Bento is simply a Japanese meal that can be carried around. It usually comes in a plastic or wooden box with rice and a variety of side dishes (sometimes even fruit or dessert).
Bento is an essential part of Japanese culture. You can buy them at convenience stores, supermarkets, train station kiosks, and theaters. Homemade lunches are also a special way for school-going children and office workers to feel the love of their families. Bento is also a centerpiece of seasonal events such as cherry blossom viewing parties.
Composition of the Lunch Box
- Main Dish
- Side Dish
- Vegetable : This is it to fill in gaps in my lunches and to add colors.
- Japanese Rice : Sticky Japonica rice stays moist and delicious than other types of rice.
- Fruit : Apples cut into bite-sized pieces etc.
Popular Dishes of Bento
- Yaki-jake (Grilled salmon)
- Karaage (Japanese fried chicken) [Recipe]
- Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) [Recipe]
- Hijiki-ni (Simmered Hijiki Seaweed) [Recipe]
- Kiriboshi Daikon (Simmered daikon stripes) [Recipe]
Types of Bento
- Shokado Bento : Shokado bento is created by a kaiseki chef in Kyoto in the early 20th century. The bento box is divided into four compartments to separate tastes of each section. They say the divided structure of the box came from the container that was used by farmers to store seeds in 16th century.
- Makunouchi Bento : Makunouchi bento is probably the most classic bento. It was born as a meal eaten at theaters between acts during the Edo period. It contains well-balanced nutritious food. There are always small cylinder rice balls sprinkled with black sesame seeds in makunouchi. Pickled red plum may be on the rice balls to kill unwanted bacteria. The variation of taste, texture and colors make a bento delicious, enjoyable, satisfying and healthy.
- Ekiben/Railway Bento : Ekiben is one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel. You can enjoy bento boxes filled with local foods and specialties all over the country.
- Character Bento : Character bento, or charaben, is a bento box that features animals, characters from anime, manga or other cute images, such as panda, Totoro and Pikachu. Foreigners are highly impressed with how elaborately made they are. Originally these characters were introduced to bento to induce kids to eat their lunch. The prosperity of social media such as photo posting boosted the popularity of charaben in recent years. There are many tools available to help them, such as animal-shaped molds for rice, seaweed hole punches, and eyeball-shaped picks.
How to make your Bento less painful
- Keep utensils and lunch boxes clean : Wash your cooking utensils clean and wipe them dry. Spray the lunch box with sanitizing alcohol and let it dry.
- Drain off the liquid from the side dishes : Any remaining juices can cause spoilage. For side dishes with a lot of juice or vegetables with a lot of water, reduce the water content as much as possible before packing them, such as by pressing them down with a paper towel.
- Pack dishes after they have cooled : Freshly cooked rice and freshly prepared side dishes emit steam, so if you pack them as they are, they will steam in the lunch box and bacteria will easily grow. Allow them to cool before packing.
- Do not use your bare hands to make rice balls : To prevent germs from getting on the rice, wrap the rice in plastic wrap or wear plastic gloves to avoid direct contact.
- Use different chopsticks for cooking and serving : Raw meat and fish have a lot of bacteria on them. Prepare and use different chopsticks for packing the cooked dishes.
- Heat and reheat carefully : Meat, fish, and eggs should be cooked thoroughly to the inside. Processed foods such as ham, kamaboko (fish paste), and chikuwa (bamboo shoots) should also be reheated once during the hot season. It is inevitable that some bacteria will stick to leftover dishes, so be sure to reheat them and let them cool before packing them in the bento box.
- Remove the stems from fruits and vegetables : The stems of small tomatoes, strawberries, etc. may have dirt and germs on them. Be sure to remove the stems, wash them clean, and wipe them dry before putting them in the bento box..
- Add coolant : When the temperature is high, it is a good idea to place a coolant on top of the lunch box and wrap it in a cool bag to prevent it from getting damaged between the time you pack it in the morning and the time you eat it.
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3. Reference of this article : 外国人がいちばん食べたい和食90選