My first bento

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I’m quite passionate with Japanese culture these days, because I’m going there to “disseminate my research” this summer (lucky me!). So I’m learning Japanese, cook Japanese, listen to Japanese music and watch Japanese anime. Oh, and I read a lot of travel books/websites. No wonder I came across the concept of bento, the Japanese lunch box.

As the summer semester starts, all the students cafés are closing one after the other and it is increasingly hard to find decent vegetarian food on the campus. (No more cafeteria cheese sandwich, pleeeeaase!) So it’s the perfect timing to take the good resolution to bring my own lunch, and I know this habit will stay longer if I have fun doing it. Bento is just perfect for this. The concept is to make a varied, good looking lunch. (By the way, good looking doesn’t necessarily means Hello Kitty or anime themed bento.) There are rules about the ratio of grains:proteins:vegetable:treat, but I don’t follow them. In fact, I find the good looking rule to be sufficient : if everything is beige-brown (like rice and stir-fried tofu), it’s not pretty enough, so I will add green and orange vegetables to make it more appealing. Voilà. Variety and nutrition is added instantly! Everything bento is discussed at the very nice Just Bento blog.

I would like to share with you my very first bento I made 2 or 3 weeks ago. The first tier looked like this :

The feline rice ball is an onigiri, the green hairy beans are edamame (fresh soy beans) and the meal on the right is soba noodles with stir-fried tofu, carrots and green onions.

Here is the second tier:

It contains a dorayaki (Japanese pastry that is basically red bean sweet paste sandwiched between 2 pancakes), dates, almonds, a cute kiwi fruit and orange slices.

Everything holds together with a custom home-made elastic band decorated with buttons to hide the seams.

Being made by hand (in less than 10 minutes with 0.50$ worth of material), it fits perfectly and has a handy loop for holding chopsticks :

Don’t you ever buy expensive bento elastic bands again. Make your own perfect-fitting, customized, ass-kicking bento gear!