Shokado Bento – Autumn in a box

I’ve always wanted one of these oh so traditional Japanese-looking, black and red Shokado boxes and a while back ago I got lucky and found two of them at a very reasonable price. They are second-hand and the seller was gross enough to send them to me with smears and stuff from the last food that was served in them. Anyway, I guess you can’t have everything, right? After thoroughly washing them they looked as good as new… well almost. My recent poll on twitter on what to blog next suggested that I’d do a bento so here you go.

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Shokado boxes are mostly used in restaurants. The segmented interior is supposed to prevent the food from touching and thereby exchanging flavour and scent. In regular bento boxes you’d use paper or silicon cups and dividers but that gives it a more unsettled look I think. It is said that Shokado boxes originate from the early Edo period where they were used to store paint or calligraphy tools and tobacco by a monk called Nakanuma Shikibu living in Kyoto. You can read more about the history of the Shokado bento box here: click.
There’s high-end boxes made of real lacquered wood which look incredibly gorgeous I think and then there’s cheap rip offs like mine. The good thing about the plastic ones though is that they’re machine washable.

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Tawaragata Onigiri are barrel-shaped onigiri

The idea was to make a seasonal-themed bento with lots of autumnal veggies but I was too lazy to go to the grocery store so I used three representatives: pumpkin, sweet beans and chestnuts, which are typical for autumn and decorated a little with Japanese maple leafs. The pumpkin and beans are home-grown and even if the beans in the middle look a little like black beans you may know from traditional Japanese new year’s dishes, they’re not. I got some funky beans a few years ago in Furano or Biei I think, as a gift for my mother while travelling Hokkaido and of course we planted them. This is actually the second or third year we’re growing Japanese beans in our garden but I have no idea what they’re called. The only time I ate them was last winter at our host family’s home. Obasan let them dry and cooked them with lots of sugar I think. Maybe I’ll post a picture of the beans on my twitter so one of my Japanese followers can help me find out the name.

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What I’m definitely most proud of are the different seasoned rice balls. I made umeokaka (bonito flakes and sour plum) and used two different kinds of furikake, namely gomashio (sesame and salt) and one with dried perilla and sesame. Sankaku (triangular), tawaragata (cylindrical) and marugata (spherical) or round-shaped onigiri are the three basic onigiri types. It’s the first time I made cylindrical-shaped onigiri and I still need some practice.
I’m looking forward to eating yummy autumn food such as pumpkin soup and chestnut rice. What’s your favourite dish for fall?

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