An Estonian girl who has found a home in Sweden.

Monday, January 14

Bento Love

January 14, 2008 Posted by Vaire

The company I work for is moving to a new location on Friday. The current facilities have their own kitchen with a fridge, freezer, stove, oven, two microwaves, water kettle and an espresso machine. The new facilities have a microwave oven and queues every lunchtime. *sigh* Bye-bye good coffee.

Since I'm loosing weight by eating right, I've been packing my own lunch. Until now I didn't have to worry if the box had to be kept in the fridge or not, there was always room. In the new place there even won't be a fridge, so I've had to mull things over and come up with a lunch that doesn't require refrigeration in order not to make me sick.

Enter bento.

Bento 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 as a side dish.
Source: Wikipedia

The reason why I got so exited about the concept is that bento lunches are kept at room temperature. They do not require refrigeration or heating up and they contain rice, lots of it. I love rice, just plain rice without any seasonings or sauces. There are so many different kinds and I've been meaning to try them anyway.

I've been reading different sites dedicated to the art of bento. Yes, it actually can be art. Just like origami is an art of folding paper and ikebana is an art of arranging flowers, bento is an art of arranging food. It does not have to be an art, but there are a few basic rules that I do intend to follow as best as I can.

Rule of 3-1-2: Each box must consist of 3 parts of grain, 1 part of protein and 2 parts of vegetables. In Japan the grain is rice, but I don't see why I couldn't have buckwheat instead, or any other grain that I like. This rule I will be sticking to.

Rule of five colours (goshiki): Each box will include at least one dish from each colour group (red/orange, white, black/purple/brown, yellow and green). I expect I'll be breaking this rule quite often in the beginning, but at least I'll try to include as many colour groups as I can. This rule forces me to be more creative with food and I quite like the challenge.

Rule of five cooking methods (goho): Each box will include one dish prepared by five different cooking methods. For example: grilling, frying, steaming, pickling and boiling. There's also baking, simmering, smoking, blanching, pureeing, doing nothing (raw), etc. This rule will be more of a guideline, I'll do what I can, but I won't fret about it. The less time I spend assembling the box in the morning, the better.

After lusting over some beautiful bento boxes in various Japanese web stores (that don't deliver outside Japan) I resolved to get an ordinary food storage box. Any box will do, really, as long as it's food safe and can be closed so that the contents won't spill.

I was on my way to the kitchen section in Åhlens and stopped by the Muji display. Well, whaddya know? They had real bento boxes and chopsticks in a case! I had only stopped there out of curiosity, I didn't expect them to have the bento boxes. Of course I looked no further.

The size I got was 500 ml. It is tiny, I mean TINY! When one looks at it, it is inconcievable that there would be enough food for any adult there. The looks are deceiving, though. The first meal I packed was rice with Thai stir fry and it was too much. Mostly because I didn't know about the 3-1-2 rule and had too much meat; the rice and the meat filled a normal size dinner plate. That tiny box had that much food in it! Amazing.

The official Japanese nutritional guidelines say that the right size for me, according to my height and lifestyle, is 600 ml. There weren't any 600 ml boxes in Muji and I still want to lose 10 kilos, so I figured that 500 ml box will be perfect for me. And it is just right.

I was going to take a picture of today's bento, but the batteries died. Some other day...