- Views "Bentō": A Feast for the Eyes and Stomach
- Your Own Japanese-Style Box Meal
- Make a Soccer-Ball Lunch with Fun Kitchen Tools
- [2011.10.03] Read in: 日本語 | 简体字 | 繁體字 | FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL | العربية | Русский |
Bentō are an important part of daily dining for millions of Japanese students and workers, and a major industry has grown up around the tools and methods used for their creation. Below we introduce some playful ingredients for box meals, along with a handful of the special implements invented to make their creation a snap.
The black and white sphere in the box—could that be a soccer ball?
It is always exciting to open a bentō—a boxed meal often eaten for lunch in Japan. The ingredients are prepared with attention to detail. Thought goes into color, layout, and nutritional balance, resulting in a finely orchestrated overall meal experience. And a variety of easy-to-use cooking tools have come out that add fun to the daily routine of bentō making.
Here we introduce just a few recipes for cooking Japanese-style bentō dishes, featuring ideas that make creative use of these tools.
Click on the various foods to jump to their recipes.
For octopus eyes, we used a sheet of nori precut into railroad tracks, facial parts, and other shapes. If precut sheets are unavailable, you can cut the nori into the desired shapes with scissors or use sesame seeds instead.
Tool with star-shaped, heart-shaped, flower-shaped, and zigzag cutters
Use a quail egg of about 2 cm in diameter. If the egg is too small to peel by hand, using chopsticks or tweezers may help.
Slide the cutter toward the egg and make a cut in the egg white. Rotate the egg and repeat until the incision makes a full circle.
The end result will look better if the egg yolk is centered when boiling. Be sure to hard-boil the egg.
Star Omelet Rice Ball
The egg crepe should be about 16 cm in diameter. Simply cook one side and flip it over.
Soccer Rice Ball
Tightly pack enough rice to fill the mold up to the edge.
Hearty Hamburger Steak
Use a meat patty, ketchup, and sliced cheese cut into your favorite shape.
Cut pieces of kamaboko (fish cake) into decorative shapes with a knife or cookie cutter. Add stars of sliced cheese and you’re done!
(Originally written in Japanese. Bentō styling by Kurose Sakiko. Photographs by Katō Takemi.)
- Other articles in this report
- Show Me Your “Bentō”! Part 1: Under the Cherry TreesEach spring, Japanese people hold picnics under the cherry blossoms. Families, friends, and colleagues bring food and beverages from home or the store to share. Nippon.com went to a Tokyo park to find out what the cherry-blossom viewers were eating and drinking.
- Power Lunch at Japanese SchoolsSchool lunch in Japan is about more than just providing kids with a nutritious and tasty meal; another aim is to foster healthy eating habits that will benefit them throughout life. An American editor at Nippon.com traveled to Hirayama Elementary School, on the western edge of Tokyo, to learn more about school lunch in Japan.
- The Local Flavors of Popular Railway Box MealsEkiben are box meals made with ingredients and packages particular to a certain train station, railway line, or region. Thousands of varieties are sold across Japan. Eating ekiben is part of the fun of railway travel. Here we look at the five most popular ekiben in Japan.
- My “Bentō,” My PrideMany people use their blogs to report on the various bentō that they make from day to day. We surveyed popular bentō bloggers about their meal-making secrets.