Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bento 101: Simple Bento

For first-timers, the world of bento-making could be overwhelming. Take my word for it, when I started out making bento meals for my then 5-year old daughter, A, I would do it sporadically. Like I said in my previous post, bento-making takes a lot of dedication. Not to say it is difficult to start doing it, since once you get a hang of it, it becomes fairly easy. 

There are three things I would advise first-timers in bento-making. These are as follows:
1) You can use leftovers... and whatever you have in your pantry. 
2) Use photos of other bentos as a guide, but don't let it limit your creativity! (You can use kamias to fill in the spaces in your bento. LOL)
3) It won't hurt to collect more tools. Hoard if you must. LOL.

I decided to teach the kids a little bento-making today. We were having quite a slow Saturday - the nanny was out to see her kids, and Momma woke up a wee bit later than usual. I figured if I had them participate in making lunch, then that would keep them busy. I didn't want another Saturday in front of the telly, so I dubbed today "Activity Saturday", and did all sorts.

The key to bento-making is keeping everything in proportion. In fact, bento is a great way to keep food proportions in check. The Japanese use the 1:1:2 ratio when filling their lunch boxes: 1 part rice/grain, 1 part protein, 2 parts vegetables/fruits/dessert. There are others who prefer the 4:3:2:1 rule in bento-making (4 parts vegetables, 3 parts meat/ protein, 2 parts grain, 1 part fruit/dessert). I like to keep things practical, so I usually go with the Japanese ratio (1:1:2) but I don't let it limit my ideas. There are days when my pantry isn't stocked, and I break the rules. Haha!    

Anyway, let's show you how to put together a simple bento lunch.

With simple bento, all you need are a few tools. Don't be discouraged if you don't have much, there are other ways to beautify that lunch box!


Bento Box
Silicone Cups
Barans (optional)
Rice Molds (optional)

Bento tools - all available at Saizen!
(Top L, clockwise): Hand-held tools, Assorted picks, Silicone Cups, Rice Mold, Barans. 

The kids and I decided to use bento boxes with different shapes and sizes. 

The small rectangular box was mine, RL had the small round one, and A had a big appetite. LOL.

I thought it would be appropriate to use what we already had prepared for lunch. I had marinated beef for Salpicao in the chiller, so I cooked that. I also had some hotdogs, broccoli, baby lettuce, cherry tomatoes and green apples prepared for balance and box fillers.

I like keeping fruits and vegetables handy because my kids love them!

Rice is our grain of choice today!

1. Take your rice mold and scoop some rice into it. Make sure you pack your rice (so it will hold its shape), and flip onto your bento box. 
2. If your main dish has sauce, it is best to use a silicone cup to hold that sauce. You don't want the sauce to mix with your rice. 
3. Take some fillers (in this case, some hotdogs, broccoli and fruit) and fill up those extra spaces. 
4. Use barans to separate the fruit/sweets from everything else. 
5. Decorate your bento with picks.
Optional: Add cut cheese or carrots (shaped like stars, hearts, etc.) to spruce up your box. 

The best way to demonstrate how to put together a bento box is to show you. So I took a few photos of the kids putting together their bento lunch.

~~~ * ~~~


RL scooping his rice onto his bento box.
RL chose a small silicone cup to hold his steak. He prefers hotdogs.
Carefully filling out the spaces in his bento box with a green apple slice.
Notice he uses two silicone barans to separate the fruit from his rice.
Adding picks to his bento.
Voila! My little boy's first bento ever! I think he did pretty good, donchatink?
Guess all that bento lunch he brings to school gave him pretty much an idea how to put this together.
"I wanna eat it up!" - RL


Pretty girl getting ready to make her own lunch.
She was reluctant to use the molds, because she wanted to fill her box with rice. Hehe.
Carefully filling her silicone cup of choice with Salpicao.
I intentionally cut the pieces that small for the little boy's benefit.
Once you've placed your rice and main dish in the box, work on filling up the spaces.
A chose to put her hotdogs in a silicone cup as well.
My daughter is a big rice-eater. She can have just rice and no meat or veggies.
Excuse the broccoli, it has been sitting in the fridge for a while.
My not-so-little girl is very proud of her work. She says she will try to make her own lunch everyday.


My bento lunch, showing the right ratio: 1 part grain, 1 part meat, 2 parts veggies/ fruits.

~~~ * ~~~

Like I said, bento-making need not be complicated. The usual bento in other countries are made this way - simple. It takes about 5 minutes (or even less!) to put together a simple bento, provided everything is ready to go in the box. Remember, a big part of bento-making is in the planning. Plan ahead! Keep a bento notebook and write down all you're going to need for the next day. That way, you have everything prepared and bento assembly will be a breeze.

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Wanna try your hand at bento-making? Or join a bento-making contest maybe? SAIZEN IS CELEBRATING BENTO MONTH! Purchase a few bento tools at Saizen, make a bento lunch, take photos, and get a chance to win P3,000 worth of Saizen gift certificates!

Visit Saizen on Facebook for details!

1 comment:

  1. How di you make the green apple? Will you have bento 102? Like how to make those eyes.


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