Traditional bento boxes are typically a Japanese lunch-box though today the concept has made its presence felt in every household around the world. Traditional bento boxes are distinct from the standard lunch box in the sense constituent which are a perfect combination of varied textures, tastes and food ingredients.
An average Japanese meal packed into the bento box comprises of rice, fish or meat and pickled vegetables. The Japanese home-maker makes use of every inch of space provided in the box to prepare and pack wholesome and nutritious meals for her family members.
Varied Types of Traditional Bento Boxes
There are different kinds of traditional bento boxes used by the Japanese depending upon the needs and the setting. Some of the commonly used bento boxes are:
Koraku Bento Boxes
The term Koraku bento when translated into Japanese refers to a ‘picnic lunch box’. It is large in size and made to accommodate a meal for a small group of people. It is popularly used during the spring season when many groups set out to view the colourful cherry blossoms. The standard food menu in this box consists of Onigiri which are rice balls shaped into triangles and maki-zushi rolls.
This type of boxes are readily found on shelves of departmental stores, supermarkets etc. Sections are provided inside for holding rice dishes on one hand and several side dishes on the other. The meals packed into these are prepared by caterers and they were originally made available in Kabuki theatres as meal servings for members of audience or the cast members.
The term ekiben is a combination of two terms; ‘eki’ meaning train station and ben referring to the bento box. These lunch boxes comprise top-quality meals popularly served on train compartments and railway platforms. The meals are complete in every respect with the menu reflecting the staple foods of the specific region. The lunch box is made of ceramic, wood or plastic and comes with a disposable chopstick set. This style of serving meals is common in other East Asian countries as well.
Kyaraben means ‘character bento’ and this lunch box is used for children. The menu comprises of rice and other items which are colourful and shaped in the form of characters from popular cartoon shows. This encourages the kids to finish their meals without any grumble and also helps to push the required nutrients down their throat willingly by making the food items very appetizing.
Hinomaru denotes the symbol and national flag of Japan. The meals that go into the box are elegantly simple, very becoming to the simplicity of the national flag. A white rice base topped with one pickled plum to denote the sun and accompanied by a fish or meat side dish form the constituents of the box.
The above are the names of a few Traditional Bento Box styles that are used in the country of their origin. Today, with the bento boxes being an important part of lunch times around the world they have been adapted to suit the requirements of the varied users.