Healthy Japanese Bento | The Japanese bento box is an inherent part of the food culture of Japan though now the idea has caught on in a big way in the Western countries too.
What is a Japanese Bento?
The Japanese bento is supposed to be the lunch box but it is something more than that; it contains its own distinct type of food that can be eaten at any part of the day. The conventional bento has come a long way over the years and today there are countless varieties of the bento in the market. The Japanese bento replicates the system of serving food on small plates in Japanese households by holding small servings of varied food categories in several compartments designed within the bento. The foods are stacked neatly into the box and the compartments ensure that they do not mix with one another.
Easily Accessible - Bento
Prepared or ready made bento boxes are easily available in varied convenience stores, supermarkets or specific bento stores in Japan. There are several restaurants that provide takeout bento boxes. Bento boxes are also sold at train stations and are highly sought by the travelers on the train. These are called the Ekiben. Many a times there are Kyaraben bento boxes which are filled with endearing characters remade with food. These are very appealing and are a favourite among kids and adults alike.
If you are not interested in readymade Bentos then there are several Japanese supermarkets that have an array of useful products that can be packed into the bento boxes like frozen meat balls, pre-portioned veggies and potstickers.
Items in a Japanese Bento
The food items that go in a Japanese bento include some carbohydrates, protein, fruits, veggies and pickle. The essential ingredient is rice which can take several forms such assekihan which is rice and red beans cooked together or noriben which is rice enclosed with a nori seaweed sheet or hakumai which is plain white rice or it can also take the form of rice balls called the Onigiri. Next is meat or fish, which is normally in the form of karaage, suasages, katsu or meatballs. Potato salad, Tamagoyaki, precooked or pickled vegetables like carrots, broccoli, mini tomatoes, bean sprouts and a bit of fruit are some of the other food items.
Bento Box Industry in Japan
The size of the bento box industry in Japan is simply awesome with a wide choice existing in shapes, size and materials going into the making of the Bentos. Portable cutlery in the form of forks, chopsticks or spoons is also available to go with your bento boxes or you can also choose something in total contrast. Varied bento bags that will enable you to carry the bento box are on offer in several stores and the choices in this context too are innumerable with some made from fabric, some being insulated and some having sections for an ice pack too. The wide variety in accessories fulfilling the functionality aspect as well as catering to the appeal factor is just unimaginable.
Today, the Healthy Japanese Bento has carved a special place for itself in the entire world and has helped make lunch times healthy and interesting in the truest sense!