I am going out of town today so there is no bento this morning. However, there is this lovely Guest Post by Bou Shin of Shin's Vegan Lovin' who was one of the winners of my contest! She gives tons of great tips for bentoing - Thank you, Bou Shin! (I can't figure out how to turn off the underline and I have to run or I'll be late so I apologize for the massive underlining!)
15 Tips For Building A Better Bento
I'm going to let you in on a little secret - you don't need to order or buy anything from Japan to have a fantastic bento lunch! What you need to do is to decide what type of box you want and for whom.
If it's for you then it might be Tupperware - or if it's for a child it might be a Hello Kitty lunchbox that's perfect for their appetite. If you're anything like me - you're going to just buy the Hello Kitty lunchbox for yourself.
1. Identify what shape, size and type of bento that you want. If you get stuck then you can easily look up a bento size-locator and figure it out. For example, your average adult would need a 600-700 ml box, plus or minus any other factors.
Factors: If you're physically active or inactive - gender and appetite also play a role into this. Another factor is if you're into kyaraben (as I am) meaning that a smaller bento is needed for calorie-density.
2. Find a suitable box. Go to your local supermarket to look at the Tupperware and occasional Lock & Lock boxes. These are especially good if you want smaller servings and you want to look more like an adult and less like a five-year old eating from a Superman Lunchbox. Make sure that whatever you get has a nice secure top (it's okay if it doesn't, we'll solve that later).
3. If you can't find it - make it! Don't fret - you have the technology and the capability to build a better, stronger and faster bento, or at least one that's nice and sturdy. All you need is a good instructable, mineral oil, and non-toxic wood and glue to pull it together.
If you're still worried about finding the right box for you then you could try to search for some lovely French (or any other) Lacquer boxes.
4. Buy or make elastic bands. Instead of breaking out the superglue - you can easily stick a thick band of elastic onto fabric to go across the width of the box. Just leave it off until you've cleaned it and filled it.
5. Hand wash your bento box thoroughly. This way you can ensure that it doesn't get warped or damaged and it can still be used to carry your lunch correctly. Don't use too many scented products so that your box doesn't smell or taste like soap. Wood bentos need the least amount of water and cleaning time.
Additional Building Tips:If you order from any place online, be sure to try to get a scale size as well as using the millilter measure as explained on #1. There's a chance that your box could be big enough to feed a whole family or, more likely, small enough for a toddler.
Sanitary and Aesthetic Tips
1. Separate your food. For example, you could be eating a nice meal of rice and ume with a piece of jalapeno-pineapple-durian cake that you really don't want to touch anything. You can easily use muffin tins or something similar to those plastic eggs that you see in stores.
2. Want to make your bento cuter with food picks? Adding plastic picks that have little faces or stickers make a bento a lot brighter. You can make these yourself in the same way mentioned or you can check out your local craft store for mini-picks such as the ones mentioned by Martha Stewart.
3. Looking for chopsticks - but can't find nice ones that aren't wood or healthy for the environment? You can easily make your own with a or you can search for some with AllThingsForSale.
4. Keep sanitary wipes with you for yourself as well as your bento to prevent any nasty odors. Another way to help prevent this is to line your bento box with something entirely edible and fresh like thick Romaine lettuce leaves.
5. Find a bento strap for utensils or make one. Don't leave them in the bento box for sanitary reasons.
Additional Holder Tips: Be sure not to overcrowd your bento or to place your utensils inside of the box. Also be sure to look around the craft store for anything that can be used in a bento.
1. Whether or not you have little ones running around, it's best to make a large batch of your favorite food into small bits, cook it and freeze it until you're ready to prepare lunch.
2. When cooking, you don't need to have a large amount of white rice as seen in many Japanese bentos, it's best for fresh fruits and vegetables to be the majority of your meal, proteins being second. If you do happen to use a lot of white rice - I suggest mixing it with brown or black rice for a health boost.
3. Make sure that whatever you use in your bento box isn't too oily or too water-filled. The water can be drained and taken care of very easily but the oil won't be fully drained and can still seep into the bottom of your box even with protection.
4. As mentioned before - it's best to stay with local fresh fruits and vegetables (organic is even better!). The reason is not only for health - it's also for bento balance. If you put a lot of vegetables in whatever empty space you have, there is a lot less likely of a chance for your food to spill around in some gross mess.
5. Have fun with it and experiment - you don't have to stick to one type of bento or one type of food that goes into it everyday. You can use it to lose weight or to gain weight. Your bento essentially reflects you - so I hope that you'll enjoy it.
- Bou Shin of Shin's Vegan Lovin'