The bento is a fast food or snack that is very popular in Japan and very healthy! Presentation:
The bento, the Japanese meal tray
The bento 弁当 is a very popular dish in Japan, it is a snack, a snack or a meal tray that we take to eat outside in trains (called ekiben), airports (called soraben), at work… The bento can be compared to a sandwich in France but it is much more nutritious and healthy. Indeed, it is usually composed of plain rice or in the form of onigirazu or maki with meat or fish, vegetables and fruits or cakes for dessert. It is a complete and healthy meal. Moreover, all the food is cut to be eaten easily with the fingers or with Japanese chopsticks.
Bento in Japan
In Japan, you can buy bento from everywhere, in supermarkets, in combini. In Japan, you can buy bento everywhere, in supermarkets, in train stations, in trains for example. It is a very widespread, cheap and popular concept of dishes in Japan. Traditionally, it is prepared in the morning by the housewife for her husband and her children going to kindergarten (there are no canteens). This is how the kawaii bento for children were born, dishes all “cute” with characters called キャラ弁 kyaraben representing animals or even characters. Many accessories exist to create original shapes and make them most attractive!
In the Japanese society, the more the home-made bento is neat and worked the more the person will be estimated and well seen. Another social criterion that is really different from France. Nowadays, Japanese people buy more and more their meals, the homemade ones with a cute decoration are more and more rare. You will find bento where the research of colors, shapes and flavors are very advanced. Their prices vary a lot. Indeed, Japanese food is not expensive, you will easily find very good bento from 5€ yet some reach exorbitant prices! We saw some at more than 300€ for example. They will of course be more intended as presents than to eat at work.
Bento boxes or bento bako 弁当箱 have become very popular and are arriving more and more in France. There are several types of multi-compartment or multi-level boxes:
Traditional lacquered woodenbento for restaurants or luxury caterers. They can also be found for the new year in Japan for the presentation of Osechi Ryori cuisine.
Bento-kamameshi 釜飯弁当 made of ceramic for the purpose of being collected, there are the same ones made of plastic for the purpose of being used this time.
Bento single-use tray that you buy in bento-ya restaurants or supermarkets, it is presented on a plastic or aluminum tray to be thrown away later. This one is very common in Japan.
Bento-kokeshi, bento with original shapes, in the form of characters and others
Hermetically sealed bento for picnics, employees, school children, this is the most common one.
Accessories to make a bento
Silicone molds, bread racks, dividers…
There are many molds to make cute dishes, don’t deprive yourself of them because you will save a lot of time! There are also plastic separators with original shapes, you can also use salad, cucumber leaves for example to make a salad shiso. You can also use salad, cucumber leaves, etc. to separate food.
Spikes and containers for sauces
You can also find original shaped picks and very kawaii (cute) sauce containers!
Furoshiki to carry your bento
Home-made bento are wrapped with a cloth, it’s a traditional technique called furoshiki 風呂敷 that allows you to carry bento and insulate them tightly. You can also wrap gifts for example. It is a reusable and very elegant fabric.
Where to buy your bento boxes?
Bento boxes can be made with a simple wooden camembert box for example. They have become popular in France, you can easily find them in the kitchen or in some Asian grocery stores.
Ideas to make bento for your children:
Even if you don’t understand English or Japanese you can still get ideas from the pictures. For example, making characters allows your child to eat things that he doesn’t want to eat at first sight!
Find our selection of bento in our store: