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Bento Box 101: How to make cool lunch boxes & bento boxes your kids will want to eat (plus a downloadable guide!)

August 20, 2017

 

School is officially back in session, which means lunchbox time! If you haven't joined the Bento Box craze, consider this a short guide to get you started. 

 

THE HISTORY OF THE BENTO BOX

Bento loosely translates to ‘convenient’ and this 'convenient' tradition dates back centuries in Japan.  In the 1100's, Japanese warriors and farmers would pack a dried lunch (that could be cooked) in a sack or wooden farmer box and head to work. In the 1600's the concept of a compartment style box became a stylish trend in Japanese entertaining and was commonplace for takeaway meals and transporting lunches from one place to another.  In the early 1900's however; the economic disparity caused by WW1 made Bento Box a luxury that only the wealthy could afford.  After WW2, the economic situation in Japan changed, and now Bento Box lunches are an important part of Japanese life. Markets, train stations, and convenience stores across the country offer these quick takeaway boxes filled with anything you could imagine.  There's an entire cult following of people who travel the country's train stations to eat Ekiben, which are special train station bento boxes that often feature a fantastic array of speciality dishes found in that region. 

 

TRADITIONAL BENTO BOX

A traditional Japanese Bento Box is meant to include all parts of washoku, traditional cuisine of Japan. The four traditional elements of Japanese cuisine include rice, pickled vegetables, soup, and a main - either fish, tofu or meat. Washoku is so important to the culture of Japan, it was protected by UNESCO World Heritage as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  Japanese cooking is precise, simple yet complex, and is always a balance of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami - which is taught in more detail in Chef Yoshimi Daido's Japanese Cooking Classes with The Chef & The Dish. 

 

 

KYARBEN

The popularity of Kyarben, has put these gorgeous boxes on the map in a whole new way.  Kyarben is the elaborate and incredibly aesthetically pleasing bento which features food to look like anime, comic book, video game, or other pop culture characters. 

 

Chef Yoshimi Daido, based in Tokyo who Skypes into your kitchen through her cooking classes teaches the Bento Box Cooking Class, both sophisticated and inspired by characters.  Her Monster Bento above is just one example of the creatures she creates. 

 

BENTO AROUND THE WORLD

Bento has now become popular around the world, but the contents of bento is now often custom to the region. In North America, Bento has become popular for school lunch boxes, with containers filled with American style foods like sandwiches, cut vegetables, cheese and other kid favourites. 

 

 

OUR TOP BENTO BOX CONTAINERS

If you're ready to join in on the fun, here are our top picks for Bento Boxes on the market. 

 

Takenak

This beautiful Bento Box maker has been a trusted Japanese company since 1925 and are available in high end stores throughout the country. They made their products available in the U.S. in 2012 and haven't looked back since.  Great for teens and adults.

Buy here >

 

 

 

MonBento

We love the MonBento. It comes in a variety of colours, designs and shapes, special designs for kids  and you can even customize your own! It does have a number of small inserts, so if your child is forgetful - it might be best to leave this one for the teens and adults. 

Buy here >

 

 

 

 

YumBox

The YumBox comes in a variety of colours your kids will love, from baja blue to rosa pink.  The six compartment design boasts a leak-proof, single lid - so you won't have to worry about the wee ones losing part of their sassy new lunchbox. Perfectly portioned for a variety of little treats.  Great for young children.

Buy here >

 

 

 

 

 

PlanetBox Rover Box

This stylish metal design comes in three sizes so you can choose the one that fits you best.  A little bit pricier, but the metal is beautiful, long lasting, and the function is great. Great for teens and adults.

Buy here >

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUNCH BOXES MADE EASY

Need some quick inspiration?  Download our quick inspiration lunch box guide.  On Sunday morning, bring the kids into bed, and let them select from one item across each main category.  It's a great way to let them be part of their lunches while organizing your shopping list for the week!

Download here >

 

 

 

 

 

 

RELATED

 

 

Bento Box - Japanese Cooking Class

Learn How to Make a Classic Bento Box in a Private, Skype Cooking with Chef Yoshimi from Japan

Ask all the questions you want, it's just you and the chef

 

View Cooking Class Details >

 

 

 

Mosaic Sushi Roll - Japanese Cooking Class

Learn How to Make these beautiful sushi rolls.  Skype Chef Yoshimi Daido into your kitchen, and together you'll make Sushi, Miso Soup, and more. 

Ask all the questions you want, it's just you and the chef

 

View Cooking Class Details >

 

 

 

 

 

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