Monday, September 27, 2010

O Bento

O-bento - The Japanese word for Lunch Box. The Japanese cousin of the Indian Tiffin Box.

Most often the Bento Box is the easiest way to have lunch.  Not to mention also the cheapest way most of the time. But then not only lunch, it could be breakfast or dinner but then it is still translated as Lunch box in English.

A quick stop at a convenience store and voila you can pick up your lunch or dinner. The variety of Bento boxes is sure to give a tough time as you cant decide which one to pick. So many combinations – some with noodles, some with rice, some with tempura, some with curry, some with an assortment of tempura, little bit of noodles, little salad, pickles and little rice, sometimes with baked egg and also with a piece or two of sushi. For the weekend travelers this is often the best choice as you don’t need to factor in much time to stop for lunch or dinner. We  feel the Bento is a boon for people like us who travel around on weekends with a kid . We don’t have to worry about reaching some place in time for lunch and finding a good restaurant. A stop at a convenience store at a rest area along the expressways and we are done with lunch. 

Apart from the bento boxes, rice balls ( Onigiri in Japanese) are best suited for a child as they are mild in taste and the quantity is just right. These convenience stores also heat up the lunch boxes so you have steaming hot food in a minute. No waiting time when you are really hungry. I recently learnt that the Onigiri is the foundation of the lunch box.

Even on the trains, the daily commuter doesn’t have to worry about lunch or dinner. Or as it is common in India carry his lunch box.  The O bento boxes called Eki Ben ( literally Railway station boxed meal) are available for sale on board the trains and at the railway stations. It does not stop at that. Many stations have their own speciality Eki ben . A regular traveller knows which lunch box is the best for him and if you happen to travel with one, he will guide you on what lies in store for you at which particular station. 

 In a artistically inclined country like Japan, it does not end at that. I have come across few Bento boxes arranged in the shape of a character – usually from the animation or comic books. Have seen few shaped like Mickey Mouse, Anpanman and Hello Kitty. I have heard that there are more elegant arrangements shaped to look like flowers, building or even people but am yet to come across any of these.  I have seen the character shaped moulds in stores and am waiting to experiment .

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