Rice bento for dinner

Bento dinner 080106

1) Japanese short-grain brown rice (genmai), topped with toasted pine nuts.

2) Miso pumpkin dish, which I’ve described here. Leftover from lunch, so all the fish cooked together with the pumpkin had already been eaten up.

3) Chicken and French beans stir-fried with salt and garlic. I packed the chicken and beans separately here, with the chicken in the middle and the green veg on the right side.

4) Plain omelette, rolled and sliced.

5) Fruit: guava in brown silicone baking cup, pear in orange cup. I didn’t really need to use the silicone cups as the box has built-in sections but I accidentally split garlic from the stir-fry into the small sections and I didn’t want my fruit to taste oily and salty :P.

This was a successful bento in various ways. I managed to include items in five colours (goshiki, one of the principles of traditional Japanese cuisine and bento, read more here), maintain a reasonable balance of yin/yang and it was tasty too.

There appears to be much less rice here than the proportions recommended in bento books: four parts rice, two parts protein side dish, one part vegetable side dish no. 1, one part vegetable side dish no. 2 [4:2:1:1], or as Just Bento explains, “4 parts rice to 2 parts protein to 1 part other ingredients”. However, I’m not a huge rice eater, mostly because I usually eat brown rice which is more chewy and filling than white rice. Also, one eats more rice when the dishes are very salty, spicy or have heavy gravy, but this is virtually never the case with my barebones, food-intolerance-friendly meals. I put in this bento the amount I usually eat in one meal, about three-quarters of a one-bowl sized microwavable plastic container from Daiso which is specifically meant for rice (it has an uneven surface in the bottom so that the cooked rice won’t stick).

Recently, I commented on using a box of the appropriate size. This E-Z Lock box from Lock & Lock has very handy divisions but is actually too big for a single meal for me. The large compartment is 610ml, which should contain my entire meal, including the fruit (I actually ended up the fruit much later, after I got home).

The two smaller compartments (145ml & 200ml) are good for packing other foods for a snack before or after the main meal, which is something that I often need to do as well. With the separate, water-tight compartments of this box, you don’t end up with the problem, which I described here, of the “Part 2” food rolling and spilling inside a half-empty container.

This dedicated lunchbox is also practical because it’s shallow. This allows the food to be packed tightly, right up to the lid, so that it’s held in place whilst being carted around. In this case, the food still wasn’t packed tightly enough to be held in place so I put an anti-bacterial plastic sheet between the food and the lid – more to hold the stuff in place than because I feared it would go bad :)!

Many of my Lock & Lock boxes, even though they have the appropriate volume, are too deep for the foods to be nicely laid out side by side. The solution for rice bento is to use the rice as a base and layer the side dishes on top, in the manner that Frank Tastes has done here. Deep boxes are also useful for thick sandwiches, or packing them sliced in half with the attractive cross-section face-up, like this bento, also from Frank Tastes.

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