Monday, December 6, 2010

Bento 101

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. :)


  1. That's a really neat idea! I pack my husband's lunch almost every day...and this got me thinking to make it look nicer and more presentable:)Thanks for sharing a part of your history:)

  2. that looks SOOOO good! my mom used to make me bento boxes all the time when i used to go to school in korea. i know your kids must feel loved everytime they eat it like i have.

  3. This looks delicious! I really love bento boxes. (I put different foods in different parts of my circle plate, my dad used to make fun of me because I didn't like it when my food mixed together.)

    Just Better Together

  4. I want to dive through my computer to eat those yummy foods!!! The flavor flakes look yummy! I want those!! :)

  5. Japanese Moms are world-famous for their skills at making bentos. If your children or husband goes to school/work with one of the above meals, others will definitely grow envious of them!

  6. This looks so Yammie!!! after reading this post i was googleing on dutch sites for bento boxes and found some great sites!!!!for example bentobabe... She's a dutchie who maes great bento's with good food that's easy making for us dutch girls. I will make two bento's for my sin and DD on thuesday, than they have to go to school all day!!!! If I will not forget it... i will take pictures of them! Thanx for the inspiration!

    with love,


  7. i was thinking of this yesterday at the grocery store. i love the colorful bento boxes. thanks for the tips.

  8. Oh, my gosh, do they ever look so YUMMY.
    All of a sudden I am hungry.
    Hungry Holiday Hugs,

  9. I love the idea of bento. I first heard of it a few years ago, but only learned that it was an actual tradition beyond "sectioned box" very recently. I love the tradition you get to share with your family of your heritage, through it. Very cool.

  10. This morning after making the most boring lunch ever this morning,I was trying to come up with what I could do to make it better. Thank you for reminding me about bento. At the begining of the school year I made onigiri, my kids were dissapointed that the rice was cold. Usually they gobble up onigiri before they touch a plate.
    Heather K.

  11. Yum! I love bento! I'm interested in your rice recipe (if it's not secret). Mine is usually not sticky enough and doesn't taste great at room temp.

  12. I'm so doing this it looks wonderful and I know My oldest would absolutely love this! Thanks!!!

  13. I love to make bento and bring to work before I retired. All my colleagues would come and see what I had make. It's so fun. When I was in Adelaide 2 months back, I made bento for my granddaughter and she
    proudly showed her classmates cos
    everybody bring either sandwiches or spaghetti but she has a variety of food in her bento.

  14. I want to try this to mainly because its pretty and looks like its perfect for portion control... I need to learn to make sticky rice- I love that stuff.

  15. I had only heard of bento a little while back and I really want to try this for my kids who hate to take cold lunch. I do put our leftovers in a thermos for them and that is their favorite lunch. I just know they would love this. Thank you for sharing! Theresa xoxo

  16. i'd like to try this but i have a few questions:
    -do you cook the veggies and just eat them cold? are they seasoned at all? (and which veggies are best for this?)
    -for the egg/protein part, other than an omelet style, how else can they be prepared/seasoned?
    -how does the chicken stay OK to eat without reheating?

    thanks for sharing! i'm not japanese, but LOVE how healthy the bento looks and i love sushi/hibachi!

  17. All I can say is wow! I really love the photos. All of it. It looks very delicious. I'll try making one for my love ones. That's a good idea actually. Packing lunch can also lessen our daily expenses. And for that, I made another researched about a food stacking bento container. I'm lucky to discover the Happy Tiffin site. Their products are quite good, amazing designs and style. All the products has 100% BPA free, eco-friendly and durable too. You might like to try it also. =)


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