October 12, 2018

Playing with your food is generally frowned upon in an Asian household. Yet, for Shirley Wong, playing with food is her livelihood. What started out as a hobby has turned into a serious career as a food artist, and she hones her craft on a daily basis, while documenting her work on her widely popular Instagram page—@littlemissbento. A quick scroll through her feed reveals various food items resembling adorable characters and too-pretty-to-eat bento sets. Although some might think that Little Miss Bento is just a persona, that is a true reflection of who Shirley is—and cooking is something she is deeply passionate about.

To grow her massive following on social media, Shirley is constantly churning out new content for her fans. Juggling between teaching classes, developing new recipes, and even launching her latest cookbook, she shares with us her everyday essentials to help her get through the day.

What are 5 everyday items that you can’t live without?

  • Lululun facial mask
  • Karel Capek Tea
  • Nikon Camera (Nikon 1 J4)
  • Lifestyle homeware props
  • Laneige BB cushion and EXCEL eyebrow pencil

How do these items help to improve your lifestyle?


  • Lululun Face Masks

My work requires me to be out and about, and I travel overseas often—resulting in really dry skin in recent years. These Japan-made facial masks are the best beauty hacks. I always have them with me to save the day, as they hydrate and prep my skin for the camera. It doesn’t have a sticky after-feeling and they even come with natural ingredients such as Japanese peaches and Kyushu strawberries!

  • Karel Capek Tea

A good cup of tea has an immensely calming effect that helps me cope with all the crazy deadlines at work. It also helps keep my energy levels in check, reminding me to be calm and enjoy life. My favourite is the White Peach Tea, and it’s absolutely delicious. Looking at the adorable illustrations on their packaging is like reading a storybook, reminiscent of how I tell my own stories through my food art pieces.

  • Nikon Camera (Nikon 1 J4)

I work on new content almost every day. Most of my content is self-directed and shot using my Nikon camera. The camera is white, which is in my favourite colour and it produces beautiful vibrant images without requiring me to major adjustments to the technical settings.  

  • Lifestyle homeware props

There’s a special section in my kitchen filled with countless trinkets and homeware that are essential to my work as a food artist, especially when I am styling my table setting for clients or my own photoshoots. I cherish each of them as I spent many years trawling through small Zakka stores in Japan just to collect them—many limited edition items are no longer in production.

  • Laneige BB cushion and EXCEL eyebrow pencil

With my hectic work schedule, I often lack the time (or the patience) to have a proper makeup routine. However, I will never leave home without a good makeup base and nice eyebrows. Laneige BB cushion was first introduced to me by a friend who worked at a TV station. Aside from the superb coverage, it also gives my skin a nice supple look. The EXCEL eyebrow pencil is a must-have for drawing the perfect soft brows. 

Do these items reflect your personality too?

Yes, these items reflect both my personality and my active lifestyle, hence I like items that are fuss-free and easy to use. I also have an affinity for Japanese products, which is why many of my everyday items are found or made in Japan.


Is there a story behind any of these items?

Karel Capek was introduced to me by a dear friend who knew the illustrator behind the tea brand. Since then, I fell in love with their tea and they make wonderful gifts too.


What do you bring along when you teach a class/workshop?

Depending on the menu that I am teaching, I will usually bring along my bento tools or baking tools—together with my Nikon camera to document the activity. 

What is the process like before you start crafting/designing a bento box?

It normally starts with an experience, or simply a thought in my head. Next, I will conceptualise then sketch the design, plan the ingredients, before creating the bento box. 

Has your creative process change over the years?

It has definitely evolved over the years. I’ve incorporated new techniques into my food creations and expanded my food art into other edible mediums such as jelly art, Wagashi, bakes and pastries items. 

Is there a particular item that you carry which helps boost your productivity and efficiency?

I used to bring my sketchbook and pen around with me, but recently, I have been using my iPad and Apple Pencil to jot down my ideas and work on my creations and sketches.

What is your typical day like? 

My day starts around 8 am, and I will prepare the first meal of the day (either brunch or lunch). After that, I will sit down to have my meal (with a cup of tea), before proceeding to clear my work and emails. I spend the rest of the day working on designs or creations, shoots for clients, or meeting up with partners. Weekday nights are spent taking aerial silks classes. 

How do you gain inspiration for your work? 

My inspiration comes from all aspects of my life. I gather ideas from the things around me or the people who I meet. I also read the news so I’m aware of the latest designs or characters that are trending. This is how my creations are relatable to my audience.

What is in your food styling tool kit?

My food styling kit includes a pair of scissors, a x-acto knife, tweezers, brushes, a food pen, cutters, knives, cotton swabs, toothpicks, a spray bottle, oil, a spatula, utensils, soy sauce, cling wrap and fake ice cubes.

Do you struggle with eating food that is too pretty?

My fans ask me that question all the time. The answer is no! I enjoy eating cute and pretty food, it makes me happy! [laughs]

Do your creations always turn out the way you envisioned it to be? 

No, not always. There are instances where the creations don’t turn out the way I want them to be, especially when I am trying out new items, or working on new recipes. But that gives me a chance to improve and I can perfect them along the way.

I understand that creating bento boxes has allowed you to forge a closer relationship with your mother. What is your favourite food memory thus far? 

I will always remember her fried brown rice; it’s one of my favourite items that she used to pack for me. Cooking, in general, has brought my mum and me closer, and we share many cooking memories together. 

What is the proudest moment of your life?

I think one of the proudest moment of my life is when I launched my first cookbook back in 2014. It was a huge milestone for me and I am happy to say that since then, I have published 7 books under my name. 

[Read: Everyday Essentials with Hans Ding]