In terms of introducing Japanese food to the world, bentos are right up there with sushi. You’d be surprised to know that even India has it’s own style of these quirky lunch boxes.
Yep, the “tiffin” we all know and love, they’re actually another form of bentos.
It’s no surprise these Japanese lunchboxes have caught the attention of the entire world. Their artful presentation and exciting ingredients have made them a favourite the world over.
But what is a bento, and what goes into making one?
The Original Power Lunch
Bentos were initially simple. Travelers in the early twelfth century packed rice in a bag so they’d have something to eat in the middle of long journeys. Over time, bentos became more complex, incorporating a variety of flavours from every region of Japan.
By the 19th century, bentos became so popular that they were sold in train stations, being known as “ekibento” (train station bento). Yep—not particularly innovative, that name.
Over time, many bentos have evolved, so much that I couldn’t describe all the types in this article even if I wanted to. But let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia
One of the most popular bentos you can find is Makunouchi bento. This consists of a big helping of rice, broiled salmon, rolled egg (this is actually the sweet part, called tamagoyaki), and a pickled fruit (ume).
Initially, they were introduced alongside the ekibento, to be sold as a variation at train station. But they’ve evolved to become so much more. You can even find ones with chestnut rice, sushi, and even casserole!
Although people commonly see bentos as lunch boxes, they’re not limited to schoolkids and office goers. If you’re planning a picnic or party, then a shidashi bento is something you’ll want.
These bentos are made with a variety of ingredients, from pickled vegetables and rice, to tempura (that’s deep-fried shrimp and vegetables, for those of you who don’t watch Masterchef), and even ‘Murican components like hamburger patties!
Depending on what you’re looking for, a shidashi bento can accommodate whatever you prefer into your meal. Some even include chicken teriyaki, a blend of Western and Japanese flavours.
Picture Courtesy: Lapa bento
You wake up in the middle of the night and raid the fridge looking for something to eat. If you’re a fan of Chinese food, then a chuka bento will definitely satisfy those midnight munchies.
The Chinese saw that bentos were becoming a fad, and in true Chinese fashion, added their own spin on it. Chuka bentos are made with Chinese elements like fried rice and spring rolls. Although they can be a complete meal alone, they’re usually reserved as appetizers and midnight snacks.
Okay, we’ve teased you enough. You’re probably hungry by now, so head over to Swiggy and check out the bentos that catch your fancy.