If you’ve ever gone to a Japanese restaurant, you will have probably seen the term “authentic japanese bento box” on the menu.
But what exactly is this mysterious item and why should you be eating it?
What Is Bento?
If you’ve ever been to a traditional Indian restaurant, you may have come across the much-vaunted “thali” dish.
This is basically a little bit of all the curries and ingredients the chef is cooking up on that day.
They all come presented in little pots, served with chutneys, chapatis, naans, poppadoms, and special rice.
Bento is the Japanese equivalent. You get a bit of everything, from fried gyoza, steamed dumplings, spring rolls, sushi rice and maybe some tempura.
The idea of authentic japanese bento box is to give you a little bit of everything.
If you can’t make up your mind what you want because it all looks so good, then bento is the solution.
Generally speaking, the foundation of the bento box is starch. You’ll get a blob of sticky Asian-style rice.
Beyond that, there will usually be some protein, either sweet egg or meat of some kind.
Beyond those two focal points, the shape that the ready made bento box takes is entirely at the discretion of the chef.
Most modern bentos have elements of Japanese cuisine, but adapted to the Western palate.
Flavors won’t be quite the same as what you get in the Far East.
Choose Your Authentic Japanese Bento Box Style
There are a number of different authentic japanese bento box styles you’ll find as you make your way around your city’s Japanese restaurants and take-out joints.
Some of these you might be able to recreate at home, while others, you’ll struggle.
One popular type of bento is Aisai. These contain a mixture of Japanese culinary treats with sentimental messages written in furikake seasoning.
Usually, these bentos are gifts from one person to another – their significant other.
Another popular bento type is kyaraben, which translates to “character bento.”
The idea here is to combine food with kids characters from comic books and computer games.
How To Make A Bento Box?
When it comes to authentic japanese bento box, variety is key. They’re a little bit like the packed lunches you might find in a Western child’s lunchbox but more delicious.
You’ll want to follow the 4:3:2:1 ratio when constructing your bento box, corresponding to the amount of carbs, protein, vegetables, and pickled vegetables that you add.
You want to have more carbs than protein and the other two items.
To get the most out of your authentic japanese bento box, you’ll want to prepare and store all of the separate menu items separately, usually in plastic tubs in your refrigerator.
Then, when you’re ready to assemble the bento box, you simply take them out and start serving.
Can You Buy Bento Boxes?
Usually, if you want to have an authentic japanese bento box with food already in it, you’ll need to go to a Japanese restaurant.
However, you can order rectangular bento tubs online. These come with handy compartments for all your ingredients.