Bento Boxes As Balanced Meals
In Japan, the bento box is the curious lunch box that adults and children bring to work or school during the week. But talking about a simple lunch box is reductive because in Japan there is a real mythology about bento and everything related to it. When preparing the bento, in fact, the aim is not only to feed itself in the most correct and balanced way possible, but to create a sort of work of art that looks extremely scenic and does not disfigure its owner.
Very often the bentos are customized in the Kyaraben style (which means bento of the characters), the food is arranged in such a way as to depict the manga and characters of the most popular anime, or in the Oekakiben variant (bento-portrait), where the ingredients take on the appearance of people, animals, landscapes or flowers.
An omnipresent element in any self-respecting bento is rice, perfect for creating any kind of shape, such as balls, cylinders and pyramids. Indispensable then are the tools with which to carve the different Japanese ingredients, such as tweezers, pasta cutters and knives of various sizes. And last but not least, the food colorants, essential to make the bento even more spectacular and showy.
Bento boxes are becoming more and more common in Malaysia and almost every restaurant offers this set, especially for lunch.
Where do you have to start to make a perfect Japanese style bento?
The choice of container. The classic bento boxes must be equipped with numerous internal dividers of different sizes to be able to order and arrange each ingredient. There are all kinds of boxes: you can find them disposable, in wood, metal or even hand-painted. In Japan, there are also boxes with thermos parts to keep tea or miso soup warm. Once you have chosen your box, you will have to pay attention to the matching of all the other accessories: usually, in fact, the bento is equipped with chopsticks and wrapped in pieces of cloth or paper to make it easier to transport.
Portions and ingredients. Inside the bento everything is played on two types of proportion: the ratio 4:3:2:1 in which 4 parts of rice, 3 parts of side dish, 2 parts of vegetables and 1 part of dessert are used, or the simpler one of 1:1 with one part of rice and one part divided in half between protein and vegetables. Of course, you can build your bento using the proportions you prefer, but always keep in mind that the main objective is to compose a meal that is as healthy and balanced as possible. To ensure a certain variety, traditional rice is usually replaced by sushi, inari sushi or onigiri. As for the protein part, beef, pork, chicken or fish are used, usually accompanied by raw or cooked vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots or potatoes. Vegerterian would prefers the addition of tofu and legumes.
Food arrangement. To prevent the ingredients from moving around inside the bento confusing each other, it is important to start placing those with the strangest and bulkiest shapes. The trick is to immediately choose the theme of your bento and to carve and decorate the food before putting it inside the box. The more malleable foods such as vegetables and salads can be added at the end together with the smaller and more resistant parts such as cherry tomatoes or desserts in single portions that will take up the remaining space.
Creative Ideas. For a bento with impeccable aesthetics, the suggestion is to place side by side food with different shades and colors, to play on contrasts. In any case, make sure the edges are well defined to prevent the flavors from mixing: for example, you can add seasonings or toppings to highlight one ingredient over another. And now you can make fun with decorations: you can, for example, create animal faces by carving raw green vegetables or fresh fruit pieces with knives. You can also color your food using food coloring mixed with fresh cheese, butter or cream.
If you would like to read more about Japanese cuisine we have other few articles that can draw you attention.
The SmartBite Team.