Monday, December 6, 2010
Food in the picture; right side above on the plate onigiri (rice ball), in the bento box: sautéed salmon, steamed asparagus, boiled egg, and rice with Furikake (flavor flakes).
Every now and then, people would ask questions like;
"What is Bento?" or "What is Bento Box?"
So, I decided to do a post about "bento" today. Basically, bento is a packed lunch in the box. When I hear "bento" the first thing come to my mind is the bento my mom packed for me. Kind of like the one in below;
Sticky rice with dried and flavored plum leaf flakes, kara-age (Japanese deep fried chicken), tamago-yaki/Japanese style omelet, sautéed broccoli, celery with small shrimp.
You can find bento everywhere in Japan. At airports, train stations, food courts, convenient stores, bento specialty stores... you can buy bento pretty much anywhere you go. There are many different kinds of bento. When you go to different cities, you can find bento that are made with famous items from that city. If you want to know more about the bento, you can go here to find out.
I started cooking with my mom from a very early age, and started packing my bento when I started going to high school. I pack bento for my family sometimes, but it takes a lot more preparation, and time.
So it happens only occasionally (hooray for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!). When we go to a family picnic, I try to pack bento, I want them to remember the look and the taste of the Japanese bento.
There are some things that I can share with you to make bento.
1. I always try to put a variety of things in the bento that are nutritious and pleasing to the eyes. For example: white rice for carbs, green veggies for vitamins and such, yellow egg dish for protein, and of course this will change with other ingredients too.
2. Pack the bento box tight. If it is loosely packed things will move around, and when you open, it may not be pretty.
3. For bento, it is best to make things that are tasty even without reheating.
4. The easiest way to prepare for the next morning’s bento making is, save some portions of dinner’s ingredients. That way, washing and cutting the vegetable part is already done, and it saves some time in the morning.
That's it. I really love bento. I feel like it is such a healthy way to eat a balanced meal during the day, rather than going through the drive-thru (don't get me wrong, I do that all the time, but I prefer bento when I have time to make it).
Oh, one more thing... about the bento box, I guess it is best to have it, because most of them are air tight and have a divider inside, so the food doesn't get mixed up. Although, I think you can use pretty much anything. The picture below is a bento I packed for the boys. I used sandwich cases I found at Target’s dollar section. I can't put anything liquidy, but for the things I made that day, it worked just fine.
I am pretty sure there are things I can put in from American style cooking too. Although, a bento is a meal packed in a box, to have fun and make it reply able to any cuisine, we just need to think outside the box. :)