Bentos!

About bento box lunches

How to make bentos

Links

Bentos are traditional Japanese meals for people on the go. They probably started out as lunches packed by peasants for eating in the fields. They also have a history as lunches taken by nobles and samurai to cherry blossom viewing parties and other outdoor events. Box lunches were also consumed between acts at the theater.

The more recent history of bentos is as lunches purchased at rail stations (ekiben) for eating on the train.

Nowdays, people make bentos for themselves, their spouses, and their children to take to work, school, and on all kinds of outings.

Believe it or not, it only takes 30 minutes or less to create a beautiful custom made lunch--much less time than eating out. It just takes a bit of planning, and not much at that!

So, pack your own bento box for work tomorrow, and inspire yourself and your work mates to make eating lunch an art!

Bentos are very easy to make. You are only limited by your imagination, and the size of your bento box! Here is an "Italian bento" with olives, fritatta, and garlic toast.

italian

ningyo

korokoro my bento blog

bento collection

 

This is my bento box collection. In my defense, the large box on the bottom is a family box, and two of the boxes belong to my husband and son. So, that just leaves three for me. That's reasonable--right?

Traditionally, bentos are starch based, usually the starch is rice. Sometimes noodles are used too. But these are modern times, you can put anything in a bento box that you want to. I made one for my son with pieces of cut up pizza--very Japanese I thought.

pizza

Wikipedia: Bento a decent introduction to the art, though I disagree with a few of the finer points, including some of the translations.

Bento Box! A nice little how to

Lunch in a box--building a better bento like the title says!

Cooking Cute not updated much, but excellent information on making bentos, just click on the tabs.

Yoko's Lunch box photos on flickr Great inpiration for both traditional and non traditional bento.

Bento boxes pool on flickr more great inspiration!

Bento lunch on LiveJournal a lot of non traditional lunches

All My Bento Are Belong to Me a daily dose of Feisty Foodie's lunches

You don't need official bento boxes though; to start I recommend reusable storage boxes that you buy in the grocery store. Presentation is important, but you can make a beautiful bento in a very plain box--the food is the star.

I also like to bring a thermos of hot water for tea and to rehydrate my homemade (very easy) instant miso soups.

 

gyoza

Okazu a discussion of the philosophy of Japanese eating.

 

Along with the starch, you add many tasty little bits. You should also include some protein in your bento, though of course it needn't be meat--eggs, tofu, and nuts are great additions.

 

Traditional bento also have Japanese pickles--they're good for the digestion.

bunny bento

Bento Anarchy not your ordinary bento

Blue Flower in Japanese--but worth it for the pictures, or to brush up on your Japanese

E-Bento for those who need their food to look like other things

A Man's Bento for, well, manly bento

Just Bento unusual ideas and pretty pictures

Soy and Pepper includes some recipes

Chocolat_Vanille on flickr proving that you don't need a fancy box to make beautiful bento

My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch read it for the great commentary on the creative lunches!

Obiwan Bento flickr pictures--innovative bento

Recommended book:

Japanese Meals on the Go: Bento Boxes by Naomi Kijima

 

 

Ideally bentos should be made fresh in the morning before work. All food should be heated, or reheated, placed in the bento box, and allowed to cool a bit before the lid is replaced. This way things are warm, but not too steamy or your lunch will be soggy.

Rice needn't be made fresh daily, but I find that it only tolerates being reheated on days 1-3 for rice balls (onigiri) or plain white rice. After that you'll either have to make more rice, fry it, or skip the rice entirely.

Book of Yum recipes for bento and other gluten free foods.
trip bento

If you have wet food, such as a cucumber salad or teriyaki that won't be placed on rice, you may want to separate it from the other foods. Also, crisp things like cookies do better separated. Paper or foil muffin tin liners are perfect for this purpose.

gyoza

 
 

I advise you to keep it simple when starting out. Leftovers are great, so are take out Chinese or Korean ribs, and frozen gyoza are brillant substitutes for homemade when you don't have the time. With rice and frozen gyoza and just a bit of fruit, you can make a wonderful and quick lunch.

ribs