Make A Bento Box Lunch!
Bento for Lunch
A Bento Box Is...
... a traditional Japanese lunch box container
... a multi-item mid-day meal, offering a mix of flavors, colors and temperatures.
Bento boxes are fast becoming popular as a modern Western lunchtime option. These small meals offer lots of variety and can be created from very healthy ingredients. If you are making them yourself, the recipes are fantastic for using up odds and ends of dinnertime leftovers in creative ways. They can run the gamut from totally traditional to post-modern inspiration, so be sure to check to find out just what you're getting if you are ordering them from a restaurant or food service. Tired of the sandwich routine and brown paper bags? Try a Bento Box!
Onigiri - The Building Blocks of the Bento Box
Onigiri are literally the foundation of a bento box lunch. At their most simple, they are a deliberately-shaped ball of seasoned white rice. Many variations include a strip of nori, toasted seaweed, or a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Frequently, the shaped balls are stuffed with something savory, both meat and vegetables. A tangy option is an umeboshi plum.
- Onigiri can be flavored by mixing spices with the rice before it's shaped or by sprinkling it with vinegar. Once shaped, the rice balls can be sprinkled with or rolled in sesame seeds (light or dark) afterwards
- Fill with grilled and flaked fish, cooked beef or pork shreds, umeboshi (pickled plums), bonito flakes, cod roe, chopped vegetables and just about anything you like.
- 1 lb white rice, medium grain
- sea salt
- nori (dried seaweed sheets)
- sesame seeds, brown or black (toasting optional)
- fillings as suggested above
Onigiri VariationsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Instructions For Making Onigiri By Hand
- Cook the rice and let it cool to the point where you can touch it without it being too hot for your hands.
- Wash your hands, leaving them wet and then rub your hands with salt. This keeps the rice from sticking too much.
- Take a palmful of rice (anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup) and shape it into a ball, a triangle shape or a cylinder (see instructions below for how to make shapes).
- To fill the rice ball, press a hole into the ball with your fingers, fill with desired stuffing and press closed again.
- Finish by wrapping a narrow strip of nori (trim down the full sheets) or sprinkling on toasted seeds.
How Was This Recipe?
How to Make Different Onigiri Shapes By Hand
Make Your Own Onigiri Video
Bento Box Recipes
- Back to School Special: Bento Box (or Lunch Box) Recipes!
Traditionally bentos are made with 4 parts of rice, 3 parts of the main dish, (either meat or fish), 2 parts of vegetables, and 1 part of a serving of pickled vegetables or a dessert.
- Simple Menus for the Bento Box
Japanese food is traditionally served with an artful simplicity and a sleek dramatic style unmatched by any other cuisine. How can you re-create the visual drama of the Japanese kitchen in your own home? The shokado bento box is the answer.
- Golden Door Bento Box - Recipelink.com
The Golden Door Bento Box can be a bit labor-intensive, but for a special luncheon it is a delicious and healthful treat that is well worth the time it takes to assemble.
MTC's introduction to Bento, the Japanese art of lunch.
- Teanobi.com: Japanese Food Lunch Recipes
Traditional Japanese Lunch Recipes
- Lunch in a Box: Building a Better Bento
- Flickr: BENTO LUNCH BOX RECIPES
A Flickr group focused on Bento Box Recipes! Visually delicious!
- Post your favorite Bento box recipes
A public forum thread on the topic of recipes for bento boxes. See what everyone is posting as their favorite!
Take A Tour of a Real-Life Bento Box!
Assembling Your Bento Box
As people with non-Asian culinary sensibilities explore the idea of the bento box lunch, you're going to find all sorts of variations and experimentation as traditional and non-traditional bento box foods are utilized and explored. Go as traditional or non-traditional as your tastebuds desire.
The traditional ratio of contents in a bento box follows a 4-3-2-1 pattern. Four parts will contain rice, three parts have meat or fish ingredients, two parts will contain vegetables and the last part will be either something pickled or a dessert. Japanese desserts are not as sweet as what you'd find in Europe or the US.
- Rice - traditionally every (or nearly every) course in a bento box lunch contains either steamed or fried rice.
- Noodles - consider swapping out a portion of rice for something with noodles instead. Thin rice or buckwheat noodles are perfect for lunch.
- Meat or fish - a bento box is a great way to use up dinner entrée leftovers such as beef, chicken or fish.
- Fruit - whatever fruit is fresh and in season is perfect for a bento box.
- Baked goods - steamed buns or rice crackers are good additions to your bento.
- Sauce - A little bit of hoisin, mustard, sweet and sour sauce or soy sauce can be nice.
Remember that heat rises and cold falls, so if you have a bento box that stacks, you want to put the cool items on the bottom and the hot ones on top!
Bento Food Traditions
Goshiki ("five colors) is an idea of balance found in Japanese Buddhist thought. It is interpreted as a way of balancing nutrition and aesthetics by having each meal incorporate five colors via the foods chosen: white, red/orange, yellow, green and black/brown/purple.
Goho adds further balance by having each meal incorporate five ways of cooking, choosing from boiling,frying, grilling, pickling, simmering or steaming.
Other Great Bento Box Links
- Bento Boxes
Get traditional bento box trays, bento lunch boxes and books on recipes
- Japanese Food 101
- Bento Box: What's for Lunch [Japanese American National Museum]
A Bento Box for Kids is an educational branch of the Japanese American National Museum.
- Order of the Day - washingtonpost.com
For Lunch, a Bento Box Holds The Promise of Harmonic Nutrition
- Bento - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bent is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine.
- Crafting a Bento - The World's Biggest Show & Tell - food, art, diy
This instructable will attempt to provide the basic design principles, resources for obtaining the necessary tools, and some of the traditional rules of making a beautiful and delicious bento.
- Flickr: Photos tagged with bento
If you check out the pictures on Flickr that are tagged to "bento" you'll find an overwhelming and delicious array of ideas for making bento box lunches. Be sure to eat before you go look at these...