Thursday 6 July 2017

The art of preparing a bento box

I have always been fascinated with the Japanese culture and its cuisine. During my trip to Tokyo a few years ago, I marvelled at the bento boxes and their colourful contents. Since then, the preparation of bento meals as a lunch-on-the-go has been something I’ve wanted to master. They can pack so many flavours into a good size serving.

I have been following Sara, aka Shiso Delicious, on Instagram for a while. Sara is half Bulgarian half Japanese, now lives in London and is an advocate for plant-based food. She works with food and the arts, and she also runs workshops teaching how to put together amazing bento boxes. I joined her workshop last week, hoping to pick up some tricks to apply to my daughter’s lunch box. It was a perfect small class of 7 international Londoners from all parts of the world: Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Singapore and Japan.

Sara was very friendly and welcomed us with a cup of Matcha tea made from one of the best matcha powder sold in this country by Matchaelogist. We enjoyed the tea with a yummy vegan banana bread before the class started.

After the warm-up, we started to learn how to prepare the bento box. Sara builds it based on the 5 basic tastes elements: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. She demonstrated how to prepare the Japanese rice and tamago yaki rolling (a layered omeIete). We learned how to make purple rice (with Japanese rice and black rice, shiitake mushroom and kombu), a fast rice vermicelli with spicy Korean style dressing, onigiris, roasted smoky nuts and seeds, and more.

I watched her closely, working in her intricate way, putting all those beautiful cooked and fresh foods together, like a piece of art. Nutritionally speaking the box had it all: carbs, protein, fibre and essential fats. It was packed with nutrients, optimum nutrition at its best. But above all it was so deliciously good. I am now hooked.

Like Sara, her workshop was lovely, informal, genuine, nurturing and with lots of zest.

Sara preparing matcha tea... be enjoyed with her yummy vegan banana and matcha bread.
Japanese rice prepared with shiitake and kombu. 

Fastest morning rice noodles being prepared using a heavy jar to hold the noodles under the boiling water.
Saltwater roasted nuts and seeds.
Rice noodles, beans and red Korean dressing.
Learning how to prepare layered omelet.
Sara showing us one of her ways to build a bento box.
Beautiful and colourful food ready to be put together in a bento box.
Back in my kitchen

Inspired by Sara’s vegan banana bread, I decided to share my banana bread recipe I’ve been making for ages. I hope you can enjoy it with a nice cuppa of matcha tea as I now do. I told Sara I was going to borrow her banana bread recipe to share it here with you. I have made the small batch for my daughter’s bento box and it went down really well. If you want to try Sara’s vegan recipe, go here. It's small version for bento box is very handy.

Dry ingredients.
Wet ingredients.
Fold chocolate and nuts gently.
Place the mixture in a tin and decorate it with sliced banana and chocolate pieces.
Nutty banana bread. Enjoy it with a cup of tea.
A nutty banana bread 

Dry Ingredients

125g rolled oats
125g organic spelt, white or wholemeal flour (I use Shipton Mill)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder 
150g coconut or muscovado sugar  
100g Brazil nuts, chopped
45g dark chocolate (I use Original beans 75%), roughly chopped

Wet ingredients
2 organic eggs
3 medium size ripe bananas, mashed
150ml organic extra virgin olive oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)


Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. In a blender, with the exception of the chocolate and Brazil nuts, blend all the other dry ingredients.

Whisk the eggs and add the mashed bananas and olive oil.  
Fold the wet blend into the dry, without mixing too much. Add the nuts and some of the chopped chocolate (leave some to scatter over the cake before baking it). 
Pour the mixture into the tin, decorate with some slices of banana and chocolate pieces.
Bake for 50 minutes. Enjoy it with a nice cup of tea.

A healthy note: Bananas are a great option for a pre or post workout snack as they provide carbohydrate and boost your energy. They are very rich in potassium, which studies have shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. Bananas provide a good amount of soluble dietary fibre that helps with regular bowel movements. They are also a source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C. 
Brazil nuts are a great source of Selenium - an essential mineral which studies have shown to have a protective effect against cancer.

Till next week!


  1. What a lovely and thoughtful post Margot! So fascinating reading your perspective of my workshop, and on something I know so well (and that I am trying to convey to other people! ;) So glad you felt the workshop gave you something :) Thank you so muck for coming and for sharing your thoughts! See you on Insta ;)

  2. It makes so happy you enjoyed the reading, Sara! On top of meeting you, the workshop gave me so much pleasure. I will definitely see you on Insta :-) xx


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