Japanese cooking styles continue to grow in popularity – the UK Sushi industry is now worth £56 million annually – but is it possible that Bento might give Sushi a run for its money?
We predict that Bento – Japan’s famously beautiful, compartmental lunch box meal, is poised to take centre-stage in the UK casual dining industry in 2017.
In a new series of blogs for 2017 we’re bringing food operators the latest trends for the on-the-go food market. From Acai bowls and Poke, to Bao burgers and rolled ice-cream – we’ll be taking a close look at the must-have dishes essential for any 2017 take-out menu; and we’ll be exploring why these dishes have risen to popularity so quickly.
A compact, well balanced lunch box, filled with individual servings of rice, pickled vegetables and fish (or meat) – Bento is both good for you and good to look at.
Research from trend analyst Horizons, says that the number of pan-Asian dishes listed by branded restaurants has risen 9 per cent in the last three years. The results also come in light of an 18 per cent growth in the UK of Chinese, Thai and Japanese restaurants in the last five years, it said.
Bento boxes have long been a part of the Japanese lifestyle. The earliest uses of these partitioned boxes can be evidenced in the Kamkura Period (ending in 1333) – they were widely used for serving food at festivals and parties, but later used in Japan for packing meals for travelling.
Historically Bento was simple and consisted largely of hand-pressed rice balls known as onigiri. As Bento spread across the globe – new, inventive combinations have evolved, and presentation has become some-what a work of art.
Four great places where you can get a Bento box are: Oliver Maki (Dean Street, London), Soya (Eden Street, Kingston), Bento Café (Parkway, Camden) and world famous fine dining restaurant Nobu (multiple sites, London).
Bento boxes at Nobu include a Classic, Deluxe, Children’s and Vegetarian option. The Deluxe Bento box contains a Toro Sashimi Salad with Yuzu Miso, Langoustine Tempura with Ama Ponzu, Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Teriyaki, Oshinko, Scallop Spicy Garlic with Rice, Assorted Sushi and Miso Soup.
In Japan it’s popular for mums to spend time creating artistic-looking Bento boxes for their children. Kyaraben (meaning character lunchboxes) – are made from rice balls, sushi, salad and fruit and shaped into cartoon characters like Hello Kitty or SpongeBob SquarePants, or animals.
Extreme lunchbox artistry is employed by mums looking to get their children enjoying a nutritious lunch. Because not only is Bento a practical lunch on-the go that’s appealing to look at – it’s also a healthy option.
Good health and staying trim is a top priority in Japan (only 3.6 per cent of Japanese have a body mass index (BMI) over 30, which is the international standard for obesity) and the contents of a traditional Bento box reflects this. A variety of food types in small portions create a nutritionally balanced, low calorific lunch.
Multi-compartment Bento boxes come in many different shapes and sizes – they can be made from plastics, wood, metal and other materials. But the two things remain the same – the packaging must keep the food separated so that the ingredients retain their own identity and flavours – and the packaging must allow the Bento to be carried around and eaten away from home.
A 5-compartment black plastic tray, from supplier Anson, fits perfectly into the disposable Bento box. The box has a hinged lid and a large, clear viewing window – which means that the artistic presentation often involved in Bento can be fully appreciated by customers.
Why not present your Bento box with a disposable napkin and a chork (a chopsticks and fork hybrid – with fork at one end and chopsticks on the other) – the perfect Bento box experience – and all available form Bunzl Catering Supplies.
To find out more about our Bento boxes and other pan-Asian packaging options, please contact your local branch today.
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