Bentos, or boxed lunches, have a long deep history rooted in ancient Japan. They originally began as simple meals that required little or no effort to assemble. Today they are a vibrant art form popular worldwide.

This instructable will attempt to provide the basic design principles, resources for obtaining the necessary tools, and some of the traditional rules of making a beautiful and delicious bento.

Step 1: Know the rules (then break them!)

Like many other Japanese arts bento making has its own set of guidelines. Traditional bentos follow a couple of basic rules.

The 4-3-2-1 rule: 4 parts rice, 3 parts protein, 2 parts vegetable, and 1 part "treat" (Usually either pickled vegetables or something sweet.)

Sushi should be prepared with more wasabi than usual.

Pack foods with flavors that might run or stick together with a divider. Separate wet foods from dry using a nested or altogether separate container such as a cupcake form. Sauces and dressings go in their own bottles (usually with a lid or cap).

Oily foods (like gyoza) should be packaged on top of an absorbent material.

Bentos should not require refrigeration or heating.

Above all else your bento should be equally as nice to look at as nice to eat! (Note that this is the only rule that is not optional! :)
Here's my bento. I made some really ugly salmon onigiri, hardboiled some eggs, and put in some snap peas. I didn't have a cupcake form, so I cut up a coffee filter.
My favorite by far!!
Fantastic, thank you!!
Love the little wasabi face
Awesome!! Loving your Bento's.....
Loving the little bottles filled with oil and balsamic for the salad...
Wow, you are super creative. That look so amazing. Love this for a kid's lunch box!!
Wow, this is so so cool. It looks so amazing and fun to eat.
Wow. Cool.
good idea.
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where can u get the bento boxes?? thx :)
Does anyone know where I might buy ALUMINUM Bento Boxes? I remember seeing them in a camping catalog of a company that might have closed. They would be useful for small parts and survival kits.
survival bento :D
You might try Ebay for a Mr. Bento. They tend to be metal and very roomy.
ebay, online stores, specialty food stores, etc.
Or, make one:<br>http://www.instructables.com/id/Bento-Lunch-Box/<br>
http://www.happyjapan.com They also carry a lot of bento supplies too, like cutters, molds, and shapers. :)
i'm totally in love
In the last photo what is that round thing on your knife? And i love the idea of tempura'd stuff in sushi, I must try it.
Awesome instructable! I had never heard of bentos before, but now I totally want to try making one!
ive always wanted to do that. definantly putting a bento box on my christmas list. :)
also, you can get a dumpling mold/press at some grocery stores. it makes the gyoza come out with folded edges like in the picture.
Do you have a replacement for cheese? I'm lactose intolerant. D:
Nevermind.<br><br>That ginger looks A LOT like cheese.
Just as a little note- when the author says &quot;Sushi should be made with a little more wasabi than usual&quot;, it's not for taste- wasabi actually helps prevent the growth of bacteria, as does a few other pickled vegetables. :)
Lol, I got this sushi kit thingee, and it makes sushi making, like. 5 times faster.<br /> CON, it only makes squares, rectangles, triangles, hearts, and a huge circle. But no bento sized circle... :(<br />
Circles can be cut with other things other than cookie cutters or sushi kit thingees. Try small juice cans.
I'm very curious about 'naturally purple potatoes' in the last picture of the intro step. Perhaps I'm the only one, but I've never seen such things before. Where does one purchase these, and is that their actual name? xD Thanks for the short Onigiri tutorial - I think I will definitely make some of these with some nice seafood filling. Should be delicious. : )
They are available in the grocery stores and farmer's markets, though not on a regular basis like normal whiteflesh potatoes. I just came from a farmer's market today 9 July, where there were purple potatoes. The only reason I didn't buy any was that I didn't have much money. They are a dull purple on the outside, and bright purple (Like cabbage) inside. When cooked, they retain their purple color, though not as brilliant.
I am not really sure how to do this, but I am going to try and post a picture I took earlier today of a purple potato.
I have these growing in my garden! I am excited. I havent tried them before. Do they taste the same as normal potatoes?
Like I said before, they taste just about the same as normal white potatoes. The only problem with them is that they tend to be a little on the small side, and therefore more prone to exploding if overcooked. Bunching several together, and wrapping the collection in tinfoil will discourage them from popping like popcorn. Just remember, they are related to the nightshade family just like tomatoes are, so just the tubers are edible.
The one on the left is about five inches (12.7cm) long. They tend to be a little on the small side, and because of that, can explode if overbaked without tinfoil. Otherwise, they do tend to taste just about the same as a normal whiteflesh potato.
It turns out they are high in Antioxidants.<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2006/05/purple-potato-boasts-high-anthocyanin-levels.aspx">http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2006/05/purple-potato-boasts-high-anthocyanin-levels.aspx</a><br/>
Here is some more pictures of purple potatoes, including one taken just after removing them from the oven. The purple is not as intense as it is in the raw potato, but you can still see it.
Very lovely! Made me super hungry lol!
This insctucatble in increadible!! ^_^ oh and I wanted to know if there is any thing that would go perfectly with a tofu filling for an onigiri?
Incredible instructable! I've visited Narita three times before, beautiful place. I was inspired by many things in Japan, as well, and am glad to see someone bringing the bento box to us in such authentic fashion. Way to go!
ive always seen these on anime, they look really delicious.<br />
Lol... that's where I've always seen'em, but I never thought of making one until now... and yeah, they DO always look delicious. :)
&nbsp;A lot better than a simple, boring sandwich..
Design tip for onigiri: If you're having more than one onigiri in your bento box, put some furikake on one of them, leave the other one blank. COLORFUL!!! :3<br />
Nice 'tables... but step 6&nbsp; (<span class="stepTitle">Stuff to put in your bento</span>) is not called &quot;sushi&quot; but &quot;maki&quot;, sushi is only rice with the fish (or whatever you wan't to put on it) with no seewead.
That looks really yummy =].<br />
How long would it take to make one if it was your first one? These look really fun to make!
I think I love you. You are my bento hero. Your talent is out of this world. The explanation of the sushi roll alone just blows my mind. You posted a seriously outstanding instructable, here. THANK YOU! Domo arigato!

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