Bento boxes are served everywhere in Japan - work places, schools, department stores, and even on the trains. These tasty Japanese lunch boxes have been enjoyed for over 800 years!There are many styles of bento boxes. For example, “shokado bento” is a large lacquered bento box which normally has 4 compartments. Each space contains rice, sashimi, tempura, nimono (stewed dish), and pickled vegetables. The most common style of home made bento contains rice with umeboshi (salted plum), tamago yaki (egg roll), kara age (fried chicken), and potato salad (Japanese style), amongst others. The dishes used should be very well balanced, such as rice, as a main dish, then protein from meat, fish, or egg, minerals from seaweeds, and vitamins from vegetables. Anyone can make their own bento. It is very common for people to make or pack their own bento in the morning for school, office, or picnics! This recipe is called “Sanshoku soboro bento”, which means three colours ingredients. Very ordinary ingredients are placed in top of the rice, but there is a unique method to make fine flakes of meat and egg, which can also be used as a topping for salads, tofu and rice.
Ingredients (for 2 bento boxes)
2 cups of Japanese rice (cooked)
8 mange tout
4 sliced carrot (for garnish)
2 sliced takenoko (bamboo shoot)
1 tsp sunflower oil
A pinch of salt
For pork soboro:
200g minced pork
3 cm ginger (finely chopped)
2 tbsp sake
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp red miso2 tbsp shoyu
For egg soboro:
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp mirin
1. To make the pork soboro, heat a medium size sauce pan, fry the minced pork without oil, stir using 4 chopsticks to make fine flakes until it browns.
2. Add ginger, sake, and sugar to the sauce pan then stir constantly.
3. Add red miso and shoyu, and keep on stirring until the liquid has evaporated. It will burn quickly when you stop stirring so don’t stop it until it becomes dry and forms fine flakes! You can keep the pork soboro in a clean jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.
4. To make the egg soboro, mix the eggs, salt and mirin in a small sauce pan.
5. Heat the sauce pan to medium, stir constantly using 4 chopsticks until it becomes finely scrambled.
6. Bring the water to the boil, cook mange tout and sliced carrot for few mins then wash in cold water to preserve the colour.
7. Slice the mange tout diagonally.
8. Fry the sliced takenoko to brown both sides, sprinkle with a little salt.
For the final stage, you will choose the right size of your bento box which will be suitable for soboro bento.
You put the cooked rice at the bottom of your bento box to make a bed of rice which will be at 80% of the height of the box. Then cover the rice with 3 colourful toppings. For soboro bento, the best type of box is low in height and has a sealed lid.
* A tip for eating - mix the toppings with the rice underneath, then eat with a spoon, to make it easier.
** The next “Bento workshop” will be held on the 21st March.