Zach gave me a wonderful gift for Christmas this year — a Mr. Bento lunch box. I have long been interested in bento boxes and I often find time slipping away as I look at pictures of people’s bentos on Flickr. I especially love looking at the bento boxes people make for their kids because they’re so darn cute.
“So what exactly is a bento?” you ask. A bento box is a single portion take-out or home packed lunch common in Japanese cuisine. They are traditionally packed in lacquer boxes, but the range of containers available for bento is enormous. Often women will spend a great deal of time in the mornings packing attractive or cute bentos for their husband and children.
The Mr. Bento Zach gave me is less traditional but very popular in Japan. It consists of an stainless steel thermos container with four smaller containers that fit inside. One is intended for soup, one for rice, one for meat and one for vegetables, but I shake it up a lot and put anything in any container.
The best part is the spork that’s included. You can see it in the picture above.
I’ve been really enjoying packing my Mr. Bento to take to work. I don’t take a lunch every day because of variations in my work schedule, but I usually bring a lunch two or three days per week. Part of my Christmas present from Zach was a link to the Mr. Bento group on Flickr. I’ve been participating since I packed my first bento and because I take a picture of every lunch to post, I find myself trying to make them prettier and more colorful. That also feeds into Goal #2 for this year which is to eat more whole foods. I haven’t been doing a perfect job, but when you’re trying to make your lunch colorful and attractive, junk food doesn’t really work too well. I find myself slipping a few little tomatoes in here, some blueberries there to add a little extra color. Here are some of the lunches I’ve packed so far. Clicking on the photos will take you over to Flicker where I’ve added notes identifying each item in my lunch.
This is the first lunch I packed and probably one of the best ones so far. We had great leftovers from the night before.
I made the green beans in this photo in the morning when I was putting the rest of the lunch together. I burned the hell out of my finger on the steam from the bowl when I took them out of the microwave.
This bento has our new favorite recipe in it: Kung Pao Shrimp.
I went over the edge on the bento thing early on and went to the Japanese dollar store by our house to pick up some bento supplies to make my lunches cuter. I got some silicon baking cups, the little animal picks you see poked into the pickles in the yellow cups, some cute animal cookie cutters I used on the cheese in the blue cup and some egg molds. I don’t have any pictures of the eggs or the egg molds, but I promise I’ll do a post about them in the near future because they are not to be missed.
This was my other favorite lunch I made for my bento. The big packet has the stuff for Thai curry noodle soup in it. I also packed frozen veggies and some cooked, shredded chicken to put in the soup. I’m really into pasta and noodles right now, so it really hit the spot.
This lunch had white bean, sausage and kale soup in it. It looks kind of gross in the picture, but it tastes fantastic.
Those noodles aren’t mac and cheese — they are Thai peanut noodles. Yum yum!