"Bento" in Japanese translates roughly to "box lunch." It's the concept of assembling a meal that is pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds. Bento boxes are the different kinds of containers used to take the lunch in, and these come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. There are also all kinds of accessories - from egg and rice molds to little bottles for sauces to fake grass dividers and more. I now have 4 bento containers - I needed them for the different kinds of lunches I bring to the office. If you want to see different bentos and accessories, go to ebay, type in "bento." It's amazing what you'll see. If you want tutorials, resource information, recipes, and more, go to Lunch in a Box - Biggie's blog is the best I've seen for information and ideas. If you want to see lots of pictures of different bentos (with food in them) go to Bento Lunches - that's a community of numerous bento users who post all about their bentos.
What's in the Box?
This is the first bento I got-and the largest. It came from a bento store on ebay. It can hold lunch for two, or both breakfast and lunch. Today it was the latter. Top left is an egg, sausage & cheese on a multigrain English muffin, and bottom left is a banana. That was breakfast. Lunch is crackers and cheese (top right), mini-sausages and barbecue sauce (bottom right), and blackberries. They're still frozen in the picture, but by lunch they're thawed. The little green container the sausages are in is a rectangular silicone muffin cup, available in packages of 12 at JoAnn for $9.99, and since I used a 40%-off coupon, they cost only $6. The little heart box holds barbecue sauce, and I got 12 of them at Big Lots for $1.99. I can use them for sauces, syrup, and other small items.
This is a microwave-safe box, which I can use for leftover one-dish meals. I got this one on ebay.
This is a two-tiered box, with a little third compartment for chopsticks, a napkin, or flatware. I used it last week for a sweet potato, a container of syrup and nuts for the potato, a hard-boiled egg, and some grape tomatoes. I got this one on ebay.
This is my newest bento. It's a single-tier box, with chopsticks in the lid and a bag for carrying it. I plan to use it for salads. I got this one at Mitsuwa in Little Tokyo last Friday.
At Mitsuwa, I also picked up some Haiga rice and some soy sauce. I have absolutely no idea what kind of soy sauce this is, but the shopper who was helping says it's one of the better-quality ones. She says it's made with a better soy bean.
The Haiga rice is something I've been wanting to try. It's a short-grain white rice, but is a fully-milled kernel that still has the rice germ. It tastes and cooks similar to Japanese rice, yet preserves many of the kernel's natural vitamins and other nutrients. It also has more fiber than white rice, making it sort of a cross between white and brown rice. It can also cook up well for making onigiri - next on my list of things to try!
So, do you bento? (Yes, I know it's not a verb, but let's pretend it is!) Let me know if you also have bento boxes and what you put in them.