Are you interested in exploring the world of Japanese cuisine? Learning how to make the perfect bento box is a great place to start.
What is a Bento Box?
Japanese bento boxes date back to the Kamakura period and are essentially what we would now consider lunch boxes – although they can be enjoyed for any meal of the day. Traditionally, bentos included a simple portable meal of rice, but over time they have become more elaborate, with many people considering bento box preparation and design a true art form.
Bento boxes now incorporate a huge range of components; sectioned lunch boxes are filled with artfully arranged foods to compile a delicious, visually pleasing meal. In Japan, you can buy pre-made bento boxes in supermarkets and convenience stores, but many also take pride in creating the perfect box at home.
What Should You Include in a Japanese Bento Box?
Often, searching for a Japanese supermarket online is the best place to start when thinking about constructing the perfect bento box. This way, you can be sure you are getting authentic ingredients and plenty of classic Japanese flavours.
Planning ahead and getting the right balance of foods is also essential for bento preparation. For a healthy and aesthetic meal, your bento box should include around 40% vegetables, 30% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 10% fruit or other sweet treats.
However, when it comes down to it, what you include in your box will be personal preference.
Popular Bento Box Ideas
Some Japanese bento box favourites include:
- Tamagoyaki – a rolled omelette.
- Onigiri – rice balls wrapped with seaweed and sometimes combined with fillings of meat or fish.
- Sushi – there are endless varieties of sushi to include, with inari – a kind of sushi wrapped in tofu pockets – being especially popular for bento boxes.
- Tsukune – sweet and salty meatballs served on a skewer.
- Chicken katsu – breaded chicken with the iconic katsu sauce.
- Agemono – a term to describe a range of deep-fried foods like tempura and croquettes.
- Grilled fish – mackerel, salmon and eel are popular choices.
Bento Box Tips
What else do you need to be aware of when creating the perfect bento box?
- Get the right container – a box with a secure lid is a must. You can also look for specialised boxes with separate dividers.
- Invest in accessories and cutlery – pair your bento box with travel cutlery and smaller containers for sides or condiments. You can find lots of bento accessories like this from online Japanese supermarkets.
- Don’t feel limited – although bentos are a Japanese favourite, don’t feel obliged to only include Japanese foods. You could prepare dishes from different countries across Southeast Asia like Korea, China, Thailand or Vietnam, or any other country that you want to try traditional foods from.
- Get creative – bento boxes are as much about design as they are about the tasty treats you pack inside. Get creative with your concepts, including plenty of colour and design elements to create scenes or characters. Kyaraben are elaborate bento creations that look like characters in popular media which are always crowd-pleasers.
With these top tips, you’re bound to whip up some amazing bento box creations in no time!