Bento is a single-portion packaged meal that can either be made at home or purchased from a take-out location, similar to a lunch box. Typically, people associate bento with Japanese cuisine and culture. Bento boxes traditionally hold well-portioned and well-balanced meals of noodles or rice, meat or fish, and vegetables.
Those who create bento boxes sometimes arrange the food elaborately in aesthetically pleasing designs that can represent popular anime, video game and comic book characters in the “kyaraben” or “character bento” style. Or, sometimes the food is decorated to resemble buildings or monuments, animals, people, flowers, plants, etc. in the “oekakiben” or “picture bento” style.
While the term “bento” doesn’t necessarily indicate that the food will look any particular fashion, it is worth noting that these types of arrangements are popular in bento culture.
The term “bento” means “convenience” and comes from a Southern Song slang term, biàndāng. The term has been used for the food since the 13th century and for the container since the 16th century. Bento boxes are containers that hold packaged meals that can come in disposable containers or even lacquerware. Bento is typically sold in Japanese convenience stores, department stores, bento stores and even railway stations. While the term bento most often refers to the Japanese version, other Asian countries, like Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and India, all have their own versions.
Bento’s origins date all the way back to the Kamakura period in the 1100s as hoshi-ii, or “dried meal.” It took the form of dried, cooked rice that could be a meal as it was or, when boiled, turned into fresh rice. Bento culture eventually spread in the Edo period, and around this time, makuno-uchi bento, a popular style of bento, was first introduced. In later years, bento saw a decline, but once again regained popularity in the 1980s with the uprise of microwaves and convenience stores.
During the Taishō period, aluminum bento boxes were luxurious items as a result of their ease to clean, but in this time, bento became somewhat of a social problem because it was a reflection of a student’s wealth. Bento was generally reflective of how well-off a student’s family was, but after the Second World War, the practice of carrying bento for school dwindled as schools began to provide food for both teachers and students.
A bento box is used to keep a portable meal in a container that is easy to take with you to work or school. Typically, bento boxes have either built-in dividers or added dividers for keeping different types of food separate.
Like your typical leftover container, bento boxes generally come with two parts that snap together to hold your pre-portioned meal. Some boxes will include containers for sauces or even reusable utensils.
Bento boxes are typically available at food markets as well as online.
For those who are interested in starting to prepare bento boxes, or are just looking for a new bento box to replace an old one, you may want to know how we reviewed these products.
We believe that it is important to provide you with accurate and honest information to help you find a new bento box. First, we begin by researching each product down to the minutest details. Then, we compare the findings in order to help you find the best bento box for you. Last, we take a look at user ratings for all of the products in order to gain a clear and well-balanced view of the boxes.
The Takenaka brand is known for its vibrantly colored bento boxes. This high-quality box contains two separate compartments and includes a built-in fork, helping to make the Expanded Double Bento Box by Takenaka the simple product that you need it to be.
Whether you’re packing a snack, salad, sandwich or a full-blown oekakiben meal, the Takenaka bento box has you covered. The included divider is also moveable so that you can partition your meals. Additionally, this model of bento box is BPA-free as well as dishwasher and microwave-safe.
The MERCIER Leak Proof Premium Bento Lunch Box with Cutlery Set from Mercier Kitchen has a minimalist design that blends functionality with pleasing aesthetics. The dual-layer bento box is also leak-proof and air-tight, which means what you put in, stays in, and stays fresh for longer.
True to the bento tradition, this box can fit in your backpack or purse for easy portability. This box is also microwave-safe, BPA-free, and dishwasher-safe, and it comes with two compartments that you are able to stack with an included set of utensils.
The Green Lunch Bento Stainless Steel 3-in-1 Bento Lunch Box is a simple bento-style box with a green side to it. It is the self-proclaimed “largest bento box available,” and can fit over six full cups in its two containers.
A smaller container can be nested inside for sauces and dressing. Additionally, this box is backed by a lifetime warranty, so you can be sure you’re purchasing a quality bento box made from 100% durable stainless steel that won’t corrode or rust.
These bento boxes from AOOSY come with two different compartments for food storage, and the entire bento box is made from real wood. The box also comes in a round shape as well as the more traditional rectangular shape.
There are two wooden utensils that are included with this bento box as well. Because of the natural wood construction, the AOOSY bento box is eco-friendly and has a beautiful mosaic coloring while also being durable. This bento box does not contain phthalates, PVC or BPA.
Additionally, it includes a wooden partition to keep food separated while it is inside your bento box; however, the wooden partition can be moved and even removed if you would like to use the space provided by the entire box.
If you are interested in learning how to prepare bento of any kind, whether it be kyaraben, oekakiben, or simply a preparation of well-proportioned food, the purchase of a bento box may be a step in the right direction. If you decide to purchase one of the bento boxes that you have found on this list or if you go with one that you have found of your own accord, following these simple tips can help you to find the best bento box for you.
Set a budget for yourself. While bento boxes typically won’t break the bank, setting a maximum price that you are comfortable paying for the box will begin to narrow your choices to find the best bento box. It can also help you to prevent buyer’s remorse from spending too much on the product if you decide that bento isn’t for you after you have bought the box.
Find boxes that have designs and features that you like. If you are looking for boxes that have internal storage for dressings and sauces, look for those that include it. The same goes for internal partitions and box construction. There are many different types of bento boxes available made from different materials.
Finally, review what customers who have already purchased the bento box have to say about it. Taking the time to review the opinions of others can help you to decide on a final decision as well as obtain a clear and well-rounded view of the box before you buy it. Additionally, it should be noted to stay away from bento boxes that have received low user ratings. This is usually a good indicator of a low-quality product.
After a thorough review, we believe that the AOOSY Bento Box, Green Lunch Bento Stainless Steel 3-in-1 Bento Lunch Box, MERCIER Leak Proof Premium Bento Lunch Box with Cutlery Set, and Expanded Double Bento Box by Takenaka are the best bento boxes that are currently available.
No matter what you are looking for in your next bento box, you are sure to find something to your liking in one of these boxes. If you need the inclusion of utensils with your box, there are models that include them as well as models that include internal storage for dressing or sauce.
The AOOSY Bento box has the appeal of a traditional bento box with a very pleasing aesthetic design, but requires a little more care than some of the plastic bento boxes on the list. For a step in a different direction, the Green Lunch Bento Stainless Steel 3-in-1 is very easy to take care of and feels more like a modern bento box than AOOSY’s interpretation.
This is not to say that the MERCIER and Takenaka boxes aren’t also excellent choices, because they are, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, the best advice to give is to simply enjoy the preparation of your bento, no matter the container that you put it in.