Japanese Picnic Bento Box, #SundaySupper


Summer in Japan is sweltering hot. Fans work overtime. Shutters are thrown wide open. The occasional breeze will set off the sounds of the furin garden wind chimes. Light and lovely, it’s as if fairies are making music.

Furin wind chimes making fairy music
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Sounds of rain tap dancing on rooftops are a frequent occurrence in June. The good news is that all that water encourages gorgeous flowers to flourish. So, in July and August, to escape the hot indoors and to enjoy the flora offered by a myriad of parks, families take their Sunday Supper in the great outdoors.

Brightening spirits in Japanese parks: Lemon drop yellow flowers.

Of course, picnics prevail in the U.S., the U.K. and around the world, too. So this week’s virtual #SundaySupper on Twitter at 7p.m. ET revolves around picnic goodies. Katy of Great Britain, the always-impressive force behind Happy Baking Days will host the event. Please join the international crew of food bloggers as we gather to exchange recipes and picnic stories. (Type in #SundaySupper in the Twitter search bar at 7 p.m. ET.)

My contribution is a Japanese Picnic Bento Box. The beauty of the bento box is you can tailor make every item to your liking. The Ninja Baker’s offering is potpourri of suggestions.

Picnic fare for a day in a Japanese park with the kids.

To make protein palatable for kids, plastic molds help to shape hard boiled eggs into cute bunnies and bears. The Japanese molds are readily available at Amazon.

Here's the easy how-to:

  • Boil eggs. (I like Food Network’s Chef Anne Burrell method: Place eggs into cold salted water and bring to a roiling boil.  Turn off the heat and cover for exactly 13 minutes.)
  • Carefully peel off the shells and skin. (You want a smooth surface.)
  • Place into the molds. Snap tight.
  • Set the molds in ice-cold water for 10 minutes. 
  • Unsnap. 
  • Voilà! Bunny and bear-shaped eggs.

Egg molds and mini cookie cutters make bento-making super easy and fun!

Mini star cookie cutters are useful for transforming apples and other fruit into fun treats.
If your child or mate likes mildly spicy items, include wasabi peas.  Not the healthiest kind of peas but nevertheless a vegetable.

Slices of Japanese cucumber as well as skinny stalks of carrots stuck in the middle of sushi rolls are probably a better way to present veggies. They are delicious when dipped into soy sauce. (Disclaimer: This may be an acquired taste from pouring soy sauce on practically everything from age 0.)

To make sushi rice rolls:

  • Cook up a pot of short grain rice.
  • To avoid burned fingers dotted with specks of sticky hot white rice, have a finger bowl of cold water nearby for constant dipping.
  • OR adopt the trick I adopted from my friend, Masako: Sprinkle a bit of cold water on a surface covered with plastic wrap. Place small mounds of rice onto the plastic and shape into little sushi balls.
  • Wrap with dried seaweed (nori) or soy paper.
  • Stick thinly sliced carrots into the rice.

Masako’s trick also works well for bigger onigiri rice balls. For this bento box, I topped the onigiri with purple perilla (shiso) seeds. The leaves of the plant are commonly used in Japanese cooking. Seeds from the flower buds are sprinkled on salads and rice.

Cold barley tea (mugicha) is a popular accompaniment to any meal in summer.
Mugicha is also said to reduce stress. 

If you're wondering why the Ninja Baker hasn’t mentioned any baked goods for this outing it’s because a majority of the Japanese population opts for soft cream. Summertime springs a plethora of vendors who sell the heavenly desserts near park entrances and train stations. In Kyoto (the ancient capital of Japan) a divine green tea soft cream also abounds.

Swirly Soft Cream
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However, if ice cream is not your sweet escape of choice, scroll down and see the irresistible dessert recipes offered by fellow food bloggers. There are spectacular cocktail and other suggestions for your picnic, too.

Salads and Slaws:

Sandwiches and Mains:



Wishing you whimsical days of sake wine-sipping and summer roses.

The Ninja Baker

© ™ Watkinson 2012

The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.