4 Popular Types of Bento Boxes Found in Japan
Bento boxes are one of Japan’s unique items that make fantastic souvenirs for friends and family. You can expect to find them at department stores and shopping streets. The following are typical types of bento boxes commonly found in the country.
Plastic is the most popular material for modern bento boxes. Plastic boxes are available in countless designs and colors. They are inexpensive, lightweight and many are microwavable. Most feature a hinged lid, making them leak proof for a moderate amount of liquids. On the other hand, they have some disadvantages, such as it being hard to remove grease, stains and food smells, and them being less durable.
In Japan, there are plastic lunch boxes made especially for kids where careful attention is given to every single detail, from cute colors and illustrations to an easy-open latch. Many are free from harmful chemicals like BPA. After a busy day, you will be happy to know that they can be cleaned in a dishwasher. Plastic boxes are a good place to start if you plan to pack lunch for your children.
Bentwood bento boxes are a traditional handcraft of Japan. They look high-end, sophisticated and are definitely more expensive than other options, but they make up for cost with great functionality. They can absorb any excess moisture from rice, keeping the rice tasting delicious even when it’s cold. They also help prevent rice from going bad in summer and keep it from hardening in winter. Moreover, you will be able to enjoy a wonderful aroma from the wood. However, coated bentwood boxes may not have all mentioned features.
These traditional bento boxes do need extra care, such as careful washing by hand and letting them completely dry before the next use. However, with proper care they are very long-lasting.
Aluminum bento boxes feature a minimalist look with a nostalgic feel. They used to be popular but somehow lost favor. They are sturdy, and it’s easy to remove grease and smells. On the downside, they do have few variations and designs, and many come with only one compartment. Some of them are fairly easy to accidentally open. So it’s best to carry them in a lunch bag or wrap in a square cloth called “furoshiki” to prevent them from accidentally opening and spilling.
People who have used an aluminum bento box before might have experienced rice sticking to the surface, which can be hard to scrape off with chopsticks. This can be prevented by forming the rice into rice balls.
In several Asian countries, such as India and Thailand, people are used to carrying bento boxes called “dabba”. Dabbas usually come in a cylinder shape with 3 to 5 equally sized compartments stacking on top of each other, with a lid held firmly by a tension clip for a tight, secure seal. Most are made of stainless steel. Consequently, they are robust, resistant to smells and stains, and simple to wash. While dabbas are bulky and can be pretty heavy for children to carry with their already overstuffed backpack, they have tiers to hold a variety of foods, making them perfect for picnics or for sharing.
Recently, dabbas have spread to Japan and can be found in major department stores.
Note: Most Japanese bento boxes are not microwave safe, since the typical Japanese bento is meant to be eaten at room temperature.