What is a bento? A bento is a Japanese lunchbox. But, this is not your typical packed lunch. The goal with a bento is to make a meal this is tasty, nutritious, and pleasing to the eye.
Who makes bentos? Anyone can make a bento. It's not uncommon for Japanese mothers to prepare an elaborate boxed lunch, playfully and creatively decorated, to entice their children to eat all of their food when they're at school. Bentos are becoming popular in America too as an alternative to regular, brown-bag lunches.
Why pack a bento? • Bentos provide a balanced, portioned meal. • Bentos are an art form that allow you to express yourself. • Bentos are usually less expensive than going out to eat. • Bentos make packing lunch and eating lunch more fun!
How to get started making your own bento box lunch…
Step 1: Pick out a bento box 1. You can usually buy bento boxes at Asian food stores or online. A favorite website of mine is called I Love Obento (www.iloveobento.com). There are so many kinds of bento boxes to choose from.
Types of bento boxes Bento with dividers Two-tiered bento box Basic bento box Matching bento sets Bentosavailable at Japanese restaurants Mr. Bento Stainless Steel lunch jar Bento box characters and shapes
Step 2: Shop for bento accessories Colorful picks Mini dressing holders Food cups Punches Sandwich cutters Food dividers Bento belts (so your lunchbox stays closed) Condiment containers Shape cutters
Step 3: Buy food to fill the bento In Japan, traditional foods like rice, cooked meat (fish, chicken, pork or beef) and vegetables are used for bentos. But you can include any kind of food you like! A few important things to remember when picking bento ingredients: • Brightly colored foods make a bento look more interesting. • A well-balanced bento meal features all four food groups . • When packing for school lunches, ready-to-eat foods that don’t require heating are a must.
Step 4: Pack your bento • Pack the foods tightly in order, especially if your bento box does not have built-in compartments. This will prevent the food from shifting within the box. • Rice, pasta, sandwiches or other starches get added first and should make up half the meal. • Food items that are not flexible in terms of shape or arrangement (like a big piece of chicken) might even have to go in first, if particularly awkward. • Food items that are flexible, such as potato salad or cut vegetables go in any large remaining spaces. • Small and sturdy items, like cherry tomatoes or small pudding containers, should fill in the gaps and accent the bento. • Add bento accessories for the final layer of cuteness!