If you have watched anime for long enough, you know that you have seen a Japanese obento at least once (or a hundred times). We’re pretty sure that you have also always wanted to make one, right? The colorful vegetables, tasty tamagoyaki, and the crispy looking tempure would make just anyone’s mouth water, are we right? Well, if you have always wanted to make an obento and don’t know what goes into it, join us today as we take a brief look at how to prepare a Japanese obento!
Time to Make an Obento
Nom Nom Nom
Before, everyone would advise on a 3-1-1-1 ratio where you would have carbs, protein, veggies, and fruit, but people don’t lead cookie cutter lives, so the ratio can be whatever suits your dietary needs. Some people opt to do more veggies (since you should be getting 5 to 9 servings a day) and a serving of protein. Others may choose to do a vegan bento or a protein centric bento. Either way, it’s your preference.
Most bento have rice as the main. Some bento are even just a square of rice with an umeboshi (pickled plum) in the middle which looks similar to the Japanese flag. You can also add other carbs like bread for a sandwich or even pasta. We love carbs, but if you want some actually filling foods, you can opt to add in proteins like tamagoyaki, salmon, or kaarage (Japanese fried chicken). These are rather simple and easy to make, so consider looking through our recipes to find out how to make them! Of course, you can choose other proteins to include, but these are some of the basics. Protein is important for ensuring that you are satiated and stay full after a meal.
We always advise eating veggies with every meal! We recommend striving for a multicolored meal as the more colors incorporated into a meal, the more vitamins and nutrients you get, and Japanese people do take the time to consider how to make bento healthy. Strive for 1-2 different vegetables for variety. If you are the type who enjoys sweets, too, add some fruit to your bento! Again, we recommend colorful arrays of fruits to add more nutrients to your bento.
If you want to pack a more traditional bento, take into consideration some of these tips, but of course, you can choose to have anything in a bento. If you have leftovers from dinner, pack them away for your bento! If you like western foods, incorporate those instead! Or maybe you’re lazy, you can pack away frozen foods easy for microwaving or make fried rice with veggies to use as your main entree.
When packing food, please take into consideration the safe food temperatures that you need to allow food to cool down to before packing. Please don’t poison yourself by packing away food improperly.
Make it Pretty
We’re willing to bet that you are more interested in making your bento pretty, right? Who doesn’t want the colorful and neatly packed bento that are featured in anime? Just how do the Japanese pack them so nicely?
Well, it all starts with your bento box. You can purchase a bento with dividers to help keep foods separate or get a bento that’s in a cute shape. Then, you have to make sure to pack your bento in a way that the foods do not move in transit. We recommend using food dividers or utilizing hardier vegetables as barriers between foods like broccoli so that they help to keep the peace between foods. Another easy option is to use silicone cupcake cups, which will add a bit of pretty color to the aesthetics of your bento. This will also ensure that wet foods do not spoil dry foods and ruin the whole bento.
For character shapes, you can shape foods with cellophane wrap or buy moulds to use. Most of the time, you will mould foods like rice that are malleable. There are also stencils that you can use to cut out small shapes in your carrots or cucumbers like sakura, or you can even cut out shapes from seaweed to add to your rice like cute little panda bears! To add the finishing touches, there are cute food picks you can buy to poke into your food to keep certain foods together or just add some cuteness, as well as some sauce containers that you can use to store away sauce and add that special touch. There are many bento websites out there, so check them out!
Who Has the Time?
Lastly, we should look over how to make a bento without spending 3 hours. If you don’t care about making your bento pretty, you’ll save yourself some time, but if you do, we advise you do a bit of planning beforehand to know how exactly to shape things just right. Also, you can make your bento the night ahead of time so you don’t have to sacrifice your sleep to make sure you are fed! However, if you are an early bird, making your bento in the morning is a great way to start the day and ensure your bento is fresh. Just make sure to start your rice cooker the night before and put some forethought into your ingredients. Putting some planning before you start can help save you a lot of time and trouble in the long term, so put some thought into it!
Well, there you go; Hopefully you have a good idea of what you need to do to make a bento! You can put anything in a bento, but if you want a traditional Japanese bento, there are certain touches that you should be thinking about. Also, please keep in mind food safety. So let us know what you create and tweet us pics of your Japanese bento! Of course, be prepared to share if you do!