Cooking School

How to build Japanese lunch boxes

©iStockphoto.com/jreika Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/jreika Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

How to build Japanese lunch boxes

When the expression "good things come in small packages" was coined, they might have had these Japanese lunch boxes in mind. Whether it's filled with creatively shaped food for the kids or delicious Asian fare for yourself, these compact little lunch boxes pack a lot of flavour and nutrition into a conveniently tiny space.

What is a Japanese lunch box?
Also known as bento boxes, Japanese lunch boxes are a balanced and visually appealing meal arranged compactly into a small container. In Japan, the boxes are split into compartments and traditionally filled with an assortment of rice, pickled vegetables and a serving of meat or fish. The meal is constructed to include five different colours, not only making it attractive, but also ensuring you get a wide mix of fruits and veggies for more nutritional value.

If you're not a fan of the traditional Japanese fare don't fret. You can create your own Japanese lunch boxes with a wide variety of ingredients. Our Test Kitchen suggests including tofu, cooked chicken, beef or egg as substitutes to sushi. Try out some of their favourite delicious recipes below in your own lunch. Each dish is safe to be eaten cold or at room temperature.

4 reasons to love Japanese lunch boxes:

1. Reduces waste: Because these light-weight lunches are packed in reusable containers, they reduce extra waste, such as plastic bags and disposable containers that aren't as environmentally friendly.

2. Cut calories:
When packed properly, Japanese lunch boxes can be a great form of portion control. A 600ml container, if packed tightly with one part protein, two parts fruits and veggies, and three parts carbs, would be the equivalent of a healthy 600 calorie meal.

3. Saves money:
Eating lunches out may be tasty, but it's also costly if done every day. By purchasing fresh groceries to pack a bento-style lunch you not only cut calories, but cost as well.

4. Kid friendly:
Japanese lunch boxes are a fantastic way to make sure your little one is getting a balanced mid-day meal. But by taking the extra time to get creative with with the presentation -- perhaps a cuddly panda made from a rice ball or a bunny shaped sandwich -- you may also encourage more adventurous dining habits in a picky eater.

Page 1 of 2 -- For delicious recipes to pack your lunch box with head to page 2
Delicious recipes for your Japanese lunch box


      
   
Mushroom Maki Rolls
Serve these vegetarian rolls with pickled ginger and sushi soy sauce, which is milder and sweeter than regular soy sauce. In a pinch, use sodium-reduced soy sauce.



      
   
Soba Noodles with Pea Shoots and Shiitakes
This makes a great vegetarian main course salad or side dish served with grilled meat. Since pea shoots are not as tender as pea tendrils, they are cooked before eating.



 
Crispy Tofu With Two Sauces
Use the remaining ginger-flavoured oil to stir-fry sliced red peppers and snow peas for a colourful, tasty side dish.


     
   
Vegetarian Salad Rolls
Prepare these delicious, fresh and light rolls ahead of time so you won't feel rushed at party time. In the related video, The Test Kitchen's own Annabelle Waugh shows you how to make rice paper spring rolls.



      
   
Green Beans with Toasted Sesame Sauce
This crisp and nutty salad makes a terrific part of the bento box. Look for toasted (not raw) sesame seeds in the sushi or Asian section of the grocery store.



      
   
Crunchy Asian Green Salad
Prepared with an assortment of delicious crisp veggies, this salad makes for a fabulous addition to any meal. Try serving it with Spinach Miso Soup for an added kick.



      
   


Peanut Mandarin Salad
Colourful and crunchy, this flavourful salad gets its Asian influence from the ginger soy dressing and crispy fried noodles.



      

   
Pan-Fried Tofu with Asian Garlic Sauce
Gingerroot and soy sauce add a bit of kick to this tasty tofu dish.





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