Bento boxes are a uniquely Japanese way of packaging a boxed lunch. The goal with bento is to assemble a visually appealing box with a variety of flavors and textures. This delicious and enticing way of packaging food is perfect for young children as an alternative to the standard lunchbox, but is also great for adults who are tired of their weekday lunches. To make bento, start with a meal worth of food and a flat, square bento box.
Obtain a bento box. Bento boxes are specially made to prepare a bento lunch, and each has the proper bento ratio to help you prepare a balanced meal. If you can't find a real bento box, you can use any square container with a lid, and use foods like crackers or baby carrots to form a "wall" between the portions.
Understand bento proportions. Traditionally, bento includes a wide variety of both textures and flavors, split in a 4:3:2:1 ratio (rice, side dish, vegetables, dessert). You can vary the ratio or ingredients as you like, but the goal is to assemble a balanced meal. The side dish is usually the main source of protein. Any kind of beef, chicken, tofu, beans, or other protein source can be used in bento. Instead of rice, you can also substitute pasta. Popular vegetable choices include shredded cabbage with dressing, sliced vegetables, or even potato salad.
Choose the right foods. When making choices of which foods to include in the bento box, choose bold colors to provide visual impact. For example, combine white rice or hard-boiled eggs with fresh vegetables.
Pack the foods into the box. If you have a real bento box, it will come with 4 compartments for packing your food. Pack the food as tightly as you can into the box. If you are using a regular container, pack them into the 4:3:2:1: ratio using small, sturdy food items to separate each food group. Pack the box in order from largest to smallest to make it easier for you to fit everything in the box.
Fill in the gaps. If you have any gaps, add more of any flexible food items, like rice or potato salad. Once you understand the basics to bento, you can begin to make more elaborate bento boxes, decorating the food to look like people, animals, or flowers. You can also use cookie cutters to make fun shapes with the food.
A bento box can take time to pack correctly, but once done it will be a balanced meal that you'll look forward to at lunchtime. This traditional Japanese lunch box offers a delicious mix of colors and flavors that is sure to be a hit for your midday meal. It's also a great way to re-purpose the leftovers from last night's dinner into an appetizing lunch. This healthy meal is a great way to get your kids to eat all of their lunch.