Bento Basics: A Very Simple Guide to Make Stunning Lunchbox Recipes

Bento Basics: A Very Simple Guide to Make Stunning Lunchbox Recipes

Plus, four recipes to try, including juicy chicken kimbap, fresh Vietnamese summer rolls, shrimp sambal fried rice and more

What first strikes you in a bento box is not how good it is, but how good it looks. That's because the art of making a bento box, or Japanese lunchbox is all about the assembling - specifically, of colour, texture and also, taste. In Japan, where the culture originates - almost 5 billion bento boxes are made at home annually - with parents usually fussing over how to make rice, vegetables, and meat look enticing for picky kids. Well, look below for a simple guide to making your own bento by one of Singapore's leading bento box artists. And, try out four recipes from chicken kimbap to vietnamese summer rice rolls that fit snugly in your lunchbox. 

First, follow this guide to bento basics

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With the help of edible cut-outs, bento mealbox artist Michelle Lim makes Asia's traditional sweet apom balik pancakes look like a beary cute bear. There's colours to beautify too, using natural food colourings of red beetroot and blue butterfly pea flower, watch and learn how to dye your food creatively. This time, it's to make a sweet corn and roasted peanut pancake. The cute shapes and vivid colours will make eating even more fun, especially if you've got a picky eater at home. 

Next, some lunchbox recipes to try

These recipes might look intimidating with its long list of ingredients and preparation - but look closer and you'll find it's mostly slice and dice with an assortments of veggies (very healthy!). It's a good way to use up leftovers too. Extra rice from yesterday's dinner can be whipped up into fried rice in a shrimp sambal rice box, or rolled into a seaweed chicken kimbap. The more time-consuming part though, is turning ordinary ingredients into art. You'll soon be turning a carrot into a flower, a bed of lettuce into a gorgeous backdrop, and a lot more cute shapes. 

1. Chicken Kimbap Bento

The kimbap of Korea really is an all-in-one meal of its own with rice, meat and veg that you assemble, more than cook. Here, bento artist Michelle Lim uses chicken as the main meat, paired snug with crunchy carrots and cold cucumber all squeezed into a sheet of seaweed-wrapped sushi rice. There’s quite a bit of preparation to do, starting with marinating the chicken fillets the day before. But it’s nothing messy and once done, very easy to pack for anywhere. You can substitute chicken for any meat you like, including the very popular beef bulgogi option.

2. Shrimp Sambal Fried Rice Bento

The essence of this Malay style fried rice lies in its flavourful base - an authentic Asian taste packed with the spice paste of chilli, belacan, lemongrass, garlic and shallot. The sweet side comes from bursting corn kernels and joyfully juicy edamame beans that lighten and brighten this recipe. It’s one of bento cook and artist Michelle Lim’s delicious creations that’s perfect for days when you’re out and about. 

3. Stuffed Tofu Bento with Roasted Sesame Sauce 

If you’re looking for something protein-packed but not too heavy, this twin tofu bento by mealbox artist Michelle Lim is your go-to. It serves as a healthy and tasty entree for a light meal or mid-day snack, with two fried tofu “sandwiches” silt and stuffed with carrots and cucumber. Because of tofu’s plain taste, it allows other flavours to break through, such as the sweet and smoky taste of roasted sesame sauce.  

4. Vietnamese Summer Salad Rice Rolls Bento

In hot summer days, bite on a gorgeously healthy salad roll. Tucked with flavourful fresh veggies like carrot, beetroot and purple cabbage, these Vietnamese inspired rice rolls are simple to make, clean to eat and neat to pack. In between the crunch of veggies, fruity mango, creamy avocado and a blister of cherry tomatoes gives volume of flavour to this light finger-fare made with big visual appeal by bento artist Michelle Lim.

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