Traditionally a Japanese single-serve meal, usually consisting of rice, fish and vegetables, bento boxes seem to be taking the U.S. lunch scene by storm, with flavor and varieties only limited by your imagination. Some people out there are really creative and make bento boxes that look like popular cartoon characters or cute animals. I am constantly in awe of people who make these things happen. Me, I am more about flavor, portability and customization. Beyond flavor there are some practical reasons bento box-style lunches are so popular.
First off, raise your hand if you hate mushy sandwiches. I know you can’t see me but just picture that kid from school, the one who always had the answers, waving her hand in the air emphatically – me, me, me! What is the point of spending time making a sandwich – carefully stacking meat, cheese, and vegetables only to pick it up a few hours later and have your fingers sink right through the bread? Well bento boxes can help in that arena. Instead of assembling your sandwich in the morning you just pack the components for assembly while eating.
Check out this Chicken BLT Salad Bento Box , pictured above. Now in this case we have replaced the bread with crackers, but you could just as easily pack a roll or deli thin to pile all the delicious toppings on.
Or you can skip the bread all together - try a sandwich on a stick with Ham & Cheese Kabobs!
Next, who out there has picky eater kids? Okay, so I don’t have kids so I have to sit this round out, but I know plenty of parents who do. Bento boxes are a picky eater’s dream come true – none of the food touches! Everything has its own little spot, plus it is really easy to switch out tomato slices with cucumbers if that is what your child likes to eat.
Mini Taco Bento Boxes can be mixed and matched with any type of taco toppings – shredded lettuce, olives, tomatoes, shredded cabbage…the list can go on and on.
So where does one get bento boxes? There are a few options, including reusable plastic containers found at most retailers in the aisle with plastic bags and foil. Look for the ones that have 3 or 4 small compartments divided into 1 container.
You can also divide a square “sandwich” sized-container into 4 smaller compartments using muffin cups. Look for silicone muffin cups if you want less waste. Make sure everything in the box is snug to avoid unwanted mixing during transport.
Just using small size plastic containers is another way to separate out the lunch components – look for containers that are ½ cup or smaller. Small condiment cups like you get from takeout restaurants also work well to pack dipping sauces and dressings. You can also find cute little bento boxes online and in specialty retailers that have fun colors, characters, and designs. They are getting easier to come by now that the trend is growing.
Any way you pack it, bento boxes bring a little fun to the middle day meal. And who couldn’t use a little more fun in the day?