food-trends Why the Japanese bento box trend is conquering Calcutta

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The post-pandemic delivery culture loves nothing more than a curable, well-stacked meal that saves time, effort, and money. And nothing does that better than a bento box. In recent years, this efficient Japanese pre-portioned serving technique has become a cultural phenomenon at tik tok, in meal preparation, and in Studio Ghibli films. Bento boxes are usually packable boxes made of plastic or wood that are divided so that several courses can be served together. This makes portion control easier and helps people put together a balanced meal.

Kolkata caught this trend a few years ago, and in the past year bento meals have become popular as they offer a way to have a course meal at home without getting out or spending too much. The new all-day Asian restaurant Octa on Park Street briefly offered travel-friendly bento boxes when it launched earlier this year, and independent kitchens like Bring Your Bento from Girish Park offered a range of bento options starting November.

Authentic Japanese hotspots like Ajisai, Haka, Pa Pa Ya have bento options right from the start. But many other restaurants in Kolkata have been able to adapt the bento to their menu. The popular Resto-Bar Hoppipola offers casual dinner combinations in bento boxes as part of their delivery menu, while the gastro-bar What’s In D Name on Camac Street offers an Indian bento box with a portion of kebab along with a sauce dish, Indian., offers bread and dessert.

“We sell most of the bento boxes during lunch, although it’s part of our all-day menu. We also serve a classic Asian bento box with raw papaya salad, Korean baby corn, a serving of noodles, red and green Thai curry and a brownie. The non-vegetarian box contains a chicken nam prik pao, ”says Angad Walia from What’s in D Name.

Royal China bento box

“Bento dishes are essentially combination dishes, which is why they sell so well during lunch breaks. We only offer it for dinner, Monday to Friday until 4 pm, ”says Sania Sheikh from Pa Pa Ya. Premium restaurants like Royal China and The Park’s Asian Fine Diner Zen use the bento design to serve easy-to-delivery sushi boxes that are ideal for business lunches and a great way to experience high-end sushi without a burning a hole in the pocket (Royal China’s Sushi Bento has six pieces of sushi and starts at Rs. 395, while Zen’s sushi box has 12 pieces, starting at Rs. 2,000).

“We added bento boxes to our delivery menu a few weeks ago; they are available from 12 noon to 5 pm. They are already very popular, we get around 35 to 40 orders a week, most of them for lunchtime deliveries, ”says Abhismita Bhattacharjee of Royal China.

Bento cake

The bento baking trend has also caught on as dainty, humble cakes (also known as lunch box cakes) are a huge hit at mini-soirees, where hosts prefer a variety of flavors rather than one large cake. A set of three bento box cakes (each weighing 350-400 grams) is ideal for a gathering of 12-15 people. They are also much easier to customize and transport, making them ideal party favors.

“Most people just want something sweet that is smaller too. They usually choose chocolate because they want that color profile that only comes from buttercream, so chocolate truffles with butterfrosting sells the most on my menu. All of the cakes on my menu are available in bento format, ”says Priyanka Nahata, who runs The Baking Girl’s in-house bakery in Kolkata.

Khadeeja Banu, who runs the Brownie Factory, started making bento cakes after several customer inquiries. “My label specializes in brownies. I only started making bento cakes three months ago. Right now, customers prefer smaller, cheaper versions of full-size cakes. I recently received an order for five bento cakes for an occasion, so my customers tend to prefer variety and bento cakes are also reasonably priced. My bento cakes weigh around 300 grams and can cost you around Rs. 350-400 ”, the baker announced.

DIY alarm: Bento boxes are available online and you can use them to plan your meals for the day or even throw a bento party!



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