This is the first bento I made. It was for a contest at the Maui Matsuri a couple of years ago. The theme of the contest was basically make a bento and use rice.
The bento has fried kamaboko/carrot/gobo fritters in the left corner, rice, seaweed, tsukemono, and daikon cut to represent hanabi (fireworks) in the center, and uzaku (eel salad). The little paper cup has strawberry and tangerine.
One thing I didn't know about the contest was that it was only judged on visual appeal of the bento. So I lost to a carved turnip bird with a boiled egg belly, and second place went to a musubi girl. I did get third place and a $25 gift certificate. But I was disappointed because I had spent a lot of money on the ingredients thinking that the taste would factor into the judging.
What I was trying to do with the bento was give a feeling of summer with the hanabi decorations and the uzaku salad. The salad recipe was worth making again and I'll definitely make it when I get my hands on good unagi again.
Uzaku (recipe found on About.com)
2 Japanese cucumbers
1/4 lb. Unagi
3 Tbs. Rice vinegar
1 Tbs. Sugar
1 Tbs. Shoyu
The original recipe called for salting and patting the cucumbers dry but I skipped this step. Most unagi comes with a sweet sauce. Top the unagi with the accompanying sauce and broil a few minutes. Peel the cucumbers and slice, flake/cut the unagi into bite-sized pieces and mix together. Mix remaining ingredients to form dressing. Dress the salad.
This salad kept pretty well and still looked/tasted good after sitting out in the humid Hawaii weather.