What is a Bento Box?
A Bento or Bento Box is the name given to a Japanese lunchbox. The word Bento mean "Food brought on the go" so generally refers to a takeaway lunch - either made at home or bought. Also, the word refers to the container that a Bento is served in. These can range from single-use containers to elaborate and expensive hand-crafted wooden boxes.
Typically, we associate things with a Bento, such as beautiful presentation, colour and healthy nutritious food, made with real care and attention. Sometimes Bentos are made to create images or art such as Kyaraberi or Oekakiberi where the contents look like anime character, people or flowers. Of course, more commonly Bento boxes are more straightforward and consist of the staple ingredients that you may want to have for lunch without as much time spent on the preparation!
The reason Japanese cooks go to so much effort is to make a healthy meal that is enjoyable. It is enjoyable to buy or give, enjoyable to anticipate eating, it is very enjoyable to eat it, and you will feel good afterwards if it's satisfying and healthy.
Another important factor here is that they aren’t necessarily healthy because of the specific food they contain. They may contain some foods considered to be unhealthy. They are healthy because the meal is balanced. Rather than a large portion of carbs with some protein on top, there will be the rice and fish or tofu along with a variety of grilled or steamed vegetables, fresh vegetables or salad leaves, and pickles to complement the meal.
Of course, all these different elements would lose some of their charm if they were all mixed up together in a heap, so separate compartments are used to keep the portions apart. This way not only are the better protected, they can be individually savoured in their own right.
Can I do that?
I think in our often busy lives, making time for such elaborate works of art might be leap too far for most of us. I think we can take parts of this wonderful thing and still reap some of the benefits.
Why not try bringing some of the Bento mindset to your packed lunch? Think about having 5 or 6 elements to your meal
- A good portion of carbohydrate (such as a portion of rice, bread used as a sandwich, cold cooked pasta)
- Some protein (such as cooked meat, fish, tofu, peas, beans as houmous or dahl)
- Plenty of green veg (salad or cooked vegetables)
- A little bit of fat (such as oil for cooking, seeds or salad dressing. Even the butter or marg on your bread may be enough for you).
- A little taster of pickles (olives, gherkin, onion)
- Maybe another portion of veg or fruit of a different colour (red, orange, yellow) for good measure.
You can size the portions as you wish but a good starting point is to get the veg, carbs and protein in equal amounts.
Don't forget - see what leftovers you have from last night, mix up some cooked veg in a fresh salad works great. Any little bit of sauces or dressing from a cooked meal can liven up a lunchtime salad too. With this in mind, cook a little extra rice or past in the evening, safe in the knowledge that if it doesn't get eaten for that meal, it will help build another meal the next day.
We are big fans of doing things well. I think we can take a lot from this practise - putting in the care and attention to detail to create something really valuable. As one person to another to show love through food shows that you care in a very direct way.
Of course Mintie lunch boxes can be partitioned with dividers to create compartments. Mini snack pots can be added, or our larger round containers with the leakproof lids. For this we would recommend the Snug range, coupled with any of the pots, placed either inside or out.
Create your own take on the Bento meal with the kind of foods that you find tasty. Click the levers down in the snugs and stack it up in your lunch bag and off you go with your own airtight bento box! Spread it all out on your desk with a tea towel and tuck in!!!