Friday, 31 October 2008


I think we would be commiting some sort of blogging offence if we didn't talk about bentos. There are about a billion resources out there for making fancy bentos.

That's not our picture. I found it here, where you can find many NOT vegan bento pictures. Yikes how long do people spend making these? The meaty ones make me sick, dressing up all the food to look like animals. There could probably be a whole thesis written about the cognitive dissonance involved in bento making.

Anyway, we're here to talk about some bentos we've made and show you some crazy bento gear. There is literally a section in stores devoted to just bento goods.

This is the section at Loft. I couldn't actually fit it all in the shot, but you get the idea.

Look at the assortment of bento boxes! I wish I had such a cool looking one. I have one more for practicality than cuteness. (All the 'cute' ones seem so small, so I always end up buying the dude themed ones. I wish Japanese women weren't always on a dieat and ate a normal sized lunch rather than kid portions.)

The accessories section! I don't even know how to use half this stuff.
Close-up on some accessories. These little things are used to stab food like fruit, so you don't get your hands sticky and they look cute sticking up out of the bento.

Now I'm ashamed to admit, I often make rather boring bentos. Apparently, there are 5 principles to making a good bento. They are: the bento includes the 5 colors, the 5 methods, the 5 flavors, the 5 senses, and gokan no mon (which is a Buddhist state of mindfulness while eating). Wow, this is getting really technical. I just try to use different colors and I guess different flavors.

Really, I think you can put anything in a bento. Don't let all the rules scare you. The bento Nazis won't come after you if you don't dress your tofu up like little bears or put happy faces on your rice. Let me show you some of my rather shameful bentos.

See, I didn't use any cute dividers or plastic pictures. It's just lunch.

Oh yeah, this one's fancy.

Major FAIL! This ones almost all beige. Damn it, I suck...

The main priniciple to bento making is to just make a bunch of different foods, each one featuring one vegetable or two. I'll try to put up a bento's worth of recipes in the next few weeks.

I have one tip for making your bentos. It is a very UN-Japanese tip.

  • Make about 4 or 5 seperate foods. For example, fried mushrooms, broccolli with a tofu mayonaise sauce, freeze dried tofu, tempuraed sweet potatoes, boiled carrots, sliced veggies, etc. Put them all into containers in the fridge and then portion them out into your bento each morning. Japanese housewives the country over are crying over the fact that I don't wake up at 5 each morning to make each dish fresh and with love.

So now that you have learned, just because we live in Japan does not mean we are bento masters...go out there and make your own bentos! It's really not as hard or scary as that Hello Kitty on steriods one is at the top.


Pam's right, you don't have to go crazy and wake up at stupid o'clock to make some elaborate character bento. Some of the nicest looking and tastiest bentos are quite simple. I think successful bento making just requires a little thought and forward planning. I've only recently become interested in bento making (much to the delight of the Japanese staff I work with who like to talk about what a great wife and mother I will be.... urgh) but am still very much in the same camp as Pamela when it comes to preparing things the night before.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the bentos and accessories I own:

Here's a bento I made for work last week. It's not all that exciting but it was tasty! This one contained spicy sauteed slices of eggplants, sundried tomato hummus, a veggie burger, spinach, cherry tomatoes and sliced green and red peppers. And the letters were cut from cucumber slices. I also had a seperate tupperware with slices of cornmeal pancake, raisins and mochi.

And since it is Halloween today and I love The Nightmare Before Christmas, I'll leave you with this picture of a bento (that I did not make and is sadly NOT VEGAN!). Seriously, I don't know how Japanese mothers have time for this!...

-- Sarah


Bex said...

I am trying to get into the bento habit. I bought a cute one that's big enough (as in I could certainly eat more but I shouldn't) but I'm not good at planning ahead because I also will not get up at 5 in the morning to make a perfect fresh bento. However I can also see the appeal of a cute, fun, flavorful lunch.

Mihl said...

Interesting. There's nothing like this in Germany. Here people have good old lunch boxes and my father packs one every day. I think he has never heard of all those priciples, because his box includes only sandwiches. I have to print this out for him!

herbivore said...

Cute! I love bentos.

I haven't been checking my blogs much lately.

I am going to Japan next summer, but sensei has been telling me it is difficult to be vegan there. Is it? I guess you have a kitchen so you can cook your own food, but do you have to go to vegan or vegetarian restaurants to get something to eat outside of your house? Or are people able to comprehend what you mean by vegan? (I might not be quite as good at explaining, because I am not very fluent..)

Liz² said...

woah, awesome bento post! you guys are so lucky to have a whole store of bento stuff to go through, I can't find even a plain box here, let alone a fruit stabber. :D