What can I put in my Bento Lunch Box ?
reading - words
A bento is a Japanese lunch box that comes in the form of a compartmentalized box. Great, you can put a lot of things inside!
The first step is to choose a suitable Lunch box container.
For that, nothing better than the authentic bento from Umami. This one contains 2 stackable airtight containers, 2 inner dividers, 3 lids (1 upper one), 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 spoon and 1 rubber band. Equipped this way, you are sure that nothing will come between you and your creativity!
- In Japan, the main component of bento is cooked rice ("gohan"). To prepare it, choose japonica rice and follow Michael's recipe.
With this rice, prepare onigiri, the real star of bentos. These are rice balls (white or with sesame seeds or seaweed) shaped into ovals or triangles, often wrapped with a piece of nori seaweed. Most of the time, onigiri are filled with umeboshi (dried plum in brine, available in organic grocery stores) or another filling (grilled salmon, tuna...). It is not difficult to shape them by hand once you get used to it, but you can use special molds that you can find in specialized stores.
Also consider sushi and maki, avoiding raw fish in the filling.
- If you are not a fan of rice or simply for variety, put in your bento any cereal (pasta, couscous, small spelt...) or pseudo-cereal (quinoa for example, rich in proteins), or even potatoes. To stay in the popular foods in Japan, think of buckwheat (present in soba noodles) or udon (wheat flour noodles).
- Eggs: hard-boiled and cut in two ovals, decorated to form small characters or passed through egg moulds, they are the easiest way to make a decorative bento. Also think about rolled omelet (tamago yaki) and quail eggs, very convenient for their small size.
- Meats : dried meats and cold cuts, cooked ham rolled into mini rolls, small terrine sandwiches, roast cut into strips, yakitori skewers, fried chicken (karaage), potato croquettes topped with leftover meat or ham and wrapped in breadcrumbs-panko (korokke), Japanese pork skewers (kushi katsu), breaded pork (tonkatsu - see Clea's recipe), sliced duck breast, not to mention the timeless Strasbourg sausage that you can turn into octopus.
- Fish: we don't bring it raw in the bento to avoid poisoning; we prefer grilled salmon (shaké no shio-yaki), any breaded fish, grilled sardines and mackerel, canned fatty fish, salmon roe, tempura shrimps, Californian maki with surimi or canned crab
- Other proteins: fried tofu, white cheese with added herbs, various cheeses, etc.
Vegetables and legumes
- The best for nutrition and decoration: sprouted seeds, very rich in nutrients and easy to sprout at home.
- The star vegetable: cucumbers, simply sliced or marinated in a salad.
- All kinds of vegetables to choose from, raw or cooked: whole salad leaves to serve as natural plates or finely sliced, endive in pieces or in leafy cups, whole radishes decorated with the tip of a knife, grilled eggplant, cooked but crunchy asparagus, cherry tomatoes, sliced fennel, cubed beets, grated raw carrots or sliced steamed carrots, raw or cooked cauliflower, thinly sliced red or white cabbage. ... there's no shortage of choice.
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, dried beans, broad beans... They have many benefits, first of all because they are rich in complex sugars with a low glycemic index, and also because they contain a considerable amount of excellent quality fiber. Less well known is that they are interesting sources of protein, especially when combined with cereals.
Wish cutting and sharpening vegetables was as easy as sharpening a pencil? Say no more! This little pencil sharpener-looking contraption will turn your carrots and other vegetables into pretty creations to put in your bento in seconds.
To get this food pencil sharpener, go here.
No real bento without condiments. The most famous are :
- Japanese macerations to which fermentation gives beautiful nutritional qualities: these are tsukemono (umeboshi plums in particular, but also various pickled vegetables, marinated ginger slices...).
- Sauces: soy of course, but also rice vinegar, mirin (sweet sake), wasabi, Bulldog, mustard, mayonnaise...
- Gomasio to replace salt, which can be found in organic grocery stores or prepared at home (lightly fry a little white or black sesame in a pan, then mix it with Guérande salt).
- Seaweed (especially wakame and nori): in salads, as a tartar to spread on mini toasts...
They usually color the bento in small quantities, but nothing prevents you, according to your tastes and desires, from forcing the dose. Here again, the choice is wide:
- Grapes, clementine quarters, watermelon cut into triangles, whole red fruits, small bananas to be peeled at the last moment, apples cut into quarters, pomegranate seeds, apricot pits...
- Don't forget all the dried fruits.
Finally, those with a sweet tooth can add a cookie, a piece of cake or a small pastry to their bento.