10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies

Bento is a packed meal common to Japan, traditionally containing rice, fish or meat, and pickled or cooked vegetables. Bento boxes range from disposable mass produced materials to hand crafted lacquerware and even ceramic pots. They are available throughout Japan from convenience stores, bento shops, railway stations, and department stores, while Japanese mothers devote time and energy on carefully prepared lunch boxes for their family. What sets bento apart from other kinds of packed meals is the presentation. For example, kyaraben style bento menu are decorated to look like characters from Japanese popular culture, while oekakiben style bento are decorated to resemble flowers, animals or people, etc. There are often contests to celebrate the most aesthetically pleasing arrangements. Many bento have a strong regional or local appeal; here are ten well-known ones.



 

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies

 

1. Tonkatsu

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is breaded pork steak which is cut and served alongside a generous serving of rice with some pickled vegetables. Being a popular item in Japan, it is also one of the most reasonably priced bento menu items. Perhaps the best known is Kurobuta (black pork) tonkatsu from Ryusendo in Iwate prefecture.

 

2. Salmon Pot

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_salmon pot

This popular potted bento from Sendai in Miyagi prefecture uses slices of grilled salmon on a rice bed, dressed with raw salmon roe.

 

3. Masunosushi

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Masunosushi

This is easily one of the most attractive and tasty sushi bentos. A product of Toyama, layered pressed, pink trout meat tops a shallow layer of rice, all wrapped with banana leaves in a round wooden chip box. Refined and delicious.

 

4. Kamameshi

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Kamameshi

This is a famous potted ekiben (station bento) sold at Yokokawa station in Gunma prefecture. Rice with chicken, bamboo shoots and vegetables are steamed in an earthenware bowl that also makes for a reusable souvenir.

 

5. Echizen Kani-meshi (crab with rice)

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Echizen Kani-meshi

Another well-liked ekiben from Fukui Station on the Hokuriku Line, this features flaked and shaped crabmeat arranged on special rice steamed with the ovaries and innards of female snow crabs.

 

6. Hida Beef Sushi

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Hida Beef Sushi

This speciality of Takayama, Gifu prefecture marries thinly sliced roast Hida beef with vinegared sushi rice and served with wasabi.

 

7. Saba Oshizushi (pressed mackerel sushi)

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Saba Oshizushi (pressed mackerel sushi)

With pressed sushi, only cooked or pickled fish is used, not raw. This speciality of Kanagawa uses lightly pickled or soused mackerel and is delicious.

 

8. Yonezawa Beef Yakiniku

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Yonezawa Beef Yakiniku

Yonezawa in Yamagata prefecture has long been famous for its beef. The soft yakiniku keeps its flavour when cold and is served on a bed of steamed rice with pickles and wasabi.

 

9. Hamamatsu Unagi-meshi (eel with rice)

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Hamamatsu Unagi-meshi (eel with rice)

Hamamatsu in Shizuoka prefecture is famous for eel farming and its eel bento. Grilled eel is arranged on rice steamed with sweet soy sauce. Cooked eel liver and pickled vegetables are also a part of this very popular bento menu.

 

10. Steamed Pork Ribs

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies_Steamed Pork Ribs

The many Chinese foods consumed in Japan also lend themselves to the bento treatment. Yokohama China Town’s Canton Hanten is famed for its pork ribs and these make for a tasty and different bento menu.

 

Conclusion

This small selection of bento and ekiben cannot do justice to the range and inventiveness of the bento art nationwide. But fortunately for the visitor to Japan, you do not have to visit every location mentioned to sample their special bentos; in Tokyo station you can find just about every type of bento imaginable. Look out for the Matsuri, Odori and Nippon stores and you will surely see something that appeals. Why not try making bento for yourself? It is fun and easy. A quick look on the internet and I found a site called ‘Just One Cookbook’ with an excellent article on how to make a bento. I am sure there are many others, so give it a try and surprise your family with a fun-filled lunch box!

 

10 Must-try Bento Box Menu Recommended by Japanese Foodies

1. Tonkatsu
2. Salmon Pot
3. Masunosushi
4. Kamameshi
5. Echizen Kani-meshi (crab with rice)
6. Hida Beef Sushi
7. Saba Oshizushi (pressed mackerel sushi)
8. Yonezawa Beef Yakiniku
9. Hamamatsu Unagi-meshi (eel with rice)
10. Steamed Pork Ribs