Obento is the Japanese art of lunch making that is not only healthy and delicious but also visually appealing. In the United States where I (Laura) live, bento box lunches have caught on a bit, although they often don’t follow the Japanese tradition as much, which usually has a good portion of the meal as rice.
I love looking at pictures of creative bento boxes. They have bento box pictures for almost any animal or cartoon character you can think of. I especially like when the compartments of the box all work together to create one image, but I’d say that’s a more advanced bento artistry skill than where I am at now.
Usually the pictures I see feature nonvegan foods in them, so naturally, I was interested in contributing some vegan pictures of bento box lunches.
I know when I was in school as a vegetarian, other students used to make fun of my lunches because they looked weird or I ate different kinds of food. Though I don’t have kids of my own, I wonder if, especially with younger ages, bringing colorful and artistic bento lunches could get vegan kids to feel more comfortable at lunchtime. Other kids would hopefully be curious and excited to see what’s in the child’s lunch every day, especially if you take a creative approach to it. It would lessen the chance of bullying, and even maybe get them interested in vegan food.
It does take a bit of planning and time, although, it actually took me less time to make it than most of the meals I make for myself.
The bento box I used was from PlanetBox (of which I get no benefit from promoting, I just liked them) which is an eco-friendly company. They have several different styles and come with little sealable containers as well. Each box style has the option to get decorative magnets included (free of charge). Obviously, I chose the Rover for its rainbow unicorn magnets. It appears that those magnets are currently sold out on PlanetBox’s website when I just looked, I wonder if they’ll be making them available again or not.
Because I wasn’t going to be taking my lunchbox anywhere or letting it sit in the fridge for awhile, I may have been able to get away with a little more. I wonder how transporting the food would work. I think the compartments keep the food well separated, but it did say in the instructions that came with it to put particularly juicy or runny foods in sealed containers rather than let them be freeform. So, that’s something to keep in mind if you’re going to use it as an actual lunch. I like the structure and challenge creating a bento box provided me. It helped me think differently about creating a complete meal.
Here is what I did with mine:
- I made a vegan coleslaw and added extra purple cabbage to make it more worthy of a unicorn.
- I placed a tea sandwich shaped like a unicorn and decorated it with sriracha. For kids, I’d recommend some other squeezable sauce unless they like sriracha and spiciness.
- I took the unicorn corn-on-the-cob holders and used them as skewers for rainbow fruit salad. You could use toothpicks or other decorative pointy items as well. Just remember that most schools have a no-tolerance policy for anything that resembles a weapon, so don’t go putting them on fake mini-swords or something. Use common sense, know your kids’ schools’ rules. If you want to avoid the skewer idea, you could use small cookie cutters and cut fruit into shapes.
- I made some kettle popcorn out of kernels in my Whirley Pop. When it was all popped, I mixed in melted vegan butter, purple colored sugar, sprinkles, and a kettle corn flavored popcorn shaker that I got from the grocery that happened to be vegan. It came out delicious. If you want to save time though, buy a bag of kettle corn and add sprinkles of your own.
- I put Just Ranch in a container for dipping gluten-free pretzels in.
- I put a few Surf Sweets vegan heart-shaped gummy candies in the middle. You could also put some vegan fruit snacks, a small amount of rainbow colored candy, small cookie, etc.
There are many more options! Get creative.
Other items that would be neat:
- Rainbow dipping veggies (especially if you can find some baby purple carrots)
- Hummus or nut/seed butter
- Rice or noodles
- Salads (greens, potato, pasta, etc)
- Vegan hot dogs/sausage (you can make them shaped like octopi by cutting them into small pieces horizontally and then cutting legs with vertical cuts
- Tofu scrambles or tofu no egg salad
- Breakfast for lunch with some kind of colored pancake in a cool shape or design or as a pancake sandwich, options are unlimited
There are lots of bento box props, tools, and other neat stuff you can buy online or in stores. A lot of Asian markets will have stuff like this as well as bento boxes. Small cookie cutters, squeeze bottles, containers, cupcake liners, stuff found in the baking section of craft stores, pretty printed parchment paper, foil, old toys, etc. can all enhance your design or serve a function in the bento box as well.
Remember, as Fluffy says: