I'd seen them plenty of times in various anime/manga, but I was never inspired to make them myself until I read/watched 深夜食堂 (Shinya Shokudou, i.e. "Midnight Restaurant").
深夜食堂 is a series about a restaurant that is open from 12am-7am. The only things on the menu are 豚汁定食 (tonjiru teishoku, i.e. pork miso soup set), beer and sake, but you can order anything you want to eat, and if he can, the master (a.k.a. chef/owner) will make it.
The very first episode of both the manga and drama is 赤いウインナー (Akai (red) Wiener), a story about a Yakuza named Ryuu, who, surprisingly always orders a plate of tako (octopus)-shaped red wieners. Obviously there's a bit more to the story than that, but the point is, reading the manga and watching the drama made me want to try making them for myself.
I'd never seen red wieners in the hot dog/sausage section of Jusco, though, so it took a little bit of searching on Saturday before I found them. They were about an aisle down from the other hot dogs/sausages in a small section dedicated to various bento (弁当) "toppings" (for lack of a better word).
Since I had an office day today (Monday) I decided that I would get up a little earlier than usual and make the tako wieners for my lunch.
It's really quite simple; all you have to do is cut the wiener lengthwise from about halfway to the bottom. Then turn the wiener 90 degrees and cut it lengthwise into four strips (again, from about halfway to the bottom). This gives you the eight "legs" of the octopus. Then you simply cook the wieners in a fry pan on medium heat until the legs are nice and curled. ^_^ (There are even instructions on the back of the package in case you can't figure it out on your own!)
Objectively speaking, the wieners themselves really aren't anything special, but somehow just having them in the octopus shape makes them extra special/delicious. ^_^ For my chuutairen bento, I am definitely going to have tako-wieners as well as tamagoyaki!! (I plan to purchase the pan sometime this week, and I'll probably spend my free nights next week practicing making tamagoyaki like mad! =P
Speaking of bento lunches, I learned from some female Japanese friends a while ago that a "nice/proper" bento should have red, yellow, and green items. Even if all the food is really tasty, if it's all brown/the same colour, it's perceived as an "obaachan" (old lady) bento. Seeing all the books for making cute/attractive bentos, I'd already figured that appearances were considered important for (homemade) bentos, but I'd never heard about this 3-colour rule before...
Even though today's bento mostly followed the 3-colour rule (the potato salad was more white than yellow) and was considerably "better" than my usual tuna onigiri and raw veggie--mini tomatoes and carrot & cucumber sticks--bento, I know I've still got a long ways to go in my bento-making skills...
In particular, today's top and bottom trays, while individually OK didn't really go together taste-wise. With the more "Western-style" side dishes in the top tray, I probably should have gone with sandwiches and/or pasta for the "main dish" in the bottom...
(Incidentally, the potato salad was also 深夜食堂-inspired. Usually I just put apples and/or hard-boiled eggs into my potato salad, but in the 深夜食堂 drama I saw that the Master used cucumber, carrot and ham, so I decided to try it out...Quite tasty!
Another side note: Even though iI know it's a fictional story, I can't help but wonder where the Master buys his 赤いウインナー. I mean, the bag I bought was 98yen for only 7 wieners, but he serves Ryuu a whole plate of them! I wonder if there's a place that sells them in bulk? =P)
But at any rate, just eating a bento that I put a little more care into than usual enabled me to really enjoy my lunch today. ^_^ As I said before, the tako-wieners especially made me happy! I guess I'm still a kid in that sense--cute shapes make me excited about even the simplest foods, like rabbit-shaped apples, for example! Now that I've mentioned it, I think I'll also include those in my chuutairen bento!! =P