Bento is a form of boxed lunch that originated from Japan. Traditionally, it consists of a balanced, single-serving meal that looks visually appealing at the same time as being delicious. You know how I love my international foods, and bento boxes are becoming increasingly popular due to a number of reasons.
By utilizing a bento box of the right size, the amount and type of food to be consumed can be controlled—better nutritional balance for kids and a great way for adults to keep that diet in check. Also, a packed lunch is less waste generated for the environment. It can certainly save some dollars too. Save your leftovers from eating out to help fill up your lunch box for the next day!
How to Make a Bento Lunch Box
If you’re interested in making a bento box, first invest in a good lunch box. The easiest way to start is to get containers that already have individual compartments. Keep in mind that if you intend to use the microwave to heat up your lunch, you’ll need a container that is microwave safe!
If you can’t find containers with partitions, get mini-containers available in the supermarkets as an alternative. Be creative! You can use silicon cupcake holders as an alternative—they are flexible and can be easily manipulated to fit into corners or any odd space left. Or make your subsets edible—use large lettuce or cabbage leaves and place food in the middle of the leaves, leaving the edges free to act as a partition.
How to Start Filling In Your Lunch Box With Food
Although bento boxes conventionally consist of Japanese food, it is not a rule that has to be strictly adhered to. Pack in food tailored to your own taste. To save time in the morning, it is best to pre-make fillings and/or salads that can keep well for a few days in the fridge. Here are a couple of recipes that double as a filling or a salad.
- Hard boil 5-6 large eggs
- Approximately 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise
- Salt, pepper and butter to taste
Mash the hard boiled eggs with a fork in a large bowl. When the eggs have been mashed into crumbly bits, add in the mayonnaise and toss. Add salt, pepper and butter to your liking.
Creamy Tuna Salad:
- A small can of tuna flakes in water or olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce
- Black pepper to taste
- A dash of lemon juice (optional)
1. Drain excess water or oil from tuna. Empty tuna into a mixing bowl; add in mayonnaise and tomato sauce. Mix well and add in black pepper. Add a dash of lemon juice for extra flavor.
2. These fillings can be spread on bread, tortillas, or pita wraps. Wrap them in with other ingredients such as butter lettuce, cheese, or diced tomatoes. (Tip: With rolled tortilla/pita wraps, use cling-wrap to reinforce and prevent the ingredients from falling out.)
Ideas for Bento Box Side Dishes
- Boiled/steamed vegetables such as broccoli, baby carrots, or spinach
- Steamed corn tossed with salted butter
- Canned baked beans
- Hard boiled quail eggs
- Small fruits such as berries and grapes
- Mini muffins
- Individually portioned packaged food such as cheese cubes, dried fruit, or chocolate
What to do With Leftovers
Save leftovers whenever you eat out. Keep them in a microwave safe container and re-heat it the next morning to pack it into your lunchbox. If the leftovers are not enough for a meal, use it as a side and pack in other food such as white rice or fried noodles.
Have Fun Creating Your Bento Box!
Remember, it doesn’t have to be a perfect work of art, as long as you have fun making it and enjoy the food—that’s all that really matters!