The Japanese people love creating unique bento lunches (lunches neatly packed in a box) in various shapes and sizes, ranging from cute “character bentos” (chara-ben, as they’re known in Japanese) for children to take to school , to more conventional bento lunches you can bring to your office. But in the case of a particular bento shop in Naha city on the island of Okinawa, their bentos have been gaining attention not for their design but for their volume!
Bentos in Japan tend to be relatively small as a meal (especially compared with typical servings at restaurants in the U.S. or Europe), but these bentos weigh one kilogram (2.2 pounds) each. At a price of 500yen ($6.25), they make for an inexpensive, filling lunch, so it’s not surprising that the “1 Kilo” bentos (“Kilo Ben” for short) are quite popular, selling up to 130 boxes a day, which I’m guessing is not bad at all for sales at a bento shop in Okinawa.
So, what exactly do you get in a “Kilo Ben”? Well, the bento includes 400g of rice, 250g of several side dishes and 350g of a main entree, and the rice comes in a separate container from the other dishes. You can choose the main entree from three types of chicken dishes - teriyaki chicken, fried chicken (kara-age) or marinated fried chicken with tartar sauce (chicken nanban) – and side dishes may include stir-fried or vinegared vegetables in addition to strips of dried Japanese radish stewed in a sweet soy-sauce based broth (kiriboshi daikon), a dish which is supposed to be good for your digestion. It’s also possible to choose a half-and half combination of the main dishes, and there are also daily “1 Kilo” rice bowl specials such as pork & kimchi on rice, beef & egg on rice (gyu-toji don) and chicken &egg on rice (oyako don).
As may be expected, many of the customers who buy the 1 Kilo bentos are men with physically demanding jobs, but according to the shop owner, there are also women who buy the bento and eat it as 2 meals, half the bento at a time; apparently they are very happy to be getting 2 meals for 500yen.
Internet users have already posted various comments about the 1 Kilo bento. Some people think it’s great that the bento only costs 500yen, and others think it’s a breath of fresh air in an age where people tend to be health conscious to the point of being obsessed with counting and limiting calories. Others have commented on the fact that you may just want to keep in mind that a bento like this is probably not exactly nutritionally well-balanced.
Whatever your reaction, these 1 Kilo bentos certainly have captured people’s attention, and the shop is apparently planning to increase the variation in their menu in the future. If you’re interested, the shop itself is called “Kilo Ben”, the same name as the bento. You may want to try these large bentos yourself if you ever have the chance to visit Okinawa!
▼This bento is sure to fill you up!