Bento

Hey everyone! After much lurking on LJ and on blogs, and a trip to Little Tokyo a week or two ago, I've picked up bento-making as a hobby. Bento is the Japanese art of lunch-making in adorable containers. That's my one sentence nutshell, but Wikipedia probably explains it better than I do.

I thought I'd share my first two bento, and see if anyone else here was interested in the craft. I love cooking, so I'm hoping my new hobby will give me the impetus I need to do it more often.

(An extra line to keep the images below the jump...)


On the left are two brown rice onigiri (rice shapes, triangle in this case, mostly with filling inside, garam marsala'ed chicken in this case) surrounded by dried apricots. On the right is a half-assed baby spinach salad with grated gruyere cheese and some crackers I found for croutons. The apple is an apple.


This is a snack bento. That's another one of the same onigiri, some mini tomatoes, and a bear egg.

If you have made bento lunches before, I'd love to see them. ^-^

PS: I have no idea why べんとう is transliterated as 'bento,' but I keep getting yelled at when I write the technically more correct 'bentou.' Go figure.

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MeiLin's picture

Most High

We love bento, but I rarely make it because the four of us NEVER GO ANYWHERE! We're all here 24/7! Maybe I'll make some onigiri tomorrow for the park day we're going to. mmm...onigiri...

BCT's picture

Devotee

I'm always on the lookout to see what leftovers I could scavenge and make into onigiri. Next time though, I might use half white rice and half brown rice. I really prefer the taste of brown rice, but they kept falling apart when I tried to eat them. Sad The white rice should help them hold together.

Shade's picture

Supplicant

. . . it's supposed to be 'bento' as opposed to 'bentou' because of the sound implications. The う signifies that the 'o' sound should be longer.

These look pretty good. How did you make the bear egg? Is there some kind of mold for it?

BCT's picture

Devotee

http://www.ichibankanusa.com/item.asp?PID=457

I used those molds. The first time I used the bunny mold was a messy, messy, delicious disaster. Last night I ordered a star and a heart mold, and I'm really excited for those.

Andyl's picture

Embodiment

But the proper pronunciation in Japanese *is* with a long vowel. :?

Shade's picture

Supplicant

but when putting it in romaji you don't add the 'u'. It's automatically assumed that the 'o' is long.

That's how my Japanese prof explained it, anyway :P.

Laureril's picture

Supplicant

Most people don't bother with the macrons (long marks above the vowels), but they do make life a little easier for newbie Japanese speakers. Stuff like ookami versus okami and bentou versus bento can be a little confusing to try and pronounce without the context or original Japanese - especially when people transliterate a little differently.

Actually the worst one I think I've seen is when people use 'su' for 'tsu.' Always confuses me.

raecchi's picture

Devotee

Though I no longer take lunch nearly as often as I used to, I really suggest this book: Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go. Almost all of the recipes are single-serving, and there are color pictures of everything!

I'm a huge onigiri fan m'self, though for the longest time I ate yaki onigiri or egg onigiri and nothing else. I have a ton of cute rice molds to show for it, at least. Smile

BCT's picture

Devotee

Oooer! On the Wishlist it goes! The bentolunch community on LJ is waiting on tenterhooks for 500 Bento Lunches to come out - I heard it was being sold somewhere for upwards of $60.

Does anyone know if MeiLin's referral link also works for buying used things off Amazon?

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

BCT wrote:
The apple is an apple.

But I laughed at that much harder than was justifiable.

I am too lazy to do this with food. The closest I get is cutting my sandwiches into quarters.

fairnymph's picture
The Which's picture

Embodiment

I make bento for my daughter when she stays with the babysitter--my idea of a healthy lunch is a little different than hers. I really wish I had taken a picture of the last one... I did a triangle theme (see My Triangle), and it was adorable! I made a pasta salad with cheese, snowpeas, and apples all cut into triangles; watermelon, also cut into triangles; and salad where I arranged dried cranberries into a triangle on top. It's definitely the most elaborate one I've done.

BCT's picture

Devotee

I loved the Muppet nightclub, and "not to mention the hypotenuse." I'm also feeling the strange urge to send the link to my high school math teacher, who taught me geometry...

applejax's picture

Supplicant

and bring it to work every day. Five bento's a week, Oy! Which is part of the reason I stopped, because there was just so much planning involved and I could only cook things for dinner that fit well in a bento box. I did go crazy at one point and have a bunch of silly bento accessories, like sauce bottles, rice and egg molds, little dividers, and tiny shaped cookie cutters. It got a little crazy. One thing that was really helpful when I was getting started is this bento blog - www.lunchinabox.net - she makes lunch every day for her preschooler, and she has tons of tutorials, and articles on all sorts of bento prep, like foods that you can freeze, what kinds of bento box to get, tips for quick bento's in the morning. She's pretty awesome. It's a really fun way to eat, but it was tedious, so maybe once a week or for special occasions only.

One thing that I loved about making bento - I was so healthy! I didn't eat any processed food at all, since everything that went in my bento was fresh or an actual cooked meal. Nothing packaged, and I felt much better than while I was eating "normal" food. Even if it was just a granola bar, which in theory isn't bad for you, I'd eat something packaged and feel crappy after. It was like a natural, healthy detox. Sadly, now I'm lazy and back to some packaged foods. I'm still healthier than most college kids I know, but I occasionally have my ramen cravings. When do those go away? Blum 3

BCT's picture

Devotee

There's nothing quite as tasty as heating up a Cup o' Noodles and slurping it down at midnight. And then there's nothing quite as...intriguing as the latent smell of MSG and sodium that hangs around for an hour or so. Om nom nom ramen.

Just last night I ordered sauce bottles and furikake sprinklers and cutters and molds for my bento from IchibankanUSA.com and JBox.com. I think I'm developing a problem.

I do visit LunchInABox frequently, as well as Pikko's blog (I forget the name of the blog, but I have the link around here somewhere). I lean towards Biggie's method more than Pikko's: my food needs to be tasty and fast first, pretty second.

Shade's picture

Supplicant

There are also these surprisingly delicious spicy noodle bowls out there for about $.78-$.98 at most grocery stores. They're blue and called 'Nong Shim Noodle Bowls'. I usually find 'em near the asian stuff. It's also really good if you cook some chicken and put it in . . .

Poisonous Giraffe's picture

Devotee

man, those are my favorite kind. luckily I'm too lazy to walk to Safeway most of the time or I'd buy a billion of them and eat them every day. MSG = Makes Stuff Good, its the truth.

Shade's picture

Supplicant

If I could, I would eat these for every meal. They're just so freaking tasty :O

I love the sinus-clearing throat burning spicy doom.

J-Ho's picture

oh my gosh i absolutely LOVE nong shim noodles. i lived on those for quite a long time in college. the only drawback is the huge amount of sodium they put in them. sadly the sodium issue was enough to knock those delcious noodles out of my life Sad

The Vixen's picture

Devotee

I did a little a while ago, but I couldn't get the onigiri just right, and got tired of making rice w/o a rice cooker. I imagine I'm going to have to start up again, because it's getting to a point where I can't go on vacation w/o either a Wendy's or my own sack lunches (*CSD*).

Kittae's picture

Postulant

My bento is the same color as yours, but it has dragonflies on it! Is it Lube Sheep brand? (I only ask because I love, LOVE that so many people probably including children are carrying around adorable things with inappropriate-sounding names. = P )

BCT's picture

Devotee

The top one is in fact a Blue Tenmari bento box by Lube Sheep. Hee. The bottom one is by Happy Balloon, which I got at Marukai in Little Tokyo.

Those poor sheep.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

...daifuku mochiiiii!

BCT's picture

Devotee

We have daifuku mochi in our cookie jar right now, but we got them in a plastic package on the cheap, so I shouldn't be surprised that they taste a little funny.

If you ever find yourself in New York City for any reason, you (must x largenumber) check out Minamoto Kitchoan (I have no idea why they spelled it that way). They have a huge variety of wagashi, and of course when I was there I got a daifuku mochi....*drool*

Do you make daifuku at home, or do you buy them? I'd love to know your method for madness if you do.

Raigne's picture

Embodiment

Seconded.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

I had never even thought to make them! I buy them at the local Asian supermarkets. Fave = chestnut. Also mugwort. mmmm...mugwort...

BCT's picture

Devotee

I just found both mochiko and katakuriko in our kitchen! Hooray! Methinks the fillings will be improvised. I found some pomegranate jelly and some apricot jelly, and we have a bottle of dark chocolate peanut butter (yummmm). And then of course there's always chocolate. I'll try my hand at making daifuku if not tomorrow, then this weekend.

BCT's picture

Devotee

Forgive the shoddy photography, my camera started to run out of batteries, so I had to make it quick.

Top tier: Bed of lettuce, two turkey burgers, with sharp white cheddar cheese on each, and mini tomatoes.
Bottom tier: We didn't have any lemons in the fridge, so I sliced up a lime instead and dipped the little apple from our tree out front and the strawberry slices in some diluted lime juice. There are also some grapes, all on a classy paper towel liner.

Yesterday I went out to pick some of the apples off the tree. About halfway through de-fruiting the tree, the sturdy paper bag from our favorite supermarket started to split...I'm looking into non-dessert apple recipes.

If I were to make this again, I would cut the cheese (hurr) into shapes so it would look better, as well as include some ketchup in a snap-top cup. I might also include some yogurt for dipping the fruit. Hopefully the bento supplies I ordered will get here soon.

raecchi's picture

Devotee

That site linked to earlier in the thread (http://www.ichibankanusa.com/) is FANTASTIC. Thank you, BCT! I have a bento box for my guy now, along with some new accessories.

Just in case any of you bento-fixin' folk haven't seen this site: http://lunchinabox.net/ It's got recipes, speed tips, health and safety, and so on. Handy reference!

Lastly:

My tulip-shaped egg onigiri. I know I have more pictures of my bento somewhere, but I can't find 'em for the life of me.

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