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Posted on Mar 9, 2008 in Bento, Dumplings or Buns, Eggs, For Kids, Meat, Recipe, Tutorial or How-to | 31 comments

Sausage sunflower tutorial & lunch

Sausage sunflower tutorial & lunch


Today we have more hot dog tricks, with little “sunflowers” made out of halved sausages and quail eggs (a step-by-step tutorial follows). I figured as long as I had all kinds of sausages and hot dogs leftover from my octodog tutorial, I might as well explore other things to do with them besides putting them in curry, kimchi fried rice or making little rabbits. You could also make these with vegetarian tofu dogs, chicken- or turkey-based sausages or hot dogs. I don’t know that these’ll make it into my daily repertoire (um, lazy, remember?), but my three-year-old did get a kick out of them. If you’re into food art, you could take this a step beyond and use other food to sculpt the whole flower and scenery, but this is about my limit. (See my new page on Decorative Food.)

Contents of preschooler lunch: Cornbread mini muffins, crab apple, hot dog sunflowers with fried quail egg (tutorial below), blueberries, cucumber slices, and cheese cubes.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using frozen mini muffins made with a mix. In the morning I made the hot dog sunflowers and packed the still-frozen muffins to defrost naturally in the bento lunch. (Read on for lunch details and the hot dog sunflower tutorial.)

Packing: I stacked two of the cooled hot dog sunflowers on top of each other, and crammed in a few blueberries and cheese cubes to act as gap fillers to stabilize the lunch in transit. My unnecessary garnish: the lettuce leaf under the crab apple to provide a little color contrast instead of showing the bare bottom of the bento box. The lunch is packed in a 350ml Geki Rangers bento box with one subcontainer removed to accommodate the mini muffins.

Verdict: The sausage flower needs ketchup, which I didn’t pack. Three-year-old Bug ate the mini muffins, one sausage flower, the cheese cubes and the blueberries at preschool. After school, he decided he didn’t like the cucumber and the crab apple after a bite of each, and asked to eat the last sausage flower at home with ketchup (which he did).

How to Make a Hot Dog Sunflower

Cutting open a quail egg

First off, you’ll need a fresh quail egg or two, often sold in Asian markets in the egg or refrigerated produce section (I pay US$1 for 10 quail eggs at pan-Asian markets in San Francisco). People often accidentally break the yolk when cracking open the small eggs, but you can avoid this by carefully using a sharp knife or egg scissors to lop off the top of the egg. Set the opened eggs back into their carton for easy access while cooking. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

How to make a

Here I’m using a 4-inch-long Japanese arabiki pork sausage (coarse ground) with natural casing, but you could use longer hot dogs or sausages if you trim them to 4-5 inches long. Split the sausage in half lengthwise.

Guided cutting for

Speed Tip: Put the halved sausage in between two chopsticks on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to make evenly spaced cuts down the full length of the sausage. The chopsticks keep you from cutting all the way through the sausage, and allow you to cut both of the sausage halves at the same time.


Fasten the ends of the sausage together with a toothpick or short piece of uncooked spaghetti (don’t worry, you’ll be removing these before packing). You can cut off the rounded ends of the sausage for a rounder circle, if you like.

Heat a nonstick pan over low heat and grease the pan with butter, vegetable oil, or cooking spray. Briefly brown the top side of the sausage rings until they develop nice color, then turn them over so the flat side is down. Crack a quail egg into the middle of each sausage ring and fry as you would a regular fried egg (salt if you like). I like to add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan and cover it, allowing the steam to cook the top of the egg without flipping. (FOOD SAFETY NOTE: Raw egg yolks can be unsafe at room temperature; heat eggs through for optimum food safety.)

When done, remove from the pan and let cool (I use a mini cooling rack). Remove the toothpick or piece of uncooked pasta that fastened the sausage ends — the fried quail egg will now hold the sausage ring together without assistance. You may want to tidy up the “flowers” by picking off stray egg white on the bottom that has spread beyond the sausage. Serve or pack in a lunch with a little container of ketchup.



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  1. LOVE! This is a new and fun kawaii direction for Lunch in a Box! I love the efficient chopping tip with the chopsticks.

  2. How cute are these!

    It makes me wish I had a little person in the house to appreciate the cuteness. I will definitely make these for my little cousins when they visit!

  3. Cute! Thanks for more tutorials. Do you have a tutorial yet for how to make those crepe-thin eggs that I see in so many people’s bentos? Or is it so simple that it doesn’t need one? ;0)

  4. I wonder if you could use chicken eggs? I can’t get quail eggs where I am (without driving a couple hours). Maybe if I used full sized hot dogs too? They would make giant sunflowers!

    I love this idea though! Adds just a tiny bit of decoration without going over the top!

  5. Biggie, you are a true genius! These are simply amazing. I’m absolutely going to try this for my husband’s lunch. Thank you for continuing to share your wisdom and creativity!

  6. Check out this hot dog fun…

    Might also be fun way to re-enforce a kid who is learning the alphabet or how to spell.

  7. Great post, thanks. I can’t wait to get sausages or hot dogs to try this. Thanks

  8. These was a great post! I made them for my daughter this morning for breakfast, it was an immediate hit. I used hot dog and scrambled chicken egg (still haven’t gotten the courage to try quail and they are what I had already). I also put the hot dog inside a large round mold/cutter, as I knew the egg wouldn’t stay put this way. It didn’t look too eye-catching to start as the scrambled egg ran over the hotdog, but when I flipped it over and you could see the hot dog “rays” clearly, my 3YO squealed “Mommy, you put the sunshine in!” She is gobbling them up as we speak. Thanks, now I’ll be making a lot of “Sunshine Hot-dogs.” She didn’t want anything on it but a bit of melted cheese.

  9. @1 from snappiness: Thanks for the kind words, snappiness! I’m not sure if it’s a new direction or not, but folks seem to enjoy actual recipes, tutorials and speed tips, so I’m trying to balance those with my regular lunches.

  10. @2 from Wendy: Glad you like them, Wendy! I don’t think I’d make these just for myself or my husband, but my son thought they were fun (and they used up some of the many leftover sausages I had), so…

  11. @3 from Mer: Ah, no tutorial yet on those thin egg crepes, but I have a lead on some super-speedy shortcuts. I need to test them out before I write anything — it’s on my to-do list!

  12. @5 from LillyAnn: You’re too kind, LillyAnn. Better not say too many nice things like that or I’ll get too big for my britches!

  13. @7 from Sherri: Let us know how it works out for you!

  14. @8 from Monica: Now that’s the kind of “test kitchen” attitude I love! Round of applause for taking this and making it your own with chicken eggs and regular-sized hot dogs. Special thanks for leaving your feedback; I really appreciate it. :-) :-) :-)

  15. Very cool, I wonder… I bet with a regular breakfast sausage link (or two as those seem to be a bit shorter than hotdogs) and chicken eggs this would be an awesome breakfast to make for my nephew. Hah… he’ll love me more than he loves my sister (his mom)! Yeah… right. Hahaha :) Great tutorial!

  16. Biggie, you are so wonderfully creative. Just this weekend I was thinking about how to make my daughters lunches more nutritious and cheaper and I thought, hrm, bento! I stopped at Daiso and stocked up. The I searched online and yours was the first site that popped up and I have been reading up since! I did my first bentos on sunday for a day at the Shinto Shrine and they were a hit with my daughter (Sakura) and my boyfriend.
    I made them for lunch today (my daughter, boyfriend, sister and me) and I can see myself making these every morning. They are so easy! Redesign some leftovers, throw some fruit and veggies in, make it cute and viola! Star shaped sanwiches, octodogs, onigiri, anything cute works :)
    This new hobby has really motivated me to make adorable and delicious lunches. Thank you so much!!

  17. i LOVE this!! i’ll be picking up some smartdogs this evening!

  18. @16 from Yvo: Ooh, breakfast sausage and eggs sounds delicious — good luck winning over your nephew with food bribery! ;-)

  19. @17 from Amber (I think this makes you the third “Amber” that comments here!): Welcome to the site! As you read the back entries, please feel free to comment and ask questions even on old ones. I try to keep up with comments via the Recent Comments thingie in the right hand column. Anyway, good luck with your lunches — we’re in this thing together!

  20. @18 from dean: I’d love to hear how the SmartDog veggie protein links perform with this, dean. If you wind up trying them out, feel free to leave a comment with your feedback!

  21. @6 from MK: I just went through that Instructable link on how to Be a Lunch Hero — fun! Writing on the hot dogs via shallow cuts hadn’t occurred to me, so thanks for the great idea!

  22. I’m a pretty bad cook but your site makes me want to try more. I’m totally going to try the sunflower eggs and octodogs! I love these how-to posts. Just wish I could find the groceries you’re always using in my area.

  23. Hi :)
    I have just started preparing bento for my girl and thank you for the sharing all the great ideas! :)

    I’m sure my girl would love the sausage flowers as she likes quail eggs.

  24. @23 from Elfir: Don’t sweat being a “pretty bad cook” — just have fun with whatever level of cooking you’re up to and don’t feel pressured! I hear you on the grocery front, though, it’s frustrating to read about products you can’t find in your local market (nine years in Japan looking for weird ethnic products got tiring).

  25. @24 from LZmommy: My pleasure, LZ! I hope your daughter enjoys the sausage flowers; I think girls especially get a kick out of the “cute” aspect of bentos.

  26. Wow! That looks really cool! Does it really only take ten minutes? I feel like it’d take me longer…

  27. this was sooooooo cute!!!! ^_____________^

  28. @27 from eatingplum: (Sorry about the delay in responding — this one got away from me.) It did really take about 10 minutes; cutting the sausage with the chopsticks really sped things up and there was no other food prep involved except to cut some cucumber slices. What takes me time is the step-by-step photos afterwards, though!

  29. @28 from eiri: Thank you! You’re very kind.

  30. ^ ^

    very cute I like the taste with chickens eggs better than the quail

  31. Dear Biggie,
    I love your blog, and its content.And i like the tutorials. Can you give us tutorials on tamagoyaki with ‘fillings’ like fake crabstick / sausage rolled inside them?I’ve seen them & even made them, but they’re quite tricky.