What is a bento box?Katachiware Japanese Style Tableware
A bento box is a Japanese style portable lunchbox container used to serve various single meals. Traditionally they consisted of a serving of white steamed rice accompanied by a serving of protein, fish or meat, cooked vegetables, and topped with a pickled plum. Today with the globalisation of cultures, bento boxes have found their way into many countries, including Australia 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.
The bento concept 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.
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 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.