These days lunch can be a short break in between long office hours, and going out to a crowded restaurants for a hurried meal just doesn’t appeal to many. A simple solution would be to bring bento, or packed lunch. Nothing can relieve stress like a delicious, aesthetically pleasing meal. In Japan where such lunches can now be bought in stores, housewives still make them for their family for that personal touch. Children’s bento are often cute with animal-shaped onigiri and bright vegetables to encourage them to eat well. Bento are a staple of festivals and long train trips, where you can buy ekiben in train stations to sample regional delicacies.
These Japanese packed lunches are both nutritious and beautiful to look at. Bento often comprise of rice, a main dish of meat or fish, a side dish of vegetables, and occasionally dessert. For those who aren’t used to having rice, you can substitute sandwiches or noodles. The nice thing about making these lunches is you know what goes into the meal.
Here’s a few tips in making and eating bento
- Wait for the rice to cool before closing the lid. The steam from the rice can make the rest of the bento soggy.
- If you don’t have a lot of time in the morning, prepare your ingredients or dishes the night before.
- Store your bento in a cool and dry place to avoid spoiling.
- Bento is often eaten cold, unless there’s a handy microwave for reheating. Choose dishes that would still taste good without reheating.
There are many ways to pack your bento. You can use a simple lacquer bento box, or a stackable lunch set with the bowls containing different dishes. If you’re not comfortable with using chopsticks, bring along a set of cutlery, especially if you have a soup dish. A furoshiki or large patterned handkerchief keeps everything together and can serve as your napkin while you’re eating.