Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Bento, the colorful, elegant boxed lunch of the Japanese

sakura bento
Originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥
This Bento includes: shiitake mushroom, lotus, taro, eggplant, carrot and edamame. Hijiki salad, pickled greens salad. Egg roll, roast chicken, green salad with fresh cherry tomato. Spaghetti (!), tamagoyaki, shumai, shrimp tempura, kabocha, roast potato, tiny scallops. Some kind of bean (mung?) paste, surimi tempura, miso butterfish, yakisoba.

The box is made of molded plastic meant to resemble colored dishes on a lacquer tray. In fact, each colored "dish" also has a lovely design imprinted on it as well. It is as large as a serving tray and comes with a plastic lid covered with sakura blossoms (hence the name "sakura" for this bento).

Bento, says Wikipedia, is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine.

A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container.

Containers range from disposable mass produced to hand crafted lacquerware. Although bento are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋, bentō-ya?), train stations, and department stores, it is still common for Japanese homemakers to spend time and energy for their spouse, child, or themselves producing a carefully prepared lunch box.

Bento can be very elaborately arranged in a style called kyaraben. Contests are often held where bento arrangers compete for the most aesthetically pleasing arrangements. Kyaraben is typically decorated to look like people, animals, or characters and items such as flowers and plants.

There are similar forms of boxed lunches in the Philippines (Baon), Korea (Dosirak), Taiwan (Biandang), and India (Tiffin).