The cutesy home-made lunches that lucky Japanese children take to school are famous worldwide. For the time-pushed or culinarily challenged among us, though, store-bought bento (boxed lunches) can offer great value for money. Convenience store bento, which are hugely popular all over Japan, contain all kinds of delicious goodies like fish, meat, stewed vegetables and pickles, along with rice. When one bento-loving Japanese university student threw caution to the wind and sunk her entire lunch into her miso soup, she discovered that the resulting soupy concoction was even more tasty than she could have imagined! Thus, convenience store bento soup was born!
Here at RocketNews24 we love to try out rice-augmenting recipes and other wacky food combinations, so when a writer from our Japanese sister site heard about this amazing invention, made by heating the entire contents of a convenience store lunchbox in a pot of miso soup, she just had to give it a try! Let’s see how she got on.
For those of you looking forward to trying this one out at home, here’s the recipe:
- One portion miso soup
- One convenience store bento
(Our RocketNews24 reporter used some lovely-looking home-made soup, but we reckon instant miso soup from a packet would be fine, and probably result in a more authentic student experience anyway.)
▼ Here’s the lunch box we started out with.
▼ And the miso soup:
1. Heat the soup in a pan.
2. When the soup comes to a boil, add the bento (chuck everything in the pan – rice, meat, fish, pickles, salad, fried goodies – just not that plastic grass divider thing).
▼Taking the plunge!
3. Simmer until the rice absorbs the flavour of the soup, and your lunch-box soup is ready!
▼Let the rice simmer into soupy oblivion.
Simple enough, right?
▼Our bento soup is ready to try!
Our Japanese reporter’s initial reaction to the above recipe was one of shock: “WHHAAAATT?! Put everything in at once? Even the SALAD?!” But in the name of research she persevered, following the recipe to the letter.
Throw everything in the pot
The bento‘s more solid components such as salmon, stewed vegetables, and konnyaku (solidified jelly-type yam cake) maintained their shape and texture well. But the batter from the fried goodies soon fell off and started to dissolve into the soup, looking a bit soggy and unappealing. “Hmmm. It looks like it’ll be easy to digest,” she observed. “But is it gonna taste any good?”
The 64 million yen question
Time to see how our bento soup tastes! The rice, apparently, just comes out tasting vaguely like miso, so no surprises there. It’s the accompanying bits and pieces that are the real winners, though! The lotus root and omelette absorb the flavour beautifully, becoming even fluffier and softer in the soup. “It tastes a bit like chanchan-yaki [a hot-pot dish from Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido]”. Clearly, salmon and miso is a killer combo!
“I thought the dissolved batter was gonna be gross,” adds our reporter, “but actually it gives the soup a nice richness. Maybe it’s not so weird after all!”
▼ Our lunch has gone from this:
The ideal diet food?!
Bento soup, she observes, is ideal for those trying not to over-eat in the winter months. If you usually eat a bento plus dessert for lunch, switching the dessert for soup instead is way more filling! So depending on your choice of bento, this could end up being a delicious, warming AND healthy choice. If miso’s not your thing, you could also use another flavour of soup instead.
Well, what do you think? Is your bento-less soup lacking an injection of pickles and rice? Or is all this food-mixing a bit too much to stomach? Let us know in the comments!
[ Read in Japanese ]