Many of us wish we brought our lunch to work more often, and while leftovers and sandwiches are delicious options, sometimes we're looking for out-of-the-box ideas. Might I suggest you start searching in the box with a bento lunch? This Japanese boxed lunch has a long history, but these days it's a delicious, healthy, and convenient lunch option, perfect for Spring picnics or munching at your desk. Ready to learn more about bentos? Just keep reading.
- Bento (also known by the formal obento) is an assortment of rice, meat, and vegetables packed in a box as a portable lunch. Containers can range from intricately compartmentalized lacquerware to disposable trays, and even Tupperware-like lunch boxes.
- Bentos date back to the Kamakura period when people would pack rice and other portable foods for tea parties and cherry blossom-viewing outings, making them the perfect picnic meal!
- As rice historically formed the base of Japanese meals, traditional bento boxes had a ratio of 4:2:1 (white rice to protein to other ingredients). But modern bentos tend to reflect today's focus on incorporating whole grains and vegetables.
- Today, you'll encounter formal bentos at fancy restaurants, picnic bentos, casual takeout bentos, and even kyaraben, or character bentos, featuring food in the shape of flowers and cute animals.
- When assembling a bento, don't limit yourself to traditional ingredients. Delicious bento boxes can include leftovers like Chinese takeout or even mac and cheese!
- While the components of your bento are up to your imagination, there are a few rules to which you'll want to adhere:
- Bentos are generally not refrigerated, so include items that can sit at room temperature until lunchtime without spoiling.
- Separate wet ingredients or items that may stick together. You can place them in separate compartments or use vegetables or edible leaves (like shiso) to divide them.
- If you include a component (like soup) that needs to be microwaved, it's best to keep it in its own heat-proof container.
- In the true spirit of bento-making, make it pretty!
Have you ever put together your own bento?
Source: Flickr User gamene