Bento is te Japanese art of making attractive and tasty lunch boxes. They often contain leftovers from the previous night's dinner and are usually eaten at room temperature (though there are special thermal bento boxes available like the Mr Zojirushi lunch jar to keep your food warm).

Lately, bento boxes seem to gain more and more popularity outside of Japan as well. I wouldn´t be surprised if this is a direct result of the current economic climate in which money is tight and people go back to bringing a packed lunch to work or school.

The traditional contents of a Japanese bento box are 3 parts carbohydrates, 2 parts vegetable, 1 part protein and occasional dairy and fruit additions.*
Personally, I don´t bother too much with these proportions. My main objective is to have a yummy lunch that makes me excited to tuck in. But of course it can´t hurt to keep these proportions as a guideline in the back of your mind.

Food is packed densely in bento boxes, and a rule of thumb is that the volume of a bento box is equal to the caloric content. So a 600ml bento box should contain a 600 kCal meal. For this reason, online shops not only list the dimensions of the box, but also the volume.

You can make your bento as simple or as elaborate as you wish - there even is an entire subculture of true food artists who make intricate "kyaraben"!
Of course you don't need to buy special bento boxes, a regular Tupperware container or department store lunchbox works just as well (but honestly, where's the fun in that??)
If you have a regular lunch box that you would like to measure the volume of, fill it completely with water and then measure the amount of water in a measuring cup.

An added benefit of bento boxes: they more often than not have nifty compartments or separators to keep everything in its place (this is also where silicon baking cups come in handy) - perfect for picky eaters that don´t like their food items to touch each other!

Here are some useful Bento-related links:
Online shops
- Casa Bento
- Bento & Co
- J-Box
- Japan Centre
- Japanese Kitchen

Bento inspiration
- Just Bento
- Lunch in a Box
- My lunch can beat up your lunch! (great title, BTW!)
- Vegan Lunchbox
- Bento TV (video tutorials)
- bento recipes on this blog

Find Bento goodies here:

* Source: Lunch in a Box

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