The Japanese lunchbox set, or bento, is a famous and convenient single-serve lunchbox. These traditionally contain rice, pickled vegetables or a salad, along with meat (usually fish). They are found at any convenience store or supermarket for prices from around 200 to 600 yen. Though the typical box follows a basic guideline for contents, there are many different recipe varieties available.
What is Bento?
Bento boxes contain smaller segmented boxes within. These smaller boxes help keep the ingredients separate while remaining inside the larger box. Though bento are readily available for purchase at convenience stores or supermarkets all over Japan, Japanese have high regard for a recipe made at home.
A New Trend of Bento – Kyaraben !
A recipe for bento can be more than just the basic meat, rice and salad combination. These days, a new trend called character bento, or “kyaraben” (キャラ弁), has emerged. A box set arranged to resemble popular cartoon or manga characters, kyaraben has been a hit among both children and adults alike, changing the traditional bento box into an entertaining meal. Coloring the rice is the easiest method, because rice generally constitutes the primary component in a bento box recipe. Yellow can be achieved with a little curry powder, purple or blue with salted picked plum (umeboshi), and green with seaweed (nori). Creating a kyaraben bento using a unique recipe has allowed a great new take on the traditional lunchbox.
How can We Buy the Actual Bento Boxes!?
The actual bento boxes can be bought at most 100 yen shops. Smaller components can be bought for arranging by size or color within the larger box. Though the original bento box was packed inside a lacquered wooden box, the more modern ones use plastic with a great range of sizes and shapes. The idea is that you might portion your recipe into any smaller containers within the larger box so as to control the portion sizes of each component. If you don’t have containers at home, you can achieve the same effect using muffin papers or by arranging the bento components very neatly within a slightly smaller plastic lunchbox.
Next time you make a rice-based lunch, try being creative arranging your recipe or packing it into your lunchbox. Just a few easy tweaks when arranging your meal might just change a boring old lunch box into a delicious-looking Japanese bento box!