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What is Bento Uncovered, Definition, History, Origin & Benefits

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What is Bento Uncovered, Definition, History, Origin & Benefits

The concept of bento has been around since the 12th century but what is bento, what does bento mean, what are bento boxes used for and where did they originate?

The English word “bento” is derived from the Japanese word bentou or “ben(t)ō” お弁当 which refers to a Japanese boxed lunch. While bento is the packed lunch the term Bentō-bako is also used, the definition of bako refers to the box itself. Available in square, rectangular and round the bento box holds a meal for one person consisting of a main dish along with a serving of rice and side dishes. The main dish traditionally included a serving of protein (fish or meat) along with cooked vegetables and a serving of steamed rice topped with a pickled plum.

Tsukune Recipe

Today with the globalisation of cultures, bento boxes have found their way into all countries and hold almost any meal made to be eaten on the run or for those wanting to serve the family a traditional Japanese meal at home. consisted of a serving of steamed rice accompanied by

Bento History

The bento history started back in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). Farmers would carry dried rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. It wasn’t until the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568–1600) where nobles used them for special occasions, including Doll Festivals and Blossom Viewing parties. Bento box popularity increased during the Shōwa Period (1926–1989), ekiben are widely sold at most major train stations, bento is convenience stores, and supermarkets to serve inexpensive takeaway meals and TV dinners.

What is Bento Today

Today bento boxes come in all shapes and sizes, from mass-produced disposable bento boxes to Shokado bento boxes that we use at home or restaurants to the hand made lacquerware wood bento boxes used in high-end Japanese restaurants and hotels. Bento boxes are purchased in a single layer version for one person divided into many compartments. It is also available in a two or three-layer used for serving food to many people. In Japan, bento boxes are available in almost all places, including supermarkets, bento specialty shops, convenience stores and ekiben are sold at railway stations.

Bento At Home

Bento boxes are also widely prepared by Japanese homemakers, where they spend a lot of time and energy delicately preparing meals for their husbands or children to take to work or school. For children, meals prepared in bento are kyaraben or character bento, where all of the food components are decorated to look like popular anime, cartoon, or video game characters. Or even the family pet. Oekakiben or picture bento is another popular style used which is decorated to resemble famous people, animals, monuments, flowers, plants or the family pet.

Bento Box Benefits

Using bento boxes are said to be a great way of reducing the impact on the environment by replacing disposable plastic packaging with a functional and reusable lunch box that can hold your elaborately cooked lunches or dinners for many years. They are also a good way of saving money on lunches or restaurant dinners. On average, we spend more than five thousand dollars a year dining out and preparing bento meals at home for lunches or dinners can save a few thousand dollars per year.

Not many would agree, but meals served in bento boxes can be healthier or serve lunches or dinners. The restricted size of a bento box helps you control meal portions, while the compartments promote doing a mix of foods that balance the meal with many food groups.

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Cambridge Dictionary: a Japanese-style packed lunch

Merriam Webster Dictionary: What is Bento, a multi-compartment box used for containing the different courses of a usually Japanese lunch

Macmillan Dictionary: a Japanese-style packed lunch, usually made up of several different items such as chicken or fish, rice, vegetables and salad

Collins Dictionary: a thin box, made of plastic or lacquered wood, divided into compartments which contain small separate dishes comprising a Japanese meal, esp lunch

Wiktionary: A Japanese takeaway lunch served in a box, often with the food arranged into an elaborate design.

Urban Dictionary: What is Bento,A Japanese term for lunch boxes a meal, usually served in a lacquered or elaborately decorated box that is divided into sections for holding individual portions of food.

Jisho Japanese-English Dictionary: Japanese box lunch Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container. Containers range from disposable mass-produced to hand-crafted lacquerware.

Japan Dictionary: bento is a Japanese box lunch

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