The Japanese habit of packing lunch into a bento box isn’t a new concept in Australia, but chef and SunRice ambassador Poh Ling Yeow has an idea to include something that’s not found in many Aussie schoolyards and office kitchens.
Bento boxes – plastic containers with internal dividers that originated in Japan – revolutionised our lunch breaks last year after the viral K-mart hack that used fishing tackle boxes, or even large covered ice cube trays, for an inexpensive alternative to genuine bento boxes. And so the practice of tightly packing colourful and various foods into a box without additional packaging became suddenly very popular in Aussie homes.
But Yeow says that despite rice being a staple packed into almost every Japanese box, in Australia it's not an ingredient we immediately think of including; but we should. And not just rice, but cold rice.
"We eat cold rice in the form of sushi, why don't we do that at other times?"
As the bento box workshop showed us, cold rice can add variety and novelty to pre-packed lunches, especially if it's shaped into cute characters as is usually done in Japan.
For that reason, using the right sort of rice, that's dense whilst being fluffy, is key. Yeow recommends Koshihikari sushi rice, because of its optimum water absorbency properties, meaning it can be easily shaped into any fun character, using cookie cutters and silicone moulds. The chef also suggests cooking using the absorption method, or even investing in an inexpensive and simple rice cooker.