The bento box concept comes straight from Japan. The idea is simple: a easy-to-bring box, containing a meal for your lunches at work, at school or at the gym. Using a Japanese bento box means changing your eating habits, saving money and making an ecological gesture.
You just discovered the bento and are not yet convinced of its advantages? Well, in that case, start by reading our article entitled " What is a bento box?" before continuing reading this one.
If you're still here, chances are you're still looking for THE Japanese bento box that fits your needs, the one that will make your life easier and that will become your favorite companion for lunches on the go.
Among dozens of different bento boxes on the market, it is sometimes difficult to figure out which one is right for you. Don't panic, this buying guide will help you choose the bento box that meets all your needs.
1. What size of bento box to choose?
The size and capacity of the bento box must be adapted to your appetite, your age and your sports activities, that is why it is important to carefully pick your bento.
On the internet, some size charts exist to help you choose the right size of bento according to your age and height, but these charts are often based on the morphology and eating habits of the Japanese. Here is a "westernized" version of a chart based on your appetite to help you choose the right bento size that suits you.
For an even more detailed chart, check out this Bento Blog.
The art of bento is to optimize its space as much as possible. The Japanese are used to "packing" their food or creating a veritable Tetris to fit a complete meal into a bento. Beginners are better off choosing a lunch box that is a little too big than a little too small to avoid frustration.
2. What shape of bento box to choose?
Now that you have a bit of an idea of what size matches you, it's time to focus on the shape of your lunch box. In order to select the right shape for your bento, it is necessary to take into account the type of bag and the way of traveling you use.
For example, if you are used to traveling by public transports carrying a backpack, then it is advisable to select a compact and waterproof lunch box that will perfectly fit in your bag. On the contrary, if you are taking your car to go to your workplace, you can opt for a more original box that can be carried in its own bento bag.
3. What material to choose for my bento box?
Plastic bento boxes are the most common ones and the most convenient. When we mention plastic, we are obviously referring to food-grade PP plastic that is guaranteed BPA-free for a healthy and non-toxic box. Most plastic bento boxes are microwave and dishwasher safe, which makes them very practical for everyday use. This material also allows modern designs.
If you don't have the possibility to heat up your meal at lunch time, it might be a better solution to opt for a >stainless steel bento box. The stainless steel material is safe for your health and will keep your meal warm at least until noon. Moreover, stainless steel bento boxes are more resistant and durable than plastic ones. The disadvantage is that they cannot be put in the microwave. To keep your contents as warm as possible, we advise you to use an insulated bento bag for transporting your lunch.
For those who prefer authenticity, a wooden bento box is also an interesting option. Handmade by a craftsman, the wooden bento box is a beautiful object that will directly immerse you in a traditional Japanese atmosphere. Although this wooden box is very appealing, unfortunately it is not very well adapted to the Western way of life and eating habits. It cannot be put in the microwave or in the dishwasher, is not waterproof and requires a rigorous maintenance.
4. How waterproof should my bento box be?
The choice of a waterproof bento box or not will depend on the use you want to make of it.
If the main purpose of your bento box is to carry your kids' snacks or dry food in general, then the box doesn't necessarily need to be waterproof. And, if ever you fall for a bento box without guarantee of waterproofness, don't worry, simply carry the sauce separately in a small waterproof container.
Some bento boxes ensure to be waterproof all around, meaning that the sauce will not leak at the bottom of the bag, but it still can pass from one compartment to another. This is the case with bento boxes that have a removable divider.
To make sure that all of your food stays intact after transportation, without sauce transfer to the outside or between compartments, you may opt for a completely waterproof Japanese bento box.
Obviously, it is important to maintain your lunch box in a horizontal position as much as possible to eliminate all risks of leakage. Regarding the closing system, some boxes are closed with an elastic band and others are closed with a clip handle system. It is up to you to decide what you prefer, aesthetically speaking.
5. What accessories and features for my bento?
Now that you have an idea of the size and material of your bento box, it's time to check out on the different accessories and features that some lunch boxes might come with.
If you are a bit of a dreamer, we recommend a bento box with integrated chopsticks in the cover of the box. No more lunches where you have to improvise cutlery because you forgot to bring yours. Some bento boxes come with an insulated bento bag, very practical for transportation and for keeping your meal warm.
In addition, you can always add a small box to your bento in order to add your dessert or a little snack in case you feel hungry during the day.
6. Some more bento art...
Thanks to this buying guide, you have just found the bento that matches your needs, but you will have to know what to put inside as well.
The Japanese bento box is often filled with the leftovers of the day before, so the mother - who is often in charge of preparing the bento - has to be creative in order to make it as appetizing as possible. At the same time, the bento is a way for Japanese mothers to show their love to their children and their husband.
You probably already saw these kind of pictures of bento boxes with rice balls shaped as a cat's head or a cartoon character. These bento are called kyaraben and are very popular among kids... and adults!
To create your own kyaraben bento and make people envious at the office, check out our bento accessories. You will find molds, cookie cutters and many other simple gadgets to transform a simple lunch box into a real kawaii world!