Wouldn’t it be great to bring a colourful, nutritious lunch to work other than the same boring old farce of sandwiches? Japanese bento lunch boxes are an enticing piece of art that are not only visually appealing but healthy as well as super tasty. Bento’s are an everyday affair for the Japanese, they’re a convenient source of lunch for office workers and schoolchildren. There are also more elaborate forms of bento’s and seasonal one’s such as hanami bento, which are eaten in cohesion with the cherry blossom watching that takes place each spring in Japan.
The aim for me to join this class was to learn not only the art of Japanese cooking and bento but to kickstart a culinary revolution to my own lunch box that is healthy and satisfying for me. Taking the bento cooking class from Atsuko’s Kitchen, I learnt fool proof, everyday recipes and the philosophy behind the bento box.
Tools for bento
Atsuko, who guided the lesson first gave us the basic introduction to the Japanese bento and the components needed for an everyday, enticing lunch. The main rules to a good bento is to have balanced dishes in terms of nutrition, taste, colour as well as cooking methods.
The class was perfectly organised to make each of the recipes used for an everyday bento box, including:
Umesu Zuke (Ume flavoured pickled radish)
Saikyo Yaki (grilled miso marinated fish)
Tamago Yaki (rolled omelette)
Yaki bitashi (fried & marinated vegetables)
Karaage chicken / tofu
Instant miso soup
Each recipe followed the element of a balanced meal, colours and different cooking methods.
Making tamagoyaki- rolled omelette
The finished product
Learning to make tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) was an interesting and challeging dish, where layers of beaten egg is fried and rolled into an omelette log and sliced.
Ume pickled radish
Making onigiri (rice balls) were effectively made using moulds and wrapped in nori (dried seaweed).
Yaki bitashi- fried and marinated vegetables
How to pack a bento
Equally pleasing was arranging the bento box and how each dish complemented each other both in colour and taste.
My own bento box
Completed bento with onigiri, pickled radish, yaki bitashi, tamagoyki, salmon and karaage
It was such a wonderful class and the easement of each dish proved how making bento and Japanese cooking in general is not at all hard. I was so proud of my bento box, making the dishes and how they each complemented one another so well. In addition, you’re provided to take the bento box as seen in the picture and recipe cards home, so they can be recreated again at your own leisure. But the beauty of bento is that you can create your own personal style and touch to your lunch and it doesn’t necessarily mean cooking only Japanese food, as long as the dishes are balanced, colourful and tasty, making bento is an easy fare.
Atsuko’s Kitchen is located 35 Charlotte Road in East London and holds various Japanese cooking lessons. Check out their website for more: http://www.atsukoskitchen.com/.
Overall this class has inspired me to bring my work lunch to a new level and incorporate Japanese cooking into my life, as well as assessing what is good and nutritious for me.
Thank you for reading.