The Japanese are known for mixing art with their food. Be it the exotic Japanese recipes for sushi or the colorful bento lunch boxes. Made with some extra imagination and bright color combinations, bento lunch boxes are attractive to look at and tempt a person to taste the food. The name 'bento' is of a Japanese origin and it actually means convenience. So popular are bento lunches and snacks, that the style has evolved itself into various versions and spread across countries like China, Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, etc. Some basic styles include Shokado bento, Kamameshi bento, Shidashi bento, Makunouchi bento and the list is endless. Bento designs have become all the more popular ever since the introduction of bento designing contests in Japan where people compete to make the most eye-pleasing meals.
Contents of Bento Lunch Box
Bento boxes are traditionally known to be black lacquered square boxes. The boxes may have self compartments or food items such as carrots might be used to make compartments within the box. The boxes are not very wide and the meals are expected to be packed creatively in smaller spaces.
Traditionally, bento meals are sectioned as 50% main meal course and 50% side dish with a generous quantity of vegetables and meat making up the side dish. Else, bento meals can be segregated by a ratio of approximately 4:3:2:1, where the main course takes up the largest portion followed by three-quarters of side dish, two quarters of vegetables and a quarter proportion of pickles or desserts. The whole idea is to create a wholesome meal with playful art. Typical ingredients of bento meals include rice, meat, fish, eggs, pickled fish or pickled vegetables, fresh vegetables and fruits, desserts, etc. Nowadays, some European versions of bento lunches include salads, pasta and bakery products as well.
Bento Lunch Box Ideas for Kids
Bento Lunch meals are supposed to look attractive so as to entice kids to eat their meals. The meals might require a little extra efforts to prepare but Japanese women don't mind going an extra bit further with their creativity to ensure that their children get all the nutrition. Bento lunch boxes for kids might be arranged to look like a popular cartoon character or like an animal or flowering shrub. The former arrangement is called kyaraben while the later is called oekakiben.
A Popular Recipe for Kids
Divide the lunch box into two sections, one for the main course and the other for the side dish.
Ingredients for Main course
Boiled rice, salt, tuna, toasted sesame seeds, cucumber peels
Spread the cooked rice evenly at the base of one half of the box. Sprinkle some salt to taste. Chop tuna into 3 small triangular pieces with one curving side. Fry the tuna pieces. Peal a cucumber and use its peals along the curved edge of fried tuna pieces. Now sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on tuna pieces. The tuna pieces are bound to resemble pieces of fresh watermelon. Now lay the pieces of tuna on the rice layer.
Ingredients for Side dish
Boiled egg, one carrot, c-shaped sliced cucumber without the flesh and seeds, toothpicks, salt
Slice pieces of carrot minutely to resemble a rooster's comb, a beak, and small rounded eyes. Insert the pieces in the shelled boiled egg to resemble a rooster. Next you can cut round slices of carrot and cut out small triangles from one side of these carrot pieces to make it look like a flower. Insert a toothpick through cucumber and carrot slices to make them look like a flower. Now place the vegetable flowers and egg rooster in the other half of the box. Your Bento box is sure to be a visual delight to your kids!
A Popular Recipe for Adults
Bento meals for adults naturally differ from those meant for kids. Now let us try a recipe for bento meal that takes influence from Italian pasta and Mediterranean salads. The recipe for the pasta and salads are the same. The change is only in the way of presentation.
Create a lining for the bento box with a fresh green spinach leaf. Divide the bento box into two equal sections with freshly chopped carrot and turnip. Now fill one section of the box with steaming hot pasta. Garnish with cheese and parsley if required. Now toss an ample portion of Mediterranean salad in a bowl. Spread the salad in the 2nd half section of the bento box. Add some round slices of fresh tomato to add to the color. You are free to add some fruits like strawberries or cherries as a dessert. And lo...your bento lunch box is ready!
Reasons to Choose a Bento Lunch Box
- They are easy to make. Majority of the ingredients are easily available in the market.
- Authentic bento lunches are served in boxes made from environment friendly material. This helps protect our natural environment. Also one can be assured that the food is safe for consumption.
- The meal portions in a bento lunch box are smaller than the western meal portions. So they are a good option for weight reduction along with planned nourishment.
- The meals are visual delight for adults and kids alike. Bento meal ideas can be adopted to suit not just lunches but also breakfast and supper.
It is said that meals are more nourishing if they are pleasing to the consumer's eyes, fragrant to his nose, delicious to his taste buds. But the best secret to nourishment is food made out of love. Considering all the efforts that you put to make the meal as pleasing, delicious and colorful as possible, do you know any better meal option?