JAPAN: Tuck into an appetising bento

JAPAN: Tuck into an appetising bento
The lavish bentos available in the market today have come a long way from its predecessors.

These compact box meals come in a variety of offerings and sizes


Farhana Chowdhury

Published: Sun 16 Oct 2016, 12:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 17 Oct 2016, 1:38 PM

Japan takes on a different twist when it comes to packed meals. Known as bento, these boxes feature an assortment of dishes that are neatly organised to entice and appease hunger.
The lavish bentos available in the market today have come a long way from its predecessors. The concept back in the days was originally adopted by men of labour who spent their time working outdoors under the sun and needed something to eat on the go. These boxes, or rather small bags, were often filled with staples such as white rice and potatoes. Onigiri (rice ball) was, and still remains, a popular treat.

As the years passed, more and more dishes were introduced to the bento compartments, notably fish or meat, rolled eggs, vegetables and pickled plums, as the boxes themselves gained variety - from disposable containers to handcrafted lacquerware.
Bentos are now available in every nook and corner of the country, especially at train stations where busy office workers choose to pick up cold or hot meals on the go. These compact snacks are also a popular companion for long journeys in the Shinkansen (bullet train). A number of Japanese restaurants in the UAE, too, serve unique bento sets suited for every taste.

Bentos of today retain its traditional roots, however, homemakers have added a colourful decorative twist to encourage younger family members to eat nutritious meals at home, school lunch breaks or athletic/sports meets. Various ingredients such as cooked rice, seaweed, sausages, salami, eggs, processed cheese, apples, plums, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, etc., paired with toothpicks for support, are used to recreate cute and popular characters in a bento known as Kyaraben.

- farhana@khaleejtimes.com

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