Bento no. 4: Portable, disposable picnic bento

bento_4_480.jpg

Bento contents:

  • 4 shiso onigiri with 1 1/2 cups brown rice (330 calories)
  • 2 ‘large’ hard boiled eggs (160 calories)
  • Mixed steamed vegetables (about 40 calories)

Total calories (approx): 530 calories

Time needed: 15-20 minutes

Type: Japanese picnic/hiking bento

The contents of this bento are really quite basic, but I wanted to show it as an example of a disposable ‘bento box’ that you can bring along when you don’t want to carry around an empty container with you after lunch. It re-emphasizes the point that I’ve made before, that you do not necessarily need a special ‘bento box’ to make bento. This is one I made for a hike we went on earlier this year, when I didn’t want to have a rattling empty box in my backpack all afternoon, or utensils either.

The ‘box’ in this case is a half-dozen egg carton. The little onigiri fit snugly in 4 of the compartments, and the eggs in the other two. The crumpled foil you see contains a twist of salt. You could also bring along a foil packet of mayonnaise or salad dressing if you wanted something to dip the vegetables in. (I love fresh steamed vegetables so I didn’t bring any dip here.) The mixed vegetables could be anything in season - since this was in the summer I had a huge bag of green beans, so I steamed some with a few carrot sticks thrown in. Everything can be eaten with your hands. (Bring along some wipes or a moist towel if you won’t be able to wash up.)

onigiri_shiso2.jpgThe onigiri are wrapped in fresh, salted shiso leaves, and have no filling. Use nori or another wrapping of your choice (see Onigiri on Parade for ideas) if you don’t have shiso. This is also for the people who don’t like nori seaweed as a wrapper! I love shiso leaves as onigiri wrappers, because they taste so fresh and green. They are also full of all kinds of good vitamins and things. Since this was made for a hike and I knew I needed extra energy, so I used a little more rice (1.5 cups) than I usually do. (I also brought along a couple of bananas and a bag of almonds for snacking.)

I cheated here with the eggs - they are ready-boiled ‘picnic eggs’ (Picknick-Eier), sold at every Swiss supermarket, dyed to fit whatever holiday is coming up (the ones in the photo are dyed red and marked with a white cross for Swiss National Day). I’ve included the time for boiling the eggs in the instructions and timeline however. You can boil your eggs the night before. (I would not boil eggs earlier than that, especially if you are in the U.S. where they wash the eggshells and remove the natural protective coating.)

A similar bento could be assembled in the winter with, say, broccoli and cauliflower florets that have been steamed. You could fill up a dozen-egg carton with little onigiri for a party or a group picnic. (Or why not a potluck-bento gathering?)

On an environmentally-friendly note, you can smush down the carton with all the other bits inside, and carry it home to dispose of there, instead of throwing it away at your picnic destination. It’ll still be compact and silent in your backpack.

Ingredients

Per person (double the amount for two)

  • 2 ‘large’ eggs
  • 1.5 cups (375ml) cooked brown rice from the freezer
  • 4 large shiso leaves
  • Salt
  • Mixed fresh vegetables

Equipment and supplies

  • A small 1/4-cup or so bowl or measuring cup
  • Steamer, or steamer rack
  • 1 small pan for the eggs
  • 1 large pan if necessary for the steamer
  • Plastic wrap
  • Ziplock bag
  • An empty (and clean!) 1/2-dozen egg carton
  • A tiny piece of aluminum foil

Steps

  1. Fill the electric water kettle and switch on.
  2. Put the eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Switch on the heat. (If you want to be sure the yolk will remain in the center, roll the eggs around a bit while they come to a boil.) If you can, set a timer for 10 minutes. (See Elise’s great directions for perfect hard-boiled eggs.)
  3. Prep the vegetables you will be using.
  4. Put some boiled water in the pan you use under your steamer, and pile in the vegetables into the steamer. Let steam for about 5 minutes or so, depending on what vegetables you are using.
  5. Wash the shiso leaves. Sprinkle them with salt (the amount depends on you, but you should salt well since the onigiri have no filling). Lightly massage the shiso to wilt them a bit.
  6. Divide the rice into 4 portions and make them according according to these instructions using plastic wrap, but no salt. Wrap each onigiri with a shiso leaf, then wrap in plastic wrap. Pack into the egg carton (you may have to squeeze them slightly).
  7. Take the vegetables out of the steamer, and let cool a bit.
  8. When the 10 minutes are up, drain the eggs, and cool them under cold running water until they have cooled down. Wipe and put into the egg carton.
  9. Put the vegetables into a zip bag.
  10. Make a ‘salt shaker’ by putting a small amount of salt in a square of foil, and twisting it closed. To sprinkle just open it up a bit.

Timeline

bento_4_450_timeline.png

(click on timeline to see a bigger version)

As you can see, you can save most of the time required by making the eggs and vegetables the night before. You can even make the onigiri the night before too, since the shiso and plastic keep it quite moist Then all you have to do is pack and go!

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

12 comments

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Nice container!!!

Ooh, I love your use of an egg carton as disposable bento box! Very inventive and frugal.

Biggie @ Lunch in a Box

great new how-to bento website!

I'm *so* happy to see your new Bento website! Ever since CookingCute went dormant, I've been at a bit of a loss for inspiring/simple bento suggestions.

I especially love that you're focusing on health aspects (i.e. weight loss) - I've thought for a long time that Bento-ing would be a great way to lose weight since even the decadent snacks are, of necessity, included in very small quantities (especially if you get the decorative-but-tiny bento boxes).

A request - can you keep including recipes for bento fillers that are delicious when eaten cold? I want to move away from using the microwave (and some of the nicest bento boxes aren't microwaveable, anyway).

cold bento

I’ll post all kinds of bento, including cold ones (and the ones I’ve posted so far are very tasty at room temperature)

And for great bento ideas, be sure to check out Lunch in a Box - coincidentally Biggie (the owner) has commented just about you and linked to it!

tasty :)

I reaaaaally like the idea of using an egg carton as a disposable box. I would have never thought of that myself. Well done! :)

Lesley @ digitally-dreaming

egg carton

To be honest I don’t think I would have thought of using an egg carton, if the one I used here wasn’t so blue and cute! (It’s one from Coop, one of our local supermarkets) I try to find cuteness on the cheap ^_^

cold bento in cold winter?

It’s alright eating “room temperature” bento on normal days, but as the weather turns colder now, my son doesn’t like the taste of the now-much- colder-food-by-noon. And he hates carrying the thermos cos’ it’s heavy alongside his already heavy school bag and somehow the food turns rather soggy. (hee, I make him do it anyway) The only room temperature stuff he’ll eat now are onigiris and he’s getting bored. So am I, it’s rather limited what I can fit in a round thermos. Any other suggestions?? The school doesn’t allow the children to use the microwave.

By the way, do u know why I can’t access Lunch in a Box website? I am in Shanghai, China.

Wish they have such “cute” egg cartons here. Would surely brighten up my son’s day ! Maybe I should paint the grey ones here to make it more coloreful :) Thanks for the great idea. !

ideas

To keep your son’s bento a bit warmer, you might try packing it with a heat pack (the kind that hikers carry to keep warm) - it will keep the bento a bit warm. You might want to look at the Onigiri on parade article for different types of onigiri.

I don’t know why you can’t access Lunch in a box….could be that their host got on a blacklist somehow with your government (I’ve read that that can happen sometimes)..

Digging the timeline

Congrats on your new site, it’s a great idea. I haven’t waded into making Bento lunches (haven’t ever even made Japanese type rice) yet, but I’m getting inspired. I’m writing to tell you that I totally appreciate the timeline graphic! I’m also a fan of Cooking for Engineers, so you see where I’m coming from. :-)

By the way, aren’t these cardboard egg cartons compostable? I believe they are in my area in Aargau.

egg cartons

Yes they sure are compostable. We either put them in our compost pile, or (if they are clean) bring them to our local farmshop so they can use them again. (Or, we send them to our Japanese relatives who find them awfully cute. I am not kidding.)

Picnic Ideas

Hey,

Cool idea. I would have never thought of that. I can’t wait to test it out.

If you are looking for some more picnic recipe ideas. Check out this site Picnic Recipe Ideas.

That is a great idea, but do

That is a great idea, but do becareful of the salmonella transfer from the eggs!

Re: Bento no. 4: Portable, disposable picnic bento

A few times a year my daughters go on field trips and need to bring a 100% disposable lunch. You can bet I'll be using this idea!

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