The fresh-start energy of a new school year brings out everyone’s best intentions, whether
we’re the one returning to a classroom or getting back into the rhythm of sending the kids off
Make the most of back-to-school this year! Raise your lunch-making game with a Japanese
bento approach to packing the mid-day meal. The bento box is a much more efficient and
attractive alternative to the traditional American lunchbox. Its multiple compartments allow for
easy packing of an entire meal in a single attractive container. So, there’s no need to use
wasteful plastic baggies or to wash out all those small containers every day.
The bento approach to lunch is – in contrast to our typical PB&J with a bag of chips or crackers
– a fully balanced meal that’s satisfying, easy to transport and perfect for any appetite or
budget. A bento lunch is traditionally made up a combination of 30% protein (fish, meat, tofu or
eggs), 40% starch (usually rice), 20% vegetables (usually pickled and called “tsukemono”) and
fruit for dessert. You can make your own or buy them pre-packed and ready-to-go in most
Japanese convenience and grocery stores.
Back to school season is an ideal time to rethink the lunches you pack. Try the bento approach
Bento boxes come in stainless steel, wood or plastic, and in every kind of design from
supremely elegant to downright adorable. Whichever aesthetic you choose, look for one with a
secure, resealable lid. The number of dividers in the box is up to you. Some people like a single
divider, others like three or four separate sections. If you like soup or stew with lunch, consider
stackable cylinders rather than a flat box. An easy, delicious way to add soup to your bento is
with Yamasa Ramen Broth concentrates. Miso Ramen Broth is light and delicate. Tonkotsu
Ramen Broth is creamy and satisfying.
Browse online or in Asian grocery stores for forks, spoons and chopsticks. If you want to go a
step further, there’s a broad array of food cups, picks, and dividers to choose from.
Make a little extra of the main course at dinner the night before packing a bento box. Pick up
extra vegetables at the market. Think about little touches like something pickled or sweet to
add balance to your boxes. Once you are used to preparing bento box meals it will come
Remember to include protein, starch, vegetables and fruit. The balance is what makes a bento
box so satisfying. And take advantage of the format to make the meal as attractive as one you’d
serve at home. After all, appetite begins with the eyes. You might even take inspiration from
the Japanese tradition with special cutting techniques, themed presentation, or fun ingredients.
Pro tip: The more tightly things are packed, the less likely foods inside will shift, maintaining the
aesthetics of your bento meal.
Here at Yamasa we’ve got a lot of recipes that fit nicely into a bento lunch. A couple of our
absolute favorite proteins to include are Miso Marinated and Grilled Chicken (made with our
Reduced Sodium Shoyu and our White Miso Soup concentrate) or delicious Slow Cooker
Teriyaki Meatballs (made with our Shoyu and our Teriyaki Sauce). For an easy, delicious way to
add soup to your bento, all our Ramen Broth concentrates do the trick.
Bento box lunches make it easy to sit down, relax, and savor the experience of eating a
delicious, balanced meal no matter where you are. So go ahead and bento this year and make
lunch a highlight of the day.