I thought it might be useful to share some tips on how to pack Dosirak/Bento, how to prepare ingredients and tips on decorating, to my blog. I’m hesitant to call it tutorials, as I won’t include many step-by-step photo’s, but I still hope it will be useful 🙂
Some tips will be described on this page, but in many cases I will link to a specific blog post (or to another blog) where you can find more information. To find these posts on my blog easier, I have also added a category “tips & tricks”.
This will be very much a page in progress...I will add more information as I go along and learn more about creating & packing Dosirak/Bento myself.
- Selecting Dosirak/Bento box
- There are a lot of different bento boxes / lunch boxes available and they vary a lot in shape, size and practicality. It all depends on what kind of lunch you like to want to pack for yourself. If you want soup, you will need a leak proof and microwave friendly box, if you have a big appetite a traditional Japanese bento box might be too small for you. Are you disciplined enough to wash your bento box by hand? If not, dishwasher proof is better. Etcetera etcetera. So the size and shape of your box is determined by your own preferences.
- You can see my collection of Bento boxes in this post, and I have been posting more details about them throughout my blog (if you select categorie Bento Box review you can see these posts). I have also created a page with information where I buy my Bento products.
- Packing Dosirak/Bento
- Once you have selected your bento box, the next step is how to pack it.
- The goal with packing a bento is that it’s appealing to the eyes as well to your taste and well balanced in colour and ingredients.
- Try to nutritiously balance your bento, making sure that you have packed protein, carbohydrates and fruit/vegetables. My bento are usually 1/3 carbs, 1/3 protein and 1/3 veg/fruit although it doesn’t always work out that way.
- Make sure your bento is tasty. Keep in mind that most of the ingredients will be eaten several hours after packing. So make sure you include food that will taste good eaten cold or at room temperature. Vary your ingredients trying to include different textures and flavours but make sure that they all match! Fish and meat in one bento is usually not a great idea…
- Looks count! Often a bento seems to taste better when it looks attractive. Either by decorating your bento (see further) but more simply, by adding food with different colours. Especially fruit and vegetables (think carrots, purple cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, grapes, broccoli, corn etc) will add a lot of colour to your lunch!
- Pack tightly! My bento need to survive an hour long commute to my work and will get sloshed around a bit. Sometimes I use a special bento bag, but not all my lunch boxes have one, so often I just put my lunch in my handbag (my handbag is huge…) or a separate bag. Once I open my bento box at lunch time, it’s nicer if it still looks attractive. I often use silicone cupcake molds to pack ingredients, or try to wedge in small pieces of vegetables in between other ingredients to pack it all tight and neatly. Some bento boxes come with inner compartments, or you can buy food dividers as well.
- Some tightly packed lunches:
- Decorating bento. If you make bento on a daily basis for taking to work, the best rule is to keep it simple. Simple is less time consuming and easier in the long term. However, decorating bento is fun, not only if you prepare food for your children, but also if you pack lunch for yourself :-). See further for more tips on decoration.
- Health & Safety
- It is very important that you keep your bento lunch safe to eat, especially because a bento is meant to be eaten at room temperature.
- There are a few basic rules, such as: don’t use raw fish/meat unless you can keep your lunch properly cool. Try to pack only fresh or frozen rice. Reheat and cool food down properly whilst packing. Try not to over-handle food.
- I have always found the JustBento website of Maki to give very good advice on bento packing and she wrote a very detailed post on “keeping your bento lunch safe”. I would recommend reading it, you can find it here.
Ingredients for packing
- Freezing rice:
- As most of you know, I often use precooked frozen rice. Every time that I cook rice, I will cook some extra, divide that into portions and freeze.
- When I need the rice for my bento, I either take out 1 portion the night before and defrost it in the freezer, or I take out 1 portion in the morning and defrost it in the microwave. You can also find more information on freezing pre-portioned rice on the Justbento site in this post.
- You can use microwave/freezer proof foil, but I prefer to freeze the rice into micro/freezer proof containers. (The Lock & Lock bento containers are ideal for this)
- Preparing a stash: info to follow
- Making furikake:
Tips on decorating
- Using accessories: There are so many cute accessories to make your lunches cuter! Food picks, egg molds, cute bento boxes, rice shapers, soy sauce bottles and sauce containers, sandwich cutters and so on. Once again I refer to my page “where to buy Bento products) for useful links to shops, and see also below some photo’s with accessories, cute lunch boxes, food picks, sauce containers etc:
- Making an egg sheet: an egg sheet is very simple to make and can be used to create lots of decoration, like hair or facial details. There are just a few tricks to keep in mind:
- based on 3 eggs, which will yield about 2-3 egg sheets.
- whisk up 3 eggs in a bowl/container.
- mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 15 ml of water and add to the egg mixture. Mix again
- if you want to add food colour, divide the mixture into portions and add the food colouring to one portion. I use Wilton gel as I find that gives the best result.
- the next step is important!
- Strain your egg mixture (or the individual portions) through a fine meshed sieve into a new bowl. This should get rid of all the bubbles etc. Make sure you use a clean sieve for each colour to avoid mixing them up.
- Now wipe a non stick pan with some oiled kitchen towel, you just want a drop of oil not more, and place the pan on the smallest burner.
- Immediately add 1/3 off your egg egg mixture (or if you divided it in coloured portions, a portion) to the pan and cook on a very low heat until cooked. This usually takes a few minutes. Depending on the size of your pan the mixture will yield 2 or 3 egg sheets. Try to avoid spreading it out too thinly, just let it naturally spread in your pan.
- Once cooked, gently transfer the sheet to a plate or cutting board and cool down.
- I often turn the egg sheet over after cooling down as I find the bottom side looks better than the topside, but that’s up to you.
You can find more info on how I cut the egg sheet to create the hair in the “Boy & Girl” Bento in the post here.
- Carrot flowers: carrot flowers are fun and easy to make. I wrote a tutorial on it in this post.
- Nori decoration:
- Nori is used a lot for decoration. You can buy special nori punches to add face details to instantly transform your onigiri into panda’s, girls, boys or other cute characters. You can also wrap rice in nori to make body parts, or use a very simple piece of nori to wrap around your onigiri.
- There are lots of possibilities and the only tip I can give you is get some nori cutters, a sharp scissor and some tweezers and start playing around 🙂
- I made an Autumn Tree Bento which included a tutorial on how you can use nori cut outs to decorate your lunch, you can find it here.
- Making egg flowers: see this post where I made some quail egg flowers and included a small tutorial
- Using egg molds:
- Eggs are one of my favourite ingredients to use in my lunch and I often use them. They come in different shapes, often a heart, star or rabbit, car and Hello Kitty.
- Using them is very simple.
- Boil an egg.
- Whilst still warm, peel it.
- Rinse an egg mold in some water and add your boiled, peeled egg to it.
- Close the egg mold.
- Cool down by either immersing it in a bowl of cold water, or by putting it in the fridge.
- Some lunches where I used an egg mold:
- Onigiri, Onigiri (rice balls) are a fun and easy way to turn rice into cute shapes, animals and characters. You can create all kind of different onigiri shapes, either by hand, or with special onigiri forms.
- For example, here is a tutorial on how to make Onigiri Piggies
- I recently made some Onigirazu, a variation on Onigiri. More information and step by step photo’s can be found in this post.