Actually Japanese food isn’t all the hard to find, if you’re looking for sushi, or noodles, or sake. If you are looking for a good ol’ boxed lunch or “o-bento” (ohBENto) you are usually SOL.
In Japan, you get these marvelous meals packed into a lunch box of lacquered wood, partitioned much in the manner of old school lunch trays. There was always rice, some kind of main dish- meat, chicken, fish or veggie- pickles to eat with the rice (pickled veggies with a mild vinegar taste, not really what we would consider pickles), and side dishes like salads, etc. It’s like a “Happy Meal” but a thousand times healthier and a lot more pretty to look at.
What can I say? I get all natsukashi over them (closest thing in English is “nostalgic”).
Can you blame me? Boxed lunches in Japan were delicious and so convenient. You could get them at train stations wrapped in paper and tied with string (one of my favorite things), restaurants, cafeterias, people make them up in multitiered boxes for picnics, to take on trips, and so on. A bento (“o” is an honorific) is so Japanese- a combination of foods that not only please the eye but the palate, all the best they have to offer.
In the ‘States we get Mickey D’s, which is why we are so darn fat.
After a grueling day- home from the club at 5am, up at 9am, downtown by 11:30am, out and about until 3pm- a group of us went to Teaism for lunch. This is one of those funkier-than-thou places that I love- lots of wood, Japanese things, and tea, tea, tea. Bubble tea, tisanes (nope, no idea on that one), smoothies with tea, chais, black tea, green ones too. And delicious food. Including bentos.
The fried chicken bento called out to me and I answered it’s siren song with a skip and a giggle. Fried chicken scares me- I think of MakDonarudo (Japlish for the golden arches) nuggets and am frightened. But this was delicious. gorgeous stuff. No skin, just a nice, dark coat of crunch. And the rice was perfect- sticky and lovely, topped with furikake (fooRIkahKEh) which is generally shredded seaweed or some other salty tasting thing. cold yam salad with peanut dressing and pickled cukes aplenty. Ginger limeade on the side.
Luckily I was with folks who appreciated the oishii factor- the worst thing is when you are rhapsodizing over something so tasty and no one gets it. Being alone in the yum is horrible, I tell you, horrible! But no, there were other bento devotees in the group as well. Heaven.
When I get that natsukashi feeling, I need… bento healing.