The o-bento, the multi-compartment Japanese boxed lunch, has long been a popular choice for many people as it features a delicious variety of treats to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. For most diners, it is the menu item that delivers the most in terms of both value and variety: a box full of good things that you can choose to share with a friend or enjoy on your lonesome, savouring varying tastes and textures in a single meal.
One of the most interesting o-bento I’ve had in recent years is actually from a Chinese restaurant – Mr. Choi Kitchen – rather than Japanese and it is not referred to as a bento box. Instead, it’s listed on the menu as the assorted cold cuts rice topping.
Yes, the name is something of a misnomer because the assorted bits and pieces are tucked into compartments apart from the rice, but you have to admit that it does look good and is actually a tasty thing to have when you’re feeling absolutely peckish and not in the mood for a hot meal.
The primary proteins here are pork asado (char siu) and soy chicken, both of which were nice, tender, deliciously flavourful. The sweetness of the pork and the saltiness of the chicken are balanced by the sides that come with the dish: braised tofu with bok choy and a tart, lemony selection of mixed pickles (carrot, jicama, and cucumber) topped with a sliced century egg. Paired with the hot rice, it made an absolutely satisfying lunch for one and you just have to love the sharp contrasts: hot and cold, sour and sweet, salty and bland, crisp and soft. It is a lunch box I will happily chow down on again and again.