproducible so I only did it to one plant. I carved the inside of its mouth to create a hole and created teeth out of fish cake. It’s pretty funny putting the teeth into the mouth (like inserting dentures), but the teeth kept popping out. I think I spent about 20 minutes carving the jaw and finally stuffing the teeth in. I wasn’t going to do this to the other piranha plants, but it looks SO good!

Preparation – camera set up

I Macgyvered the tripod so it was high enough off the counter. I’m short, so the footstool allows me the height to peer into the camera from time to time. However, I don’t make the bento while being on the foot stool for long periods because it stresses my back, so there will be times when things are off camera and I don’t notice. The laptop has step-by-step instructions of what I’m planning to do. This is a one-shot time-lapse deal, no editing, and all my mistakes are definitely in there!

camera setup

I set the phone on a plank so it can peer out and over the edge. A rolled up piece of paper props it up at an angle (otherwise it catches the outlet and the counter ledge that I don’t care for) so it gives it a slightly skewed perspective. A water-filled sobe bottle holds the plank in place and anchors the phone’s cord.


Lights! Camera! Action!
I hit the record button. I am very nervous and immediately sweat profusely. The time-lapse app takes 1 photo every 5 seconds, and the playback speed is 5 frames per second. (In the future I would do 1 photo/2 seconds, and maybe 15 fps playback). Again, I’m the one arranging the bento and taking photos, so I’m not able to take a lot of photos (due to dirty hands and the fact that the camera is rolling, and I felt like I didn’t have time).

I placed the seaweed behind the paper template, fasten it in place with hedgehog clips, and proceed cutting. Uh yeah, that was a very funny place to put the clip. =) Hey, I was in a rush!
Mario seaweed

I imagined having rice underneath Mario so he pops out more, but having the seaweed obscure the rice. I found out that the Mario cut-out is very small and makes it difficult to hide the rice under seaweed. But I pressed on!
Mario seaweed outline

From here on, I couldn’t take a lot of pictures, so I’ll let the time-lapse movie explain what happened. =) It took about two hours to make the plate.

Play-by-play announcement:
1. cut seaweed outline
2. mashed rice and tried to hide it behind seaweed (failed)
3. cut Mario’s hands out of fishcake
4. put shiso leaves on Mario where his hat and red overalls would be (for that nice ume/shiso taste)
5. mashed ume
6. realized shiso would probably be sticking out from the redness, so cut another seaweed outline and laid it on top
7. laid the ume where the hat and red overalls would be. Realize I didn’t mash the ume enough so I tear it with my hands.
8. cut Mario’s face out of turkey ham. One mistake I made was, I almost cut the mustache out from the ham but left it in (because the beef mustache will cover it later, so no need to put in extra work). But you can see the cut I made right underneath the nose
9. Lay the turkey ham face, fishcake hands, and fishcake overalls. The fishcake overalls were dyed using boiled red cabbage juice overnight.
10. Feel bummed because it looks like crap. =(
11. lay out the beef for the hair, mustache, and shoes. Realize it’s smaller than what I needed and tear it with my hands.
12. Lay fishcake on his hat, shoe lines, and tear egg sheet buttons for his overalls
13. cut Mario’s detailed features out of seaweed using the paper template and scissors (I’m not good with an exacto knife).
14. Lay the details on and realize it looks better. =) However, the ume is dying parts of his ham face and and fishcake hands.
15. Lay the red pepper “M” onto his hat. My hands were wet so the little pieces kept getting stuck to my fingers. It was pretty frustrating actually.
16. Lay the red pepper “?” onto the egg sheet that will determine the size of the ? box (which is HUGE in comparison to Mario) doh!
17. Lay the beef out for the ground without realizing it looks like crap and trying to fix it.
18. Briefly show the camera how to make Mario mushroom (without looking through the camera *sigh*)
19. Briefly show the camera how to make piranha plant (without looking through the camera *sigh*)
20. Cut asparagus to make stems and leaves for the piranha plants
21. Lay out the plants. Due to the blue plate being hugely concave, I used the fishcake to prop up the radishes and prevent them from rolling around.
22. Lay the seaweed eyes onto the mushroom. My hands were wet so they kept getting stuck to me.
23. I thought I was finished so I moved the camera to do a victory pan. Then I realized I forgot the details for his hands!
24. Cut hand details out of seaweed and lay it on
25. Victory pan!

As I was working on Mario, this was the angle I kept seeing him at. It was pretty discouraging! Good thing it looks better with the over-head view!

Mario different angle

Mario closeup

Mario complete

And there you have it! What would I do differently? Well, next time the character needs to be BIGGER. Mario at 6 inches has a lot of tiny details. Instead of shabu shabu slices of beef, I would go for something thicker. I would probably use steak, and then cut it down to thinner slices. Keep in mind, this is my second character bento ever, so I say I jumped a bunch of difficulty levels!

All-in-all, I’m pleased with the way it turned out. It was looking horrible, and at the end it looked decent. And by decent, I mean “recognizable”. Next time I’ll do better!

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Блог отличный. Награду бы Вам за него или орден почета. :)

“[Blog] is outstanding. Reward to you for it or order of honor. :)”

Yevgentv, Большое спасибо! Я удостоин!
(Thank you very much! I am honored!)

Stephane Dubuc

I’m enjoying the Time-Lapse app from sheado.net, but how on earth can I get it to import into say Premiere Elements so that I can edit and add sound etc? I think what I need is the proper codec. Any idea?

What a style of playing with food because it’s other way to prepare food, and more when we prepare it with different motives for example Mario Bros. I’m gonna try it because my son loves that game.

Awesome pictures, I love how you turn it into a mushroom, very creative.

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