Monday, 21 January 2013


Japanese people take great pride in preparing bento for their families. Many Japanese mothers get up quite early in the morning to make bento. They put a lot of effort and time into creating a bento that is nutritionally balanced, tastes great and looks appealing. In Japan, the appearance of the food is just as important as the taste! Generally, the bento will have rice, fish or meat and some kind of vegetable or fruit. Since the bento box is divided into different compartments various dishes can be stored in the box together.

It is surprising how quickly you can become immersed in this bento culture. When I lived in Japan the thoughts of bringing my bento to work every day seemed like a chore but it didn't take long before I was looking forward to making my bento every night.

Here is a bento that I made for my family at the weekend. It is served in a bento box used by Japanese restaurants and can be used to serve a Japanese meal at home. I bought this online from Amazon! The bento box used for work/ school lunches is smaller and more compact.


1. Japanese rice - click here to see my post on how to cook Japanese rice. You can use any type of rice of this meal.

2. Japanese style pan fried cod fillet 
1 tbsp vegetable oil or rapeseed oil (for frying)
Cod fillet
2 tbsp sake
Pinch of salt
Thumb size piece of ginger root (peeled and finely grated) 
2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce

Marinate the cod in sake and salt. Leave for about 10 minutes before frying.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium to high heat. 
Place the cod on the pan and seal one side by frying for a minute or so. Then turn the cod over and seal the other side. 
Reduce the heat and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or less. 
Mix the ginger and soy sauce together in a small bowl and then pour over the fish when ready to eat. 

3. Japanese style stir fried spinach/pak choi with beansprouts
1 tbsp vegetable oil or rapeseed oil (for frying)
2 large garlic cloves (peeled and finely grated)
Thumbsize piece of ginger (peeled and finely grated)
200g Spinach/ Pak choi
200g Beansprouts

Seasoning (mix all in a bowl together):
2 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
2 tsp caster sugar

Roasted sesame seeds (optional to garnish)

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan on medium to high heat. 
Add the garlic and fry for about 10 seconds. The quickly add the ginger and fry for another 10 seconds.
Toss in the beansprouts and stir. 
After less than one minute add the spinach. 
Pour the seasoning evenly over the vegetables. 
Fry for a few minutes until the seasoning has absorbed into the vegetables.
When ready to serve sprinkle roasted sesame seeds over the vegetables. 

4. Sliced melon and mango sprinkled with pomegranate (Japanese people often eat fruit as dessert)
Honeydew melon 
Handful of pomegranate seeds

Peel and cut the chilled melon and mango into small bite size cubes.
Toss a handful of pomegranate seeds over the fruit salad.

How to eat:
Bento goes well with miso soup if you're eating it at home or in a restaurant.

Pack a smaller version of this bento into a lunch box by using cupcake cases or tinfoil to separate the dishes.
Be adventurous by swapping the dishes in this bento with your favourite Japanese dishes.

Why not:
You can get takeaway bentos in a few places in Dublin including Kokoro on Lower Liffey Street in Dublin
Musashi noodle and sushi bar and Michie sushi in Dublin, Ireland have a reasonably priced bento lunch deal 

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