What is a bento?
Bento box is a single-portion meal in a reusable container with different compartments. To put it simply, it’s what’s more commonly known as a lunch box. As it originated from Japan, you would often see Japanese cuisine in a bento but you can also adapt the concept with your own home made meals!
Now that life is gradually easing into normalcy, kids have gone back to school and adults have gone back to the office. For those who are more cautious, packed lunch is the go-to solution but figuring out lunch for your loved ones can be a headache. And soon enough your kids (and you) will get bored with the same old lunch box.
Don’t worry. We have some easy bento ideas to help you out with your lunch!
Before we proceed further with several bento ideas for your loved ones, here are some VERY IMPORTANT tips to make sure your bento is safe and healthy:
Make the dishes as dry as possible
All bacteria and germs need moisture or water. Their presence in food can cause severe food poisoning. Be sure to drain excess liquid whenever you cook and prepare food for the lunch box. Stay away from stews or food that are too moist or cook them until almost dry. Keep moisture content low.
Do not prepare your bento and leave it overnight
Reheat or prepare your food fresh especially if you’re packing rice. Food in hot or tropical weather can only stay fresh for a few hours.
Use ingredients with natural antibacterial properties
Honey, garlic, ginger and oregano are great additives that not only help make your food tasty but they come with strong, natural antibacterial properties to keep your food fresh for longer hours.
Salt has long been used as preservatives due to its natural antiseptic abilities but do use them sparingly as too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and various other health conditions.
And if you can, use fresh green leaves such as bamboo leaves as dividers in your lunch box or food wrappers as they too have good antibacterial qualities.
Avoid raw or undercooked food
As a general rule, undercooked meat is not safe, and raw fish is not safe unless it's eaten immediately. Though food such as raw salmon or tuna are popular among Malaysians, they should be avoided when preparing a bento for your loved ones.
Cool down your food before closing the lid
As always, we prefer piping hot food to be served but this should not be the case for bento food. Let it cool down and avoid moisture in the box. This way, you will minimize the risk of any bad bacteria growing on your food.
Now here are some bento box ideas that only take a few minutes to prepare!
Fast and easy bento box ideas
DIY chicken sandwich bento
Chicken is staple food and easy to get in our country, making it the ideal protein choice for your bento.
- Cut boneless chicken into small pieces and potatoes into cubes.
- Boil or steam them for 10 minutes.
- Put the two ingredients in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and a tablespoon of mayonnaise before mixing all the ingredients.
- Butter two slices of bread and toast them
- Prepare your sandwich with a slice of cheese and lettuce
- Add in a fruit of your choice
A quick lunch is now ready! Be sure to have ingredients such as cheese and lettuce in between the bread and filling to avoid the sandwich from getting mushy.
Leftover pizza bento
Kids always love pizzas! Here’s an easy one using your leftover ingredients.
- Cut an English muffin into two (alternatively you can also toast it) and spread pizza sauce on each side. You can also use wholemeal tortilla wraps which are easily available at supermarkets instead.
- We suggest using leftover tandoori chicken bits as you can never go wrong with its rich flavor. However, this can be replaced with other meat alternatives available to you.
- Get some mushrooms and cut them into small pieces. Add them together with shredded cheese as toppings.
- Bake in oven for 10 minutes and your homemade pizza is ready.
- Pair it with cherry tomatoes and bananas to complete the meal.
Try to get your child to help you prepare the bento. Have fun with choosing the ingredients available in your kitchen and it might just surprise you! They’re more likely to eat something they prepared themselves and more importantly, you get to spend quality time with your child.
Fried rice bento
In every Asian household, there will be leftover rice from time to time, making it the perfect base ingredient for your child’s bento. Use leftover rice to make any fried rice of your choice but we have a simple recipe here for you to try:
- Heat the frying pan. Put in some ginger and sesame oil.
- Add in the leftover rice and some soy sauce.
- Mix and toss the rice until it is hot. Push the rice aside.
- Break some eggs and let it fry a little before mixing all of them together to finish your fried rice.
- Put some chicken nuggets and baby carrots into the bento box. Arrange them in fun shapes or characters for picky eaters.
- Cut an apple into smaller pieces to complete the bento.
This bento idea could easily be repeated by mixing different types of fried rice and vegetables.
These are some ideas for you to begin with but ultimately, it is up to your creativity and preference to customize your bento. The more colors and fun shapes kids see in their bento box of food, the more likely they will eat it! Just remember to follow the basic rules to ensure your bento box is healthy and safe for your loved ones.
But for those lacking time or cooking talent, and want to satisfy bento cravings, check out the bento sets by Jom Bento at cari@unifi