January 24, 2016

Japanese Apple Bunnies - Usagi Ringo

This blog is no stranger to bento lunches. The only tag with more posts attributed to it is recipes (you can see all my bento lunches from the past 2 years by clicking on the word 'bento' under the heading 'tags' in the sidebar). But mostly my bento's have been 'american' style. 'Western' food cut into pretty shapes. Or just Western food with a few food picks to make it look pretty as possible as has been of late. But I decided that it's time I got slightly more authentic.

Not much I grant you - but this is more like a half way point.

So I thought I'd master the art of apple rabbits - or usagi ringo. Apparently they are used as a space filler in Japanese bentos. But they do also appear a lot in American style bentos. They're not particularly difficult - and as fruit carving goes it's really not very fiddly. And yes - for some people these won't look very much like rabbits. But they're a good place to start.

As you may notice I am by no means an expert in making these yet. Often I'll cut the skin to thin, or the apple slice will break, or I'll accidentally take the ear of the rabbit off. As you can see by the photos - the bunny rabbits decrease in numbers as time goes by.

1. Wash and dry the apple. I think that red or maybe pink apples look the best for these- there's less contrast with green apples between the skin and the flesh - but if you want to green bunnies go ahead. (I know actually have a strong desire to get a golden apple and have pink and yellow bunnies...) Also fresher - more 'crisper' apples are better for this if possible - because they're gonna soak in water for a bit and the crisper the apple to start with the crisper they will be after soaking.

2. Cut the apple into slices and remove the core. For most apples I'd say that splitting it into 8 is a good call. You don't want them too thin - it's really hard to fit the 'bunny' in then - but if they're too thick it's harder to do. I also like to 'square off' the top end a bit - but that's just me.

3. Starting at the top - cut (it won't work with a peeler) the peel away from the apple until about 1/2 - 2/3 of the way down. I TRY and do it so there's a thicker 'peel' at the top and have it thinning as I get nearer the end of the cut. Emphasis on TRY. But you don't want it TOO thin at any point because then it just breaks away.

4. This is possibly the most fiddly bit. You need to cut an longish isosceles triangle out of PEEL of the apple (don't cut into the rest of the apple if that is at all possible), with the base at the top edge of apple, where the peel is fully away from the rest. You now need to very carefully remove this triangle - but be aware- if you pull to hard you may remove the ears as well. And no one wants a ear-less bunny rabbit.

5. Mix a little lemon/lime/orange juice into a bowl of water/lidded container. It doesn't need to be a massive bowl - but the water needs to be above the apples when you place them in. Place the apples in the water. This stops them going brown quite as much when taken out and placed in a bento box. They should be here for at least 5-10 minutes, but if you only want a few bunnies for each bento they are okay in here for a few days.

6. Use them to cuten up pretty much anything!

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