Teri’s trip to Japan 2010~Series: Gourmet in Japan: 3

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Yokohama Kiyoken’s Obento “Spring” 横浜崎陽軒お弁当「春」 ¥650 Seasoned rice, “Shumai” dumplings, grilled fish, Tempura, bamboo shoot, shrimp ball, fl owershaped carrot. http://www.kiyoken.com

Another FUN food in Japan is Obento お弁当(Bento 弁当), which is also getting popular here in the U.S.

This looks very tasty, but is not edible. These are plastic, not real food. Food replicas appear prevalently in the windows and display cases of food-serving establishments throughout Japan. The plastic models are mostly handmade and carefully sculpted to look like the actual dishes. Amazingly real-looking, unbelievably delicious looking. ¥1400 Lunch Set I will talk more about this another time…..

I had Obento several times during my last stay in Japan. Each time, it took me a while to choose from the huge selection of Obento.

Obento is a single-portion takeout or home packed meal, common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional Obento consists of rice, fi sh and/or meat, and pickled and/or cooked vegetables. Its served usually in a box-shaped container.

Sweet rice with red beans, bamboo shoots and carrots, spinach fi lled omlet, “Shumai” dumpling, fi sh balls, Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), bamboo shoot, carrot, “Konbu” kelp, fried bean curd cake.

Obento is readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, Bento shops, train stations, supermarkets and department stores.

The origin of Obento can be traced back to late Kamakura Era (1185-1333).

“Chicken Nanban Don” Japanese fried chicken with Chinese flavored sauce, porched egg, “Kinpira” burdock and carrot, sautéed Chinese spinach, green leaf lettuce over white rice

In Meiji Era (1868-1912), the first Eki Ben 駅弁 (Eki Bento 駅弁当: train station Bento) was sold. There are several records that claim where Eki Ben was first sold, but it is believed that July 16th, 1885 at Utsunomiya Station was the first on record. The first one was a very simple form, containing two Onigiri おにぎり (rice balls) and a serving of Takuan (yellow pickled Japanese radish) wrapped in bamboo leaves.

Obento is very convenient, reasonable, nutritional and even entertaining since it’s an assortment of different kinds of foods.

“Hiyashi Chuka” is a very popular summer food. Ramen noodles topped with ham, eggs, cucumber, seaweed, bean sprouts and red ginger, with sweet and tangy soy-sesame sauce.
Eaten chilled. ¥450

These days, moms and wives in Japan are passionate about making appealingly arranged Obento “Kyara Ben” キャラ弁 (Character Bento キャラクター弁当) and even hold contests to choose the best one.

Kyara Ben is a style of elaborately arranged Obento which features food decorated to look like people, characters from popular media, animals, and plants. Originally, a decorated bento was intended to interest children in their food and to encourage a wider range of eating habits.

Hello Kitty Kyara Ben The winner of Sanrio Kyaraben Contest 2010

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