Legendary Kamameshi Bento, Ekiben with a DifferenceKatachiware Japanese Style Tableware
Kamameshi Bento has caught up with the rest of us and today you have several kinds of bento boxes catering to the varied tastes and needs. You have bento’s being sold at airports, railway stations, onboard trains as well as specific convenience and department stores.
Specific boxed meals that are obtained at large railway stations are called the Ekiben. The Ekiben bento catered to local specialties and is endowed with features unique to the railway station they are sold at ‘Toge no Kamameshi’ bento is one such Ekiben with a difference.
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Toge no Kamameshi Bento: An Ekiben with a Difference
Japan is a land of mountains and train lines have to majorly move over sharp mountain passes. One ekiben bento has romanticized travel over such steep passes through its name; ‘Toge no Kamameshi’, which means (Food in Pot on Pass). The bento was named as such because the Yokokawa railway station where it was obtained was situated at a high altitude and trains had to maneuver around a height of about 552 meters before reaching the next town.
This bento first came to be sold at JR Yokokawa Station which lies on the Shin’etsu Main Line moving from Gunma Prefecture through Nagano Prefecturearound 1958. Today no train travel is said to be complete in Japan without having a taste of what this bento has to offer!
This bento is different from the regular Ekiben as the meal is cooked and served in a clay pot!
What Goes into the Toge no Kamameshi?
The Toge no Kamameshi bento contains a pilaf dish; a preparation of seasoned rice and meat which is flavoured in soy steeped stock. There are big chunks of chicken, apricot, chestnut, bamboo shoots and Shiitake mushrooms spread over the top of the warm rice and these too are high on flavour and taste.
Rice goes first into the pot which is then topped with other ingredients. The ingredients are mixed with soy-based stock or mirin or sake and the pot is then steamed and served piping hot. The aroma of food wafting into your nostrils on opening the lid of the pot is something very hard to resist.
What was the Motive for Using the Clay Pot?
The main motive for serving the meal in a clay pot since that time was to serve the meal piping hot to travellers passing through the train station of Yokokawa. The thought was quite a revolutionary one for its time and the hot meal in the clay pot had a popular run for many years since it began to be sold.
Today, however, Yokokawa station is the terminus for this rail line and the food is no longer obtained piping hot as it used to be in yesteryears. Nevertheless, the uniqueness of this Ekibentoday lies in the elegant presentation of food items in its clay pot container. The container remains as a memento of the train travel for the individual and besides, it can be put to good use as a storage container for miscellaneous items.
On a Summarising Note
Japan is the country of origin of boxed meals and in addition to paying attention to the food contents, the Japanese are very particular about the packaging and type of containers the food is packed into.
Today, the ‘Toge no Kamameshi’ is not limited to railway stations; it can also be obtained at Ekiben fairs that are hosted by supermarkets and departmental stores.
If you are a tourist to Japan and happen to be travelling in trains then you should not forget to sample the ‘Toge no Kamameshi’ meal.