“Get Your Baon;” Adventures In Bento

I have been making a lot of baon lately; pronounce it [‘ba.ʔon]. That’s the Filipino word for meal provisions; it can refer to packed food or money intended for a meal. Filipino kids are reminded to get their baon before they leave the house.

I like to make mine bento style, because they are:

  • Not wasteful. There is nothing disposable involved in eating these.
  • Compact. Put it in your backpack with a spoon and go.
  • Visually appealing. Bentos should look good for two reasons; so that you feel a spark of joy when you get to eat it, and so that other people feel jealous when they compare their sloppy lunch filled with plastic wrappers and unappealing piles of food.

Making your food look bento-y is easy. The two principles are: a) arrange the foods to be next to each other, not on top of each other; b) cram the food into the box so it doesn’t move during transport.

I started bento-ing a while ago, and blogged about it here, and started a tumblr called lunchboxjpv. I try to follow these constraints:

  • It’s gotta be spoonable. I don’t make meals that require more than one utensil. A single fork or a single pair of chopsticks will also do the trick but the point is to keep it simple.
  • It should be low maintenance. It should still be good to eat after half a day in a cool, dark place without refrigeration, just in case… It should be ok to eat without microwaving… just in case.
  • It should be satisfying. It should have proteins and greens. It should be colorful. It should have something that the eater is eager to eat.

The other day, my sister called us saying that she was going to have an emergency c-section. That meant K had to go to the hospital, and there was no telling how long the two of them would be staying. My sister was already complaining about hospital food. I asked K how long before he left for the hospital, and he said about an hour. I had started making a ragù earlier in the day, so I figured I could have nine bentos ready to go by the time he left for the hospital. I packed the ragù with some tortellini I found in the pantry, plus I through together some baked sockeye with some cabbage that I adoboed. Boom, nine meals. That got K and my sister through the weekend.

So making these bentos is a little tricky. I’m a diabetic pescatarian, so I don’t make anything with sugar, and I don’t eat any meat. My sister and brother in law are meat eaters, so I make meat for them, but don’t cook with sugar out of habit. Also, one of them doesn’t eat chiles, garlic, or onions, and the other one really hates bell peppers.

So given those restrictions, here’s what I know how to make so far:

  • Baked salmon
  • Pork adobo
  • Kalua pig
  • Chicken adobo
  • Ginataang gulay (some veggie cooked in coconut milk)
  • Chopped suey
  • Steamed or roasted veggies
  • Steamed rice
  • Little roasted potatoes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Shrimp and veggie yakisoba
  • Tuna omelet
  • Simple sausage ragù

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