Bento tidbits from Japan: Kiyoken Hotate Gohan (scallop rice) Bento, a higher end takeout bento
I'm busy getting ready for the photo shoot for the bento cookbook, which starts next week, so I don't have a lot of time for long posts at the moment. So I thought I'd do a brief write up of this bento I had for lunch today. It's a good example of a higher-end takeout bento, of the kind you might buy in the food hall of a department store, at specialized stores or stalls in the bigger train stations, and so on. They are of a much better class of bento than supermarket bentos or combini bentos. They are also more expensive of course - the one here is 1,000 yen, compared to the 400-600 yen you might spend for a supermarket or combini bento.
This bento is from a famous Yokohama establishment called Kiyoken, spelled in kanji 崎陽軒 (Japanese only website). Their primary claim to fame is shumai/siumai dumplings, but they also make other foods, including bentos. Kiyoken bentos and shumai dumpling gift sets are available in some department store food halls (I got mine in the fabulous food hall of the Yokohama Takashimaya department store, of which I'll have a lot more at a later time), as well as several major train stations in the Tokyo/Kanto region, including Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Shin Yokohama and of course Yokohama stations.
The hexagonal bento box is held together with a gold elastic band. The box is made of microwaveable polyurethane type material that is printed with fake wood grain. (I guess real wood is too expensive these days...) The lid is printed with the name of the bento (Hotate Gohan Bento) and the Kiyoken name/logo.
So let's open up the box...
The contents are protected by a thin plastic sheet that is stuck onto the rim of the lid. Chopsticks and a smal otefuki (moistened napkin) are included.
In the leftside top section are: Two of Kiyoken's famous shumai dumplings, a piece of salted salmon, some kind of sesame-flavored side dish with crabstick (surimi), a small soy sauce bottle and a mustard packet for the shumai. In the rightside top section: A tiny pink gyuuhi maki (mochi dumpling filled with sweet azuki paste), a whole fried shrimp, a steamed satoimo (taro root) with miso, stewed carrot (cut into a flower shape of course), shiitake mushroom, konnyaku and whole scallop, and a small tamagoyaki. In the center compartment is a shrimp mixture wrapped and steamed in a yuba (a type of slightly chewy tofu skin). And in the big compartment is some steamed sweet or mochi rice that was redolent with the flavor of scallops, the star of this bento.
The bento was absolutely delicious, and well worth the 1,000 yen price. Here's a closeup of the shumai:
The tiny dessert dumpling perfectly formed, soft and sweet without being cloying.
When you consider the price of eating lunch in any major city, 1,000 yen doesn't really seem that high to me - what do you think?
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