Bento Boxes

I recently decided that I would start making my wife a bento box to take to work. After watching videos online I thought I could give them a go. I’ll start with a brief history of the bento box.

Bento Box

Bento boxes can be traced back to the 12th century during the Kamakura period. They carried cooked or dried rice called hosh-ii.

By the 16th century wooden lacquered boxes were produced and bento would be eaten during hana I or a tea party.

During the Edo period (1603-1867) The Bento culture had spread and become more refined. People would carry Kashibento (waist bento). This would normally contain onigiri (rice balls) wrapped in Bamboo leaves. Also during the period one of the most popular styles of bento was first made called Makunouchi bento (“between act bento”). People had them specially prepared to eat between acts of Noh and Kabuk.


In the Meiji period (1868-1912) The first Ekibento train station bento was sold. The first reported bento was sold on 16th July 1885 at Utsunomiya Station. Also as early schools did not provide lunch, many kids and teachers carried Bento.

In the Taisho period (1912-1926) The aluminium bento box became a luxury item. Due to social issues, Disparities of wealth during WW1 and the use of uniform food for all teachers and students bento use declined.

Bento’s regained popularity in the 1980’s with the help of the microwave and convenience. You can pick up Bento’s from a lot of train station platforms.

My first Bento.

This is my version of a Bento Box I made for my wife and her tastes. I made a very simple one soy sauce, and a garlic and ginger chicken breast. Some couscous, a hard boiled and egg and cucumber Slices. Best bento boxes contain pickles but I know my wife hates them so I subbed in the cucumber.

For the Chicken I used. Half a chicken breast, 1tbsp of dark soy sauce, 1tsp crushed garlic, 1tsp of ginger and cooked it in a 180 oven for 25 minutes. I cooked the boiled egg for 11 minutes. I think next time I will go for only ten minutes as I want the egg yok to still be a little runny.

I will try and flavour the couscous myself as this time I used a pre made one. I did this so I could check portion sizes. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll try different types of Bento boxes. I will play around with rice, noodles and pasta as the base of the bento. I hope you enjoyed this brief history of the bento box. Do you think I bento box stall would work here in England? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Cooking and Happy eating everybody.

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