Plenus 日本の心研究所

  • japanese
  • english
  • 簡体中文
  • 繁體中文

Bento Library

Packing one's heart in a small box

Making Bento

One of the reasons Bento has taken part in Japanese food culture and become popular through out the world is not only its flavor but also the decorative presentation which those who makes Bento thinks about the person who eats it. This sensitivity is the heart of Bento and we can trace back the heart of Bento to 400 years ago when Bento became distinctive culture.

Here, we introduce the ideas we can learn from cookbooks and Bento recipes from 400 years ago. Something still useful when we make Bento today.

料理書の紹介「料理早指南」について

"Ryori Haya-Shinan" is a coo book of four volumes. The second volume includes recipes for tiered boxes at seasonal events and other Bentos.

Witten by Daigo Sanjin

Published in 1801

"Ryori Haya-SHinan" Daigo Sanjin
Collection of Oe Library, Tokyo Kasei Gakuin University

Japanese food culture flourished in the Edo period. Many cookbooks and food guides were also published. "Ryori Haya-Shinan" by Daigo Sanjin is one of such cookbooks. The first volume was published in 1801 and sequels followed.

The first volume introduces Honzen, Kaiseki and Shojin cooking. The second volume introduces recipes for tiered boxes at seasonal events such as seasonal greetings and cherry blossom viewing. The third volume includes how to make salted fish and dried fish, Fucha cuisine and Shippoku cooking. The fourth volume talks about soups and vinegary dishes.

料理書「料理早指南」

It is said Bento box was invented in the Azuchi Momoyama period but we had to wait till the Edo period till Bento culture became widely accepted. By then, Bento box with compartments was introduced. People started to carry their food in these boxes to cherry blossom viewing, boat rides, doll festivals and various other events. Not only the beautiful appearance but also for sterilizing effect, it was common to use lacquerware for tiered boxes. People packed side dishes in tiered boxes and rice in other containers.

「料理早指南」が伝える盛り付け方

"Ryori Haya-Shinan" talks about how to pack food in tiered boxes.

五種盛り
五種盛り
五種盛り

boiled shiitake mushroom
boiled lotus
rolled egg
whole simmered shrimp
taro

七種盛り
七種盛り
七種盛り

whole simmered shrimp
konjac
boiled lotus
rolled egg
fish minced and steamed
simmered black soy beans
taro

The book notes "it is important not to pack same flavors or same shapes of food next to each other. However, random combination would lack coherence. Plan ahead, having size and portion of the box in mind. Then the size of each food will be determined accordingly. Place solid food first and soft food later. Since most tiered boxes are vermilion-lacquered, red food must be presented in the center of the box". Colorful and decorative presentation is a characteristic of Japanese food though, the notion of how to present food beautifully was indeed a great consideration even back then.