Recipe Bento


Bento is a traditional Japanese meal packed in a box, typically including rice, meat or fish, and vegetables. Bentos are popular for their balanced nutrition and appealing presentation. Let's explore how to make a bento, from ingredients to tips, variations, calorie information, and a conclusion.

Ingredients

Rice

  • 2 cups Japanese short-grain rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water

Main Protein

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Side Dishes

  • 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Garnishes

  • 1 sheet nori (seaweed), cut into small shapes
  • Pickled ginger or radishes

Preparation

Rice

  1. Rinse the Rice: Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. This removes excess starch and prevents the rice from becoming too sticky.
  2. Cook the Rice: Add the rinsed rice and water to a rice cooker. Cook according to the rice cooker's instructions. If you don't have a rice cooker, combine the rice and water in a pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Main Protein

  1. Marinate the Chicken: In a bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. Add the chicken pieces and let them marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Cook the Chicken: Heat a pan over medium heat and add a little oil. Cook the chicken until it is golden brown and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.

Side Dishes

  1. Steamed Broccoli: Steam the broccoli until tender but still vibrant green, about 5 minutes.
  2. Julienned Carrot: Blanch the carrot slices in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then cool in ice water to maintain their crunchiness.
  3. Egg Rolls (Tamagoyaki): Beat the eggs with milk, salt, and pepper. Heat a non-stick pan with oil, pour a thin layer of the egg mixture, cook until set, then roll it up. Push the rolled egg to one side of the pan, pour another layer of egg, cook, and roll. Repeat until all the egg is used. Let it cool and slice into pieces.

Assembling the Bento

  1. Box Preparation: Use a bento box or a container with separate compartments.
  2. Rice Placement: Place the cooked rice in one compartment. You can sprinkle some sesame seeds or place nori shapes on top for decoration.
  3. Main Protein and Side Dishes: Arrange the chicken, broccoli, carrots, cucumber slices, and egg rolls in the remaining compartments. Use colorful food picks to secure small items and make the presentation more appealing.
  4. Garnishes: Add pickled ginger or radishes for extra color and flavor.

Tips

  • Balance: Ensure a balance of colors and nutrients. Include a variety of vegetables, proteins, and grains.
  • Portion Control: Keep portions small and manageable. The bento box should be packed tightly to prevent the food from shifting.
  • Prep Ahead: Prepare components like rice and side dishes in advance to save time in the morning.
  • Keep It Fresh: Use fresh ingredients and consume the bento within a few hours of packing to ensure freshness and safety.
  • Presentation: Use colorful silicone cups, dividers, and food picks to enhance the visual appeal of your bento.

Variations

  • Vegetarian Bento: Replace the chicken with tofu or tempeh. Use a variety of vegetables like bell peppers, edamame, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Seafood Bento: Use grilled salmon, shrimp, or sashimi-grade fish as the main protein.
  • Fruit Additions: Include fresh fruits like apple slices, grapes, or strawberries for a sweet treat.
  • Onigiri Bento: Shape the rice into onigiri (rice balls) and fill them with pickled plum, tuna, or salmon.
  • Themed Bento: Create character-themed bentos, known as "kyaraben," using cut-out nori and vegetables to make cute faces and shapes.

Calorie Information

  • Rice (1 cup cooked): 200 calories
  • Chicken (3 ounces): 140 calories
  • Steamed Broccoli (1 cup): 55 calories
  • Carrot (1 medium): 25 calories
  • Cucumber (1/2 cup slices): 8 calories
  • Eggs (2 large): 140 calories
  • Nori (1 sheet): 5 calories

Total approximate calories for a standard bento box: 573 calories

Conclusion

Making a bento box is a delightful and healthy way to enjoy a balanced meal. With a variety of ingredients and creative presentation, bentos can be both nutritious and visually appealing. Whether you prefer a traditional bento or enjoy experimenting with different variations, the key is to balance flavors, colors, and textures. Try preparing a bento for your next meal and experience the joy of this Japanese culinary tradition.

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