Dec 11, 2016

Japanese side bits for my 'bento'

I've subject the 'bento' of the title to inverted commas as I don't want people to be mislead.  The bento (Japanese 'lunch box') that I throw together pale in comparison to the efforts from some superstar homemakers that trend on social media.  Nobody will be getting hits if they somehow decided to upload an image of my lunch time efforts onto Instagram, no matter how much filter they apply.   

Essentially, I'm defrosting some pre-frozen rice (the product of a frantic Sunday evening trying to prepare the next few days' worth of lunches and dinner so that I can come home and do just about nothing after work), throwing in a bit last night's dinner, and adding the odd tomato or spear(?) of broccoli.

I do make a little effort towards making my bento more native by adding to them some traditional Japanese side dishes.  Actually, the four that I regularly go for (image above) perhaps lack the colors and shapes that one might associate with a 'cute' bento.  As is often the case with food that doesn't look particularly flashy though, they are very healthy.

You can find all of these Japanese side dishes (what they call 煮物/nimono), and more, at the deli section of probably all supermarkets in Japan.  You're looking at around 150 - 200 yen for 100 g for this kind of stuff.   Very often they come in servings of around 50 g.  Bento size!

いんげんの胡麻和え (ingen no gommae)

This is green beans in a sesame 'dressing'.  It's probably my favorite.  The taste is a familiar one, I love sesame, and the freshness of the green beans can help to loosen up the sometimes heavy feeling of the rice.  

鶏そぼろ牛蒡 (tori soboro gobou)

The tori soboro part is minced chicken.  The gobou part is maybe burdock (some kind of root vegetable).  There is some carrot and chilli in there, too.  I like that this side dish has an ever-so-slight bit of heat to it.  Helps to liven up those lunches that are in danger of being a bit bland.

ひじき煮 (hijikini)

Quite honestly this my least favorite of the four dishes here.  Actually, I don't particularly like it at all, but people tell me it's very healthy.  It certainly tastes healthy in so far as it has that very 'earthy' taste like nothing has been done to it.  Hijiki is a kind of seaweed.  There is some deep-fried tofu here, and soy beans.  I don't find the appearance particularly appealing either!  Super popular in Japan though.

ふき煮 (fukini)

Fuki on Wikipedia is referred to, delightfully, as bog rhubarb!  It's the green 'stem' in the dish below.  Overall, fukini has a kind of sweet and sour thing going on which, again, makes it a good way to cut through your oft stodgy (or dry) defrosted rice!

Anyone out there making their own bento?  I'd definitely be interested in your bento ideas.  Especially if they are easy to apply!



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.


  • kcsantosh

    on Dec 13

    Looks yummy. Do you prepare by yourself?

  • Tomuu

    on Dec 13

    @kcsantosh In so far as I go to the supermarket, buy them, open them up and add them to my bento!! Ha! Next step is to start trying to make them myself. How about you? Are you making bento?

  • kcsantosh

    on Dec 14

    @tomuu- I always buy bento near my office.