As you can see, the main component of every Obento is rice. Of course the rice can be prepared in many different ways and you can replace the rice with any other carbohydrate such as potatoes, pasta or bread. The carbohydrates should at least occupy half of the place. The other half is there to be filled with vegetables and proteins. As proteins you can use meat but also fish, eggs or tofu. And don’t forget about the vegetables! Even just a tiny little piece of carrot, broccoli or a piece of tomato can brighten up your whole Bento.
Fill the bento box halfway with the main carbohydrate dish. In Japan, this is usually white rice, but you can substitute fried rice, noodles, potatoes or bread if desired. There are different ways of presenting the rice, some ideas are: sushi rolls, inari zushi, or onigiri. Pack your Bento tightly, there shouldn’t be any empty spaces or even small gaps! Contrasting colors, textures and shapes should be placed next to each other, but similar ones should be separated.
Prepare one or more protein or meat dishes for the bento box. Use small pieces of cooked chicken, beef, fish, tofu or beans to add protein. Small sausages, chicken nuggets, fish sticks or meatballs are very convenient for Bento! The amount of protein should not exceed the amount of vegetables so make sure to leave an appropriate place for the vegetables.
Cut up vegetables into bite-size pieces. Choose brightly colored vegetables and use them raw or lightly steamed or boiled so they retain much of their color and nutrition. The vegetables can also be used to fill up the remaining gaps between the different dishes.
Use as many colors as you can (traditionally five), to ensure that the meal is both nutritionally balanced and visually appealing. If you are interested in reading about the Five Fives, click here. The colors are: red or orange, yellow, green, white and black or purple. For example, use carrots or tomatoes for orange or red, cut-up omelet or bell pepper for yellow, steamed greens for green, rice for white and seaweed for black.
Cook dishes in at least two (traditionally five) ways to add variety to the bento box. If you fry the meat, then serve vegetables steamed. Varying the cooking techniques provides textural differences, taste differences and ensures that an unhealthy technique such as frying is served in a limited quantity. source
If you want to follow ねこちゃん to her kitchen and see how she implemented the rules above,read on!