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Healthy Japanese Bento | The Japanese bento box is an inherent part of Japan’s food culture though now the idea has caught on in a big way in Western countries.
What is a Japanese Bento?
The Japanese bento is supposed to be the lunch box, but it is something more than that; it contains its own distinct type of food that can be eaten at any part of the day. The conventional bento has come a long way over the years, and today there are countless varieties of the bento in the market. The Japanese bento replicates serving food on small plates in Japanese households by holding small servings of varied food categories in several compartments designed within the bento. The foods are stacked neatly into the box, and the compartments ensure that they do not mix.
Easily Accessible – Bento
Prepared or ready-made bento boxes are easily available in varied convenience stores, supermarkets or specific bento stores in Japan. Several restaurants provide takeout bento boxes. Also sold at train stations called Ekiben bento and are highly sought by the travellers on the train. Many times there is Kyaraben bento that is filled with endearing characters remade with food. These are very appealing and are a favourite among kids and adults alike.
If you are not interested in readymade Bentos, several Japanese supermarkets have an array of useful products that can be packed into the bento boxes like frozen meatballs, pre-portioned veggies and potstickers.
Items in a Japanese Bento
The food items in a Japanese bento include four main bento food groups including carbohydrates, protein, fruits, veggies, and pickles. The essential ingredient is rice, which can take several forms such as sekihan, rice and red beans cooked together or noriben which is rice enclosed with a nori seaweed sheet or hakumai which is plain white rice can also take the form of rice balls called the Onigiri. Next is meat or fish, normally in karaage, sausages, katsu, or meatballs. Potato salad, Tamagoyaki, precooked or pickled vegetables like carrots, broccoli, mini tomatoes, bean sprouts and a bit of fruit are some of the other food items.
Bento Box Industry in Japan
The size of the bento box industry in Japan is simply awesome with a wide choice existing in shapes, sizes and materials going into the making of the Bentos. Portable cutlery in the form of forks, chopsticks or spoons is also available to go with your bento boxes, or you can also choose something in total contrast. Varied bento bags that will enable you to carry the bento box are on offer in several stores. The choices in this context are innumerable with some made from fabric, some being insulated, and some having sections for an ice pack. The wide variety in accessories fulfilling the functionality aspect and catering to the appeal factor is just unimaginable.
Today, the Healthy Japanese Bento has carved a special place for itself globally and has helped make lunchtimes healthy and interesting in the truest sense!