Bento Box Fans! What's in your bento?

United States
February 6, 2007 1:48pm CST
Who here is a fan of Bento boxes? Bento boxes are Japanese lunch boxes. Traditional ones are wood, however the more popular ones are made of plastic and feature anime or Sanrio charaters. Bentos tend to have many small compartments in which to put different foods. Traditionally, the bulk of a bento lunch box should be devoted to rice, then to fish or protein, then to vegetables. I don't personally tend to do that... I focus more on color and food variety. Recently I've been making tuna and wasabi mayo filled onigiri (rice balls) with edamame, cucumber salad, carrot sticks, and pocky. It's been working out well- I've taken my lunch to work almost every day for 3 weeks straight! So, bento fans, what's in your bento? (Or, if you're new to Bento-ing and have questions, post 'em here!)
2 people like this
7 responses
• United States
7 Feb 07
Do you do traditional bento box foods or do you do stuff like that vegan lunchbox blog? I have wanted to get that little lunchbox set featured in that blog for forever, but I'm afraid I'm not motivated enough to make my own lunches.
2 people like this
• United States
7 Feb 07
Well, I do both actually. Sometimes I feel like a more traditional bento- maki (rolls), onigiri (rice balls), katsu, etc. But other times, like today, I have some turkey meatballs (loosely based off of a traditional Japanese recipe) or whatever else I can muster up, like Peanut butter and jelly! I suppose that one of the ideas of bento is that you cook the food right before you pack it up, and it remains warm until you're ready to eat. I don't do that. I either make it the night before, or toss in some leftovers in the morning. What I do, to help speed things along, is I will make many of one thing- like potato croquettes or wontons- and then freeze 'em. In the morning, I pack it frozen and it thaws (or I can nuke it) so it's ready to be eaten for lunch. It's really pretty quick that way! Besides, they're pretty small so you don't need a lot of food to fill one up! I've visited the vegan lunch box blog & it's good. If you're not a vegan, there's also http://www.community.livejournal/bentolunch that has a lot of traffic. And, like I mentioned before, www.cookingcute.com has TONS of recipes, photos, and ideas (very enabling!) many of which are gluten free, veg, or vegan (or adaptable).
• United States
7 Feb 07
Ah! I forgot to add that a lot of traditional Japanese food you can find frozen already at your local Asian grocer (or sometimes Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or Safeway). Like, you can get a whole unagi (eel) filet, already seasoned and cooked. Just cut a piece off and warm it up!
• United States
7 Feb 07
I have to admit that I'm rather lazy at times and pick up a bento from an okazuya for lunch rather than make my own. The ones you make sounds delicious! I like grilled fish, a musubi, namasu, and chinese chicken salad in mine. Most of the time I tend to order different items in my bento but these are my tried and true favorites. Edamame is one of my favorite snacks. I think I have a package in the freezer and will have to make them sometime soon. I love pocky as well. Chocolate pandas are good, too. Do you get tired of taking the same lunch every day? I tend to get tired of eating from the same places every once in a while.
• United States
8 Feb 07
No! I don't get tired of it at all. If I'm not in the mood to do something elaborate - I have plenty of frozen stuff that works just as well. For example, at the Asian market I go to you can buy steamed buns by the dozen. I just stick 'em in the freezer and take one out for lunch whenever I feel like eating one. Or I will make a bunch of meatballs or potato croquettes and freeze them. Also, I put a lot of fresh and frozen veg in my bentos. Baby carrot sticks stay fresh for a long time in the fridge. And I also buy bags of froz edamame and throw some pods in there. Hard boiled eggs are another one. i rarely have the exact same lunch every day. The little compartments in the bento make it easy to mix it up!
• United States
8 Feb 07
You make everything sound delicious. It makes me want to cut up veggies and arrange them on a Japanese lacquer tray in addition to dinner tonight. One of my aunts will bring a lovely tray of veggies to our holiday get-togethers every year and they are always beautifully arranged. Bento boxes remind me of this tray in a smaller form. Maybe I'll make my own bento box for tomorrow, too. Do you have any favorites from your list? Do you keep the box in the refrigerator until lunch time?
1 person likes this
• United States
8 Feb 07
Do you mean favorite recipes? Without knowing what you have on-hand, one quick and simple one is onigiri. Onigiri is a shaped rice ball. First, make some rice. I suggest using short grain rice. For a sweet onigiri, while the rice is cooking, scramble an egg with about 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in it. While it's scrambling, stir it around so it breaks into small pieces. Then, when the rice is still warm, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the rice and mix in the egg. Wet your hands (this is so the rice won't stick to you) and form the rice/sweet egg mixture into a flattened disk, or a triangle shape. Tada! you're done! For a good filled onigiri, take some canned tuna and mix with mayonnaise and wasabi (if you got it). Wet your hands again and take a bit of rice in your hand. Shape it like a ball and stick your thumb in the middle to make an indentation. Scoop a bit of the tuna mixture and put in the depression. Grab some more rice to cover the tuna. Shape into a triangle. Tada! Re. refrigeration: I put mine in the fridge at work, but I suppose that I don't *have* to depending on what I have in there. I will always put it in the fridge if i have meat or fish or mayonnaise-y food.
@twilight021 (2060)
• United States
6 Feb 07
I've been really lucky. My sister has recently gotten into making bento lunches and she's been making my lunch for me! It's been a great way to help us with portion control. I've also been trying to eat low carb, so there have been many low carb bentos including eggs, celery, chicken, fish (I made a great salmon salad for her to use). She works really hard to make them pretty too, so my lunches have also been visually fun.
1 person likes this
• United States
6 Feb 07
I definitely agree with the portion control aspect of bentos. When my first bento arrived, I thought, "how will I possibly survive on eating so little for lunch?" Now, I sometimes don't even finish what I've brought!
@krebstar5 (1267)
• United States
6 Feb 07
The portion control aspect is really great. Then again, it is amazing how much food you can fit into those little boxes. Both of my boxes are two teir and there are times when I actually have leftover food or I save some of it to snack on later in the day. Making bentos has also helped me to eat my veggies because I love to put dipping sauce in those cute little containers.
1 person likes this
• United States
6 Feb 07
Yeah I agree. I find I eat more veggies too. There's a good livejournal community about bentos, that is always very inspiring: http://community.livejournal.com/bentolunch Also: http://www.cookingcute.com has great recipes (often gluten free) and photos!
@freak369 (4865)
• United States
7 Feb 07
Ahhh bento boxes. We had an awesome place in SoCal that did $3.00 bento box lunches. My fave is the grilled teriaki chicken or beef with sprouts. It came with a miso soup, rice and small cabbage salad. Three bucks, great service and lots of food! I bought some bento boxes online at JapaneseGifts.com and use them for lunches but unfortunately in this weather, grilling is out of the questin. Awesome question!
@krebstar5 (1267)
• United States
6 Feb 07
At this point, I put a lot of left overs in my bento. It's a good way to make leftovers look more appealing. I'm not all that traditional with mine, but I think I am going to shoot for more rice in my bentos. I want to try my hand at onigiri.
1 person likes this
• United States
6 Feb 07
Yeah, I put left overs in my bento, too. SOmetimes I'm not in the mood for more traditional bento fare, so I'll put a PBJ or something in there. (Cut cutely, of course!) Onigiri is pretty simple to make! Warm rice is easy to mold with your hands. I bought some rice molds (star & heart shapes) and i found that forming it with my hands was just easier all around.
@misskatonic (3727)
• United States
6 Feb 07
My usual bento lunch has pork steamed buns, curry croquettes, lemon sauce donburi, cucumber slices and strawberry daifuku for dessert! I absolutely adore bento lunches. And I get so many compliments on my 'neat lunch box' when I take it out. Sadly, by bento box had a horrible dish washer accident and I'm in need of a new one. It was a relatively simple one - dark red plastic with a cherry blossom design on the lid. I'm looking for a replacement on Ebay.
1 person likes this
• United States
6 Feb 07
Hmm I tried posting a response, but it didn't show up, so let me say it again: The one thing that I wish I could change about bentos are that most of them aren't dishwasher or microwave safe. I usually pack my bento the night before so sometimes I'd like to heat it up. sigh! Misskatonic, I also saw you had a donburi thread that asked for bento box sellers. I'll also post here my findings. Other than ebay, http://www.jlist.com or http://www.jbox.com sell bento boxes and bento supplies (in addition to tons of Japanese anime things). Also, toy stores that sell Sanrio products (Hello Kitty, Badzmaru) sometimes also sell Sanrio bentos.
• United States
3 Feb 08
I just recently learned about Bento boxes and have done nothing but surf the net reading about them since. I purchased my first one yesterday, a cute little Hello Kitty one for my daughter to take to school. I think I was more excited about it then she was.