A bento box is an all-in-one compartmentalized Japanese lunch box containing a balanced meal. This meal typically consists of a starch (like rice or noodles) and protein, a vegetable, and fruit side.
The bento box originated in Japan in the fifth century, and it has become increasingly popular around the world in recent years because it allows for customization and creativity with food while also making for easy but attractive presentations.
Those presentations can be fairly elaborate, including precise placement of select items in the lunchbox’s divided compartments as well as intricate and decorative cuts of vegetables, fruit and protein. Surimi, rice balls and other malleable ingredients often are shaped into cute animals or beloved cartoon characters with garnishes including seaweed, sesame seeds, food coloring, or whatever else an operator feels like getting playful with.
Market research firm Datassential reports that bento boxes are found on 1% of menus, up by 14% over the past four years.
Click through the gallery to learn more about this Flavor of the Week and see how one restaurant is using it on its menu.