In the late Kamakura Period, the practice of Bento started as cooked and dried rice became a common food item. However, the popularity of Bento culture spread wide during the Edo period. Several cookbooks were published with instructions about how to cook and pack the bento boxes.
The railway station Bento boxes were introduced in the Meiji period and became popular quite soon. People would eat onigiri and taken in railway Bento servings.
Bento boxes were pretty popular and in a way, it became a ritual for mothers to pack artful and nutritious Bento boxes for their children in school. Later, during and after First World War, due to the crop damage and grain shortage, the quality and content of Bento boxes became status identifiers among school-goers. And after Second World War, the popularity of Bento Boxes diminished as it became irrelevant for school going students. Because schools started serving uniform lunch to all the students, leaving no room for flaunting “status” through the packed Bento lunch.
However, Bento Boxes became popular again during the 1980s. The expensive old wooden and metal Bento Boxes were replaced with microwavable inexpensive plastic boxes. And since microwave became a popular practice and people became more health conscious and preferred to have balanced meals for lunch at the workplace, Bento Boxes became a popular choice once again. Students started packing lunches in their colorful Bento boxes. Bento boxes became a necessary part of picnics and family outings.
You must be wondering, why I am gushing about this particular Japanese cuisine meal. And you have right reason for it. At the same time, I have right reasons to gush about this nice piece of Japanese gastronomical tradition. Because let’s face it, it is indeed what I have mentioned before, artful, neat and precise. And more importantly, very healthy as well. Bento Box meals are generally balanced and nutritious – a rather good choice for workday meals or school lunch. Also, the artful preparation and presentation are motivating (makes me feel good every time I open a Bento Box).
Well, Japanese cuisines did take a long time to make its place in the culture of UK. But it surely did during the 80s. Though the popularity escalated really high during the mid to late 90s.
There is no denying that Japanese cuisines were first popular in the UK as finger food during corporate meetings. And later at least in most places, Sushi became the poster dish of Japanese cuisine in the UK. However, people of UK started trying other Japanese cuisine dishes as well. The Japanese Salads, Onigiri, Soba and desserts like Mochi became familiar among the people of UK. Well, there is no denying that some “modifications” did take place to familiarize the Japanese cuisines among our western tongues, but that was all.
Let’s get back to Bento Boxes, shall we? Well, Bento Boxes became a popular lunch item choice for corporate workforce once people were familiarized with those. Definitely, it was because of the balanced contents. Also, it made way less mess than our regular lunch items. While one can easily finish off a Bento Box without even leaving the desks.
Am I a Bento person? Without any doubt, YES! Bento Box lunches have saved me big times. I am a very busy person with a very little time for lunch. At one point I decided to skip the lunches and eat early and heavy dinners instead. And as you can assume, had to be straightened out by the hospital staff. Then a colleague suggested me to try Bento for a change. I was still not very much into it. I must say, back then I was really nervous with chopsticks. But soon I overcame the obstacles, and lunch took a lot less time than it used to before.
Now I even order Bento takeaways during weekends too. This definitely leaves me with less hassle to cook during the weekends. And I get to enjoy a quiet and relaxing weekend.
If you are worried about authenticity and quality of Bento Box meals or Japanese cuisine restaurant and takeaways in general, I guess I have some recommendations for you. These are just my suggestions and based on London, but I believe these will be helpful.
Some Japanese Cuisine Places in London worth Trying
Umi Sushi Bar: It is obvious that the first Japanese Cuisine item to pop in your head would be Sushi. If that is so, you can check this Sushi restaurant of Eltham, London. Umi Sushi Bar sells really scrumptious Sushi Rolls. Especially their Futomaki Rolls are very tasteful. They somehow can make people who even don’t like Futomaki to appreciate these rolls. And if you are a Futomaki fan, Umi Sushi Bar is going to be a treat for you.
Naha Sushi: Well, this Sushi Takeaway serves tasty Hand Rolls too. Cleveland Way’s Naha Sushi serves really tasty Temaki rolls, in case you are interested. The range of their Temaki Rolls is really diverse. The offer various stuffing of different fishes. Naha Sushi also serves a great range of Bento Box packages, in case you are interested.
Sushi Bar: However, if you are an Uramaki person, I will definitely recommend you to try Heckford Street’s Sushi Bar. This Japanese takeaway makes really tasteful Uramaki sushis. This family ran Sushi Takeaway maintains the quality of the meals they serve very strictly. Sushi Bar is a good place to order Japanese cuisine meals for kids.
Rainbow Sushi & Salad Bar: An open suggestion to all the Nigiri fans in London. Check out Rainbow Sushi & Salad Bar for once! You will thank me later if you haven’t checked that place out yet. This Japanese Cuisine takeaway offers great Nigiri Sushi dishes. My personal favorite is Market Beef Nigiri, but if you are an authentic fish Nigiri person, Blount Street’s Rainbow Sushi & Salad Bar will make your taste-buds rather satisfied.
My Bento Heaven: Sushi Japanese
Don’t get confused. Burnt Ash Road’s Sushi Japanese is an authentic Japanese cuisine takeaway. I must say they serve really incredible Sushi dishes. My personal favorites would be the little Hosomaki Sushi they serve.
Well, I mainly order their Bento Box dishes for weekend consumptions. They offer three different types of Bento boxes. Chicken, Salmon, and Vegetable.
I am mostly a Chicken Bento person. And during most weeks I look forward to Friday evening when I will finally pick up a nicely packed Bento dinner from Sushi Japanese, my most favorite Japanese Takeaway in London. That pretty box stuffed with Chicken Gyoza, Pickle, Mixed Salad and Teriaki Chicken- motivates me to get by tough weekdays ay work.
Also, the Gyoza dumplings, Soba and Udon dishes of Sushi Japanese is really good to devour as well.
So, do you prefer Bento Box lunches or do you go outside during lunch hours at work? I would like to know. And if you are into high-pressure work situation like me, how do you manage your lunches? Please let me know. And I would love to know about your experiences in the Japanese Cuisine restaurants mentioned above.