Japan: The story of lunchboxes 1


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In Japan lunchboxes are called bento boxes. Forget cheese sandwiches, a bag of crisps, a yoghurt and a brownish banana. Bento boxes are food and art combined. The food is served cold and is savoury, with a couple of bites of something sweet for the end.

Bento box Japanese

Food and art combined.

The bento box above comes from Imahan, one of the oldest and most famous bento box producers. They are famous for their beef boiled in soya sauce, but you can get fish options too.

The word “bento” originates from the word “convenient”. They have been on the go since the 12th century. Some can be very formal and are eaten in wooden or lacquered boxes in fancy restaurants, some are daily lunchboxes for work. Ekiben are bento boxes in train stations. Kyaraben are cute bento boxes for children, made with themed characters or in the shape of pandas or other animals. These days there are even competitions to see how artistic or cute a bento box can get. No pressure on a school morning then….

Picture by Melissa, www.anotherlunch.com

Picture by Melissa, www.anotherlunch.com

Have a look at this great blog post about “insanely cute” bento boxes…

http://food.japan-talk.com/food/new/20-insanely-cute-bento-boxes

This bento box is made around the time of a full moon. The “picture” is made of fish (tastes a bit like crab sticks) and the moon, cheese.

Bento box Japan

A bento box celebrating the full moon. Gee I love Japan.

The round balls to the right are made by boiling rice flour and adding red food colouring or green tea. They are “dessert” along with the apricot jelly mould and fruit just behind. One trick with a bento box is to work out first what the dessert is – it’s not always obvious. Thank you, Sayuki, for keeping me right.

The sticky rice in the centre is sprinkled with salt and poppy seeds.

Here are some more….. Almost too pretty to eat.

Japanese bento box

Japanese bento box

Japanese bento box

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One thought on “Japan: The story of lunchboxes

  • Louise Atkinson

    Interesting blog Adam. All these years I have been eating Bento boxes and didn’t know what the word meant. Thanks for enlightening me!

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