OK, this one is gonna ramble a bit...I'll try to make it as cohesive, but...
A few years ago I was working as a telecom contractor. I was living in my RV about two hours from home. JUST too far to drive home every day, and I had per diem so...It was a great experience. I had ordered a Bento box a few months earlier (J-List has some amazing bento boxes, just be prepared to wait a bit as they ship from Japan) My fascination with Bento and Japanese culture began with my Reiki practice. I really think the two best ways to get to understand a culture are to eat with them and learn their food traditions and to sit and get stinking drunk with them!
Anyway...I was growing tired of the cafeteria foods for lunch and the RV gave me the luxury of being able to cook my own meals, but just brown bagging every day...sigh. You all know that feeling. Everyone is going out to lunch, ordering deli sandwiches and you are trying to save money...so out comes your brown bag. Well...why not spend 15-30 minutes after dinner and pack leftovers into a Bento for tomorrow?
When I began I was massively surprised...the bento box looked SO small when it arrived. I thought I would never be able to pack enough food in there to satisfy my fat ass appetite! Wrong! There were many days I could not finish it. My co-workers said it was my "Amazing Clown Car Lunch Box" as the food just kept coming.
Roast pork with chutney over rice, tea died hard boiled egg, two cheeses in tomato cup.
It is very easy to make your own bento. Just think of your left overs. If you are having a roast...cut off a small piece for your bento the next day. Take your small piece and slather it in miso and let it sit while you cook and do the rest of dinner. After dinner, scape the miso off your meat and grill it in a hot cast iron skillet, nice and med rare inside good crust out. Let it rest and slice it thin. You have your meat for your bento the next day.
Miso Beef, seafood salad, rice balls, melon and nectarine salad
I cook a lot of rice, and sushi rice is very easy to make (Rival makes a great 6 cup rice cooker, small, convenient and does a good job), so, Onagiri (rice balls) could not be easier to make. Make your sushi rice (OK, here goes, it's not 'traditional' but its good. Put your short grain rice in the cooker. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp sugar, a splash of mirin and a slash of rice vinegar then fill with water to the markings.) Wet your hands with some salted water and shape the rice into triangles, blocks, whatever shape your heart desires. Onagiri is a staple of bento.
Get a Bento, do a little playing around and start looking at your lunch tomorrow with a different eye! Remember, Bento is supposed to be as delightful to your eye as it is to the palate. Traditional food ratio on Bento is 4:2:1, four parts rice, 2 parts protein, 1 part other. A more common now is a 1:1 on rice and protein, just enjoy it!
Some great places to start...
My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch!
Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go by Naomi Kijima
Go forth and Bento! Share your own pics or ideas!
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