The Japanese Bento Box is the ultimate meal prep, consumed by millions of Japanese people every day. Today’s bento recipe is Chicken Karaage Bento.
I re-posted the Karaage recipe with a video and updated blog contents last week, and you might be thinking of making karaage this week. Then you would want to take some leftovers for lunch the next day, wouldn’t you? So, here is the recipe for Bento Box – Karaage Bento!
About Bento Box
Before getting into the details of how to pack Karaage Bento, I would like to introduce some of the bento boxes that you can buy.
A bento box doesn’t have to be fancy and it can well be a plastic Chinese take away container. But in Japan, people often have their own bento box and become attached to it. It’s a similar feeling to having your favourite coffee cup and using it every day.
I bought bento boxes occasionally when I went back to Japan and without realising, I collected few different kinds of Japanese bento boxes, as seen in the photos.
You can purchase Japanese bento boxes online from Amazon, eBay and other online shops that sell homeware items. Here are some links.
If the Japanese discount store Daiso is near your place, they might sell bento boxes, too. The blue bento box in the photo below is the one that I bought from Daiso and it was only $4!
I also purchased a pack of disposable bento boxes that are often used by Japanese take away shops (bottom photo below). The dimensions are about 23cm x 17cm/9″ x 6¾” and the inside is partitioned into 4 sections. Either the largest or the 2nd largest section is filled with rice. You can buy them at kitchen supply shops.
Karaage Bento Ingredients
Ingredients for today’s Bento Box are listed below. I also added a note for variations.
- Shimeji Gohan (Rice with Shimeji Mushrooms) – This can be made the day before. Pack shimeji gohan in a bento box while the rice is still hot or warm as it is easier to shape it, and let it cool down before adding other ingredients. Rice with White Radish is good too. Normal boiled rice (please refer to How to Cook Rice the Japanese Way) is also OK of course.
- Japanese Fried Chicken (Karaage Chicken) – left over from dinner or make ahead.
- Sliced lettuce – left over from dinner or freshly made. It can also be cabbage.
- Chikuzenni (Simmered Chicken and Vegetables) – make ahead. I omitted burdock and lotus roots as I did not have them. The idea is to add several vegetables in the bento. The flavours need to be light to balance against the deep fried Karrage. Japanese Vermicelli Salad (Harusame Salad) is also a good alternative.
- Spinach Ohitashi Salad – it can be made ahead but no earlier than the previous evening as the colour of the spinach deteriorates if you keep it too long in the fridge. Boiled broccoli would be a good substitute.
- A quarter of a mandarin to add bright colour to the bento. A small amount of fruit is good to have as a mouth cleanser at the end of meal. Any other fruit that won’t be squashed and damaged easily is OK.
- A sprig of parsley – this is optional of course, but if you can squeeze in even a tiny amount of veg, don’t hesitate.
- Soy sauce for Spinach Ohitashi – I had a tiny plastic sauce bottle in a fish shape that is just like the ones you get from take away sushi shops. I bought this at a Japanese grocery store. Similar small plastic bottles can also be purchased at Daiso. But you can use a small sealed plastic container instead.
Karaage is one of those fried dishes that can be eaten at room temperature and is still delicious – perfect for a bento box!
I showed these photos of Karaage Bento to Nagi when she stayed the night at my place. As soon as she saw them, she begged me to make a Karaage Bento for her. She quoted that, unlike her brother who lives close to me, she didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the bento when I made them for the post.
So, I ended up making a Karaage Bento again that looked exactly like the photo in this post. Nagi went back home the next morning with the Karaage Bento for lunch, and a big smile on her face.
Because bento is usually made mostly from left-over dishes or make-ahead dishes, the time indicated in this recipe only shows the time to pack the bento box.
- 1 cup Shimeji Gohan (note 1)
- 60g/2.1oz Chikuzenni (note 2)
- 40g/1.4oz Spinach Ohitashi Salad
- 4-5 pieces Karaage Chicken (note 3)
- A handful of shredded lettuce
- 1 quarter of a mandarin (note 4)
- A sprig of parsley
- Soy sauce in a tiny bottle/jar/container (note 5)
- A bento box of your choice (I used a plastic take away box with partitions, see the photo in post)
While the rice is still hot or warm, place it in the 2nd largest compartment.
Put Chikuzennni in the second smallest compartment. Try to place ingredients in the way that you can see all the ingredients at one glance.
Put Spinach Ohitashi in the smallest compartment and place the tiny plastic bottle of soy sauce on the side if you are using.
Put shredded lettuce in the largest compartment, then Karaage pieces to fill the compartment.
Place the mandarin at the corner of the shredded lettuce and a sprig of parsley on the chicken.
1. It is best to pack cooked Shimeji Gohan in a bento box while hot or warm as it is easier to shape the rice into the bento box.
2. Try to pick different kinds of vegetables from Chikuzenni and pack them in the bento box.
3. Depending on the size of Karaage Chicken pieces, the total number of pieces that can fit in the space varies. In this bento box, I packed 5 pieces of Karaage Chicken, which is equivalent to about 170g of fresh chicken.
4. In this bento box, I could only fit in a quarter of a mandarin. You can use other fruits as long as they do not get squashed easily. Baby tomatoes are good as well.
5. This is exactly the same soy sauce container as those you get with take away sushi rolls. You can buy small containers at Japanese grocery stores or the Japanese discount shop Daiso. But you can use any small container to keep soy sauce.
You could also pour soy sauce onto the spinach when packing if you know that the person eating this bento will pour soy sauce on to eat it.
6. If you are packing food in a bento box that is not partitioned, I would suggest that you place Chikuzenni in a mini foil cupcake liner as a tiny amount of sauce from the vegetables might spoil the spinach and rice.