This is an odd question because a "bento" is just a "lunch food in a container with a lid" and a "bento box" is just a partitioned box with a lid. So you can put anything you want in a bento box, but it's generally advisable to avoid soupy things, and buffer things that ooze...
Best answer: This is an odd question because a "bento" is just a "lunch food in a container with a lid" and a "bento box" is just a partitioned box with a lid. So you can put anything you want in a bento box, but it's generally advisable to avoid soupy things, and buffer things that ooze oil/juice with shredded cabbage or something else that will hold onto the liquid. That's why you generally put "finger foods" in there - musubi (rice balls), maki rolls, and cooked foods like finger sausages, tempura, and lots of dry pickles/tsukemono to go with the blob of rice that is usually the cornerstone of the meal.
Since the presumption is that the bento box will go unrefrigerated for hours prior to consumption (whether sitting in your school locker or in the bottom of your backpack when you go hiking, or under the seat in your truck while you're working your construction job) you try to avoid hot/cold/raw foods and stick with foods that will survive that type of environment.
However, that's NOT to say you can't pack a soup/soupy dish with your bento box. Generally you put it in a thermos bottle, to keep it hot/cold and pour it into a container or over your dish at consumption time. e.g. hot curry over rice: the rice and pickles go in the bento box, the hot curry goes into a thermos bottle. If you want miso soup on the side, you have miso soup in another thermos. If you want cold somen on the side, you have the noodle in your bento box, and the cold soup/sauce in a thermos on the side. (Pour the somen sauce into a cup, then dip the noodles into the cup, not the thermos!)
Generally speaking, it's usually only convenient to carry 1 thermos bottle. A person that has more than 1 thermos bottle accompanying their lunch is generally looked upon as a spoiled, entitled princess type. Just having 1 thermos is quite a luxury. So you have to choose carefully between hot tea after the meal versus miso soup versus something hot, like curry stew, that you pour over the rice in you bento box at meal time.
Anyway, that's the mentality one generally has building bento. That's why the bored housewives focused on making the food inside the bento box "cute" -- cutting the sausage so it looks like little squid, putting cute animal faces on your inari sushi, etc. The books that others refer to have information on how to do all that kind of stuff.
4 weeks ago