T echnically this isn’t my first “bento of the week” but the last one didn’t turn out so well. I mean, sure, it was tasty but the recipe for my mock fish balls needed tweaking. I don’t like adding recipes that still need some major perfecting. Therefore, this is the introduction of my Bento of the Week series.
Okay so what is bento?
“Bentō is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables as a side dish. Containers range from disposable mass produced to hand crafted lacquer ware. Although bento are easily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋, bentō-ya?), train stations, and department stores, it is still common for Japanese homemakers to spend considerable time and energy producing an appealing boxed lunch.” - Bento , Wikipedia
So it’s strictly Japanese?
The origins, yes, but the contents of the bento can be of other origins. In fact, Indians have a similar "lunch box" referred to as a tiffin. It’s honestly up to you. The whole entire purpose of a bento is to have something that is wholesome, nutritious and satisfying for lunch since that always seems to be a problem area. Back in Japan, the hardcore bento makers enter contests to see whose bento is better, nutrition and artistic wise.
Sounds like a lot of work, do I really have to make it look pretty and do I have to buy special cutters/tools?
No, you don’t have to go out of your way and put all star shaped carrots or octopus hotdogs in your bento; but, if you have the time, knock yourself out! Have fun! It’s not supposed to be a chore. It’s a fun way to eat healthful and you don’t need any special equipment except for a box to put stuff in.
If you need some assistance or need some ideas, here are some great inspirational websites all about bento!
(Was simple because my stomach’s been icky lately.)
Hot & Sour Noodles
1 nest of rice noodles (first time I purchased freshly made noodles; ungodly delicious)
1 tbsp of sriacha AKA chili-garlic sauce (I like it hot baby)
1 tsp maple syrup
½ of a scallion, sliced thinly on a bias
1 baby bok choy, slivered thinly.
A squirt of lime juice
A squirt of Braggs or GF soy sauce
Cook the noodles according to the directions, drain, and cool. Combine the sauce ingredients and chop the vegetables. Mix the vegetables with the noodles once cooled then add the dressing. Chill over night then binge the following day. Good sides: cool fruit, chutney or pickle. Feel free to add some protein or extra veggies like mushrooms, mung beans, etc. This was one of those use whatever’s in the fridge recipe and I’m saving my fresh mushrooms.