Today’s Bento Box – Yakitori Bento is probably not as commonly sold at bento shops in Japan as other bento boxes such as Chicken Karaage Bento, Pork Shōgayaki Bento. But I can promise you that it is as good and as delicious as other bento.
The uniqueness of Yakitori Bento is that the main dish, Yakitori, is on skewers and you will need to use your fingers to pick up a skewer and eat the chicken pieces off it, rather than using chopsticks. It’s almost like a picnic lunch.
Some well-mannered people might use chopsticks to slide each piece of chicken off the skewer and eat them. But I am not one of them. I’d rather bite into the chicken pieces on the skewer and remove them from the skewer with my teeth.
Well it does not look gracious, but this is the right way to eat yakitori and I think it tastes better this way.
What’s in Yakitori Bento
The ingredients of today’s bento are listed below.
Shimeji Gohan (Rice with Shimeji Mushrooms)– it is best to cook Shimeji Gohan in the morning if possible, but it can be made ahead. You can have plain cooked rice if you prefer. Pack the cooked rice 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.
Yakitori– left over from dinner or make ahead. I packed only momo (chicken thigh) Yakitori to maximise the amount of meat in the bento but negima (chicken and shallots/scallions) Yakitori is also good.
Pickled Chrysanthemum Turnip– this needs to be made ahead. Please refer to my Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish recipe, which has instructions for turnip as an alternative. I used the turnip cut into quarters as turnips in Sydney are large. Instead of turnip, you can use radish if you like.
Gomoku-mame (Simmered Soybeans with Vegetables)– make ahead. It can keep about 4-5 days in the fridge. It is also good to freeze it without konnyaku and use it for a bento.
Blanched Broccoli florets– to add colours to the bento. Any other fresh vegetables can replace them but consider the colour balance since the side dishes and rice are all brownish.
Baby Tomatoes– Instead of tomatoes, you could use blanched carrot or even a wedge of orange. If you are using a pickled chrysanthemum radish instead of a turnip, a food that isn’t red might be better here.
About Okazu Cups for Bento
Most Bento boxes come with one or two partitions as you can see in the photo of many bento boxes in my post Bento Box – Chicken Karaage Bento.
But if you want to pack a few different side dishes, you often need more compartments. Also, if you have saucy dishes (such as simmered dishes), you might want to separate them from the others so that two different flavours don’t mix.
Okazu cups (おかずカップ) are exactly what you need to separate side dishes in a bento box. The word ‘okazu’ (おかず) means side dishes. So, it literally means cups for side dishes.
Okazu cups look just like small cupcake cases and they are usually made with paper with coated paper or aluminium. Reusable silicone cups are also available but silicone tends to be thick and I feel that it wastes precious space to pack foods.
Some cups come in pretty colours and patterns. Here are some okazu cups. I like those with polka dots, so I used them for Gomoku-mame.
Okazu cups are sold at Japanese grocery stores. If you have the Japanese discount shop Daiso is nearby, you can also find okazu cups there.
If your dishes do not contain liquid, you can use a small cupcake case instead or even a piece of lettuce leaf to separate the dishes.
Bento Boxes look great when they are filled with ingredients without gaps. Use okazu cups, lettuce leaves or a small piece of vegetable to fill the gaps.
Yakitori Bento is probably not as commonly sold at bento shops in Japan as other bento boxes such as Chicken Karaage Bento or Pork Shōgayaki Bento. But Yakitori Bento is as good and as delicious as these. It is a perfect bento for a picnic.
Yakitori Bento consists of Shimeji Gohan, Yakitori, a couple of side dishes and vegetables.
Because bento is usually made mostly from left-over dishes or make-ahead dishes, the time shown in this recipe is only the time to pack the bento box.
While the Shimeji Gohan is still hot or warm, place it in one section of the bento box and let it cool.
Put Gomoku-mame in a okazu cup and place in the corner of the rice compartment.
Place the turnip next to the Gomoku-mame. If you don’t have a partition between the rice and the turnip, place the turnip in an okazu cup so that the rice does not get vinegary.
Place tomatoes and broccoli florets in one side of the other bento box.
Place yakitori skewers next to the vegetables.
1. It is best to pack cooked rice in a bento box while hot or warm. This makes it easier to shape the rice into the bento box.
2. I used chicken thigh Yakitori (momo). You can pick and choose any kind of Yakitori such as negima (chicken thigh and shallots/scallions).
The skewers that I used in my Yakitori recipe were too long to fit in my bento box. So, I used teppōgushi which are shorter with a flat handle. Please visit my post Yakitori for more details about skewers.
3. Please refer to my recipe Pickled Chrysanthemum Radish. To add an extra colour to the bento, I used turnip, but you can use radish instead.
4. See my post for more details about okazu cups. You can use cupcake cases or aluminium foil instead.
Depending on the number of partitions in your bento box, you may need more okazu cups, e.g. for the pickled turnip.