I picked up some Japanese as a kid when I watched anime. I remember my first Japanese anime, not translated into English. It took days to watch due to being on a dial-up modem and it was Rockman.EXE or as we know him… Megaman. Anyway my love of Japanese anime soon became a love for their culture and I began making my own Bento meals, sometimes bringing a few extra to take to the anime club I ran for my friends. Here are a few useful words for those seeking to give Bento a try.
Baran – Originally Japanese used a type of plant known as “baran” to divide food in their bentos from one another. These days you'll find plastic dividers that look like grass, this is a modern twist of the baran. You can get them in all sorts of styles now but grass is the most common.
Onigiri – Rice ball made using Japanese rice. I say that because this rice is required to make a proper Onigiri as it is stickier than the rice we normally use in the Western side of the world. Often inside is a Umeboshi (a dried fruit in Japan), salmon or something else though these are most common. The rice ball is then wrapped in dry seaweed, most common way is in the style of a napkin for the person to hold as they eat the rice ball.
Nori – dry seaweed used for sushi and onigiri. You can eat it as it's edible and can be bought as a sheet usually square in shape. You can often find it in Asian supermarkets. Some mothers or wives also use it to cut cute shapes, faces, animals or words out and place ontop of rice to give a cute effect.
Kyaraben – Short for “character bento” and means just that. A bento made to look like popular TV characters or cartoon shows, often for young children to enjoy. Can also be video game or comic book (manga) related.
Makisu – a mat made of bamboo and string holding the bamboo sticks together which you use to make sushi on and then roll the sushi with it. Also used to squeeze excess liquid out of food.
I was going to put sushi on the list but realised there's so many varieties of sushi that perhaps that would be best for another blog post. I personally rather like the California roll it's rather tasty and fairly easy to pick up with chopsticks.
Know any other Japanese words that could be useful for Bento users? Love to hear them!