A very simple explaination of bento, or obento, is that it is the Japanese word for a meal served in a box. However, a bento can be very simply rice, veggies and meat or fish packed in a plastic container, or it can be a "cute bento" - a child's school lunch full of fun accessories and fanciful presentation meant to trick them into eating good-for-you food, or it can be elevated to an artform with carved fruits and veggies and the like. Anything goes. But the whole point is to create a balanced meal that is easy to transport and pleasing to the eye.
So, I was thrilled to get a bento box for my birthday. Mine is a slick 2 tiered one in blue and white. Each lid doubles as a cooling/gel pack once you freeze it, so no worries about keeping my lunch fresh. It also came with dividers, so you can partition your food. In general, you are supposed to pack your box pretty tightly, with 3 parts rice or other carb, 1 part protein and 2 parts vegetable. Including two different veggies/sides is traditional.
Here is my very first 2-tiered bento box creation.
Top tier: Breakfast and snack
This tier has cut up strawberries topped with yogurt, granola and honey on the right, and a pile of baby carrots on the left.
Tier two has a bed of couscous topped with a few slices of sausage, asparagus and poached sliced shrimp on the right, and cut up red pepper and broccoli on the left. I have to say that this bento was pretty easy to put together thanks to the leftovers from my birthday. All the veggies are leftover crudites that were already cut and blanched. The slivers of sausage were also from my bday. The couscous and shrimp were last night's dinner.
I'm getting hungry just writing this post. Anyway, my goal is to try to bring in my lunch twice a week, depending on leftovers. Whenever I make a good looking box, I'll post it.