Popular onigiri fillings and flavors, single Bento Boys, and more

Some bento-related news that caught my eye recently:

Single Bento Boys

Married guys and single women take homemade bentos to work as a matter of course, but up until now single guys have relied on bought bento from convenience stores (conbini) and so on. But now it seems that more single guys are bringing homemade bentos too. Sales of utilitarian bento boxes, even ‘Tupper’ (=Tupperware) are on the rise. Reasons given by these “Bento Boys” as they are dubbed include the worsening economy/to save money, health concerns and for ecological reasons (combini bentos come in landfill-cluttering plastic or styrofoam disposable containers). According to this Japanese article, the hip Single Guy these days saves money where he can, but doesn’t stint on splurging on his hobbies and interests. Presumably these single guys make their own bento (the article says that many rely on readymade bento components that are sold by weight at conbini and supermarkets, and cook their own rice. Rather like buying deli meats and assembling your own sandwich I guess.) (Via the always interesting Mari Diary). You could follow their example and become a hip, intelligently economizing Bento Boy or Girl too!

Cheap bentos getting popular

Speaking of combini, in recent years some combini chains have come out with ‘deluxe’ onigiri retailing for 200-300 yen each, filled with expensive things like ikura (salmon caviar), tender beef filet, and uni (sea urchin), as well as makunouchi-style expensive bento lunches. Now the trend may be reserving: the Lotteria chain is coming out with small deep fried chicken rice onigiri (more like rice croquettes) that retail for 100 yen called “Koro Musubi”. This adds to their lineup of 100 yen small bite offerings, which include the “Straight Burger Lotteria” (a heterosexual burger for homophobes…I’m kidding, I think they mean it’s a no-frills burger), “Snack Chicken” and “Vegetable Life 100”. Japanese link. Also, people are turning away from the deluxe bentos to more economic versions; a department store in Kagoshima is having success with a line of 260 yen bentos (Japanese link.) The ‘in’ bento is the classic noriben - see my noriben recipe.

Nodame Cantabile star Juri Ueno in onigiri commerical

You may know Juri Ueno (上野樹里)as the star of the live-action version of the popular anime and manga Nodame Cantabile. She is going to be in a commercial for Food Action Nippon, a campaign sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (農林水産省, MAFF) that encourages eating local and promoting domestic food production (i.e. ‘food self-reliance’). Here she is being interviewed, with a part of her commercial, where she shows her love of onigiri. (Yep I know, so kawaii. She’s 22, for what it’s worth.)

Popular onigiri flavors and fillings

Every year, various convenience store chains and the like hold surveys of popular onigiri fillings and flavors. They don’t really change much, but perusing such lists can lead to inspiration for different onigiri fillings and flavors…though it looks like mayonnaise with something is overwhelming popular. The list here is fairly typical. Here are the most popular:

  1. Tuna w. mayonnaise
  2. Salted salmon (sha-keh) (how to make your own salted salmon)
  3. Umeboshi (pickled plums)
  4. Mentaiko (spicy pollock roe)
  5. Grilled tarako (salty, not-spicy pollock roe)
  6. Konbu seaweed
  7. Ikura (salmon caviar marinated in soy sauce)
  8. Mixed chicken rice
  9. Shrimp w. mayonnaise
  10. Takana (pickled vegetable)
  11. Tenmusu - shrimp tempura
  12. Mentaiko (see no. 4) with mayo
  13. Mentaiko with mustard
  14. (tie) Okaka (bonito flakes with soy sauce)
  15. Uncooked tarako (see no. 5)
  16. Sujiko (a non-marinated version of ikura)
  17. (tie) Salted salmon with mayo
  18. (tie) Raw tuna (maguro)
  19. (tie) Chicken karaage (recipe)
  20. Osekihan, sticky rice and azuki beans (osekihan recipe) Other suggestions include: green onion with miso (negimiso); yakiniku (grilled beef in sauce), kalbi (Korean bbq beef), cheese, tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) and kimchi.

SPAM lands on mainland Japan, again

And last but not least: Hormel Foods, makers of the infamous Spam, announced that they are re-commencing a fullblown Spam assault on the mainland Japan market in 2009 (Japanese article). Spam as you probably know already is very popular in Hawai’i, especially as spam musubi. Since musubi (onigiri) originated in Japan, many people erroenously believe that Spam is also popular in Japan. Not so: it is indeed popular in Okinawa, where it was introduced to the local population by the American military (as it was in Korea), but so far Spam is only available as ‘imported food’ in some department stores and such. Here’s how the Japanese version of Spam will look (this actually says ‘with 20% less salt compared to Classic’):

spamjapan.jpg

So…will Spam conquer Japan? We shall see.

This is my last Just Bento post until after Christmas. Happy Holidays to you all! (And yep I’m still working out the details on the January Bento Challenge. Stay tuned for more details after the 26th!)

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

21 comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Love the blog!

Thanks I am so in love with this blog. It might seem silly but its really helped me keep my son in touch with some of his culture. He’s 1/4 Japanese and mom ( shes from Hawaii, the 1/2 lol.. ) doesn’t make much in the way of traditional food. She’s really in love with the food too and keeps telling me how it reminds her of when she was a girl.

Merry XMas from our family!

Cute

The single men making their own bentos strikes me as cute, I don’t know why. I think you see a similar thing in the U.S.; my husband frequently gets a homemade lunch from me, while his single male colleagues rely on takeout or leftovers — which is what my husband usually takes when he makes his own lunch, just a tupperware container of leftover whatever. When I make it, he gets the same leftovers, but with a side salad, fruit, a cookie, whatever else; all nicely packaged (sometimes bento, sometimes more American brown-bag traditional) with real silverware and a napkin tucked in and so forth.

The single guys sometimes tease the married guys about their lunches, but they’re totally jealous. :) And it’s not so much the lunch itself, I don’t think — plenty of these guys cook beautifully — it’s that someone cares enough about you to put effort into a quickie lunch.

Seems to be less of a thing for women, but when my husband makes my lunch, it’s definitely less utilitarian than when I make my own, and he usually tucks in a note. (awwwwwww!)

I think the Bento Boys thing

I think the Bento Boys thing is great! We should all try to cook from scratch more often, for the environment, and due to the world economic crisis, so I think it’s a brilliant thing. That said, it’s still all too easy to resort to convenience food sometimes… I really appreciate the onigiri fillings list, too; I’ve become addicted to making them thanks to your easy method, and I am slowly getting better. I love the veggie fillings that I’ve tried so far, and would like to try konbu next time. Merry Christmas, Maki, and thanks for having the most inspiring sites on the net!

I think the Bento Boys thing

I think the Bento Boys thing is great! We should all try to cook from scratch more often, for the environment, and due to the world economic crisis, so I think it’s a brilliant thing. That said, it’s still all too easy to resort to convenience food sometimes… I really appreciate the onigiri fillings list, too; I’ve become addicted to making them thanks to your easy method, and I am slowly getting better. I love the veggie fillings that I’ve tried so far, and would like to try konbu next time. Merry Christmas, Maki, and thanks for having the most inspiring sites on the net!

Spam and Jerky

I collected a bunch of free tourist magazines in Japanese on a trip to Hawaii. It was interesting to see the relative value of things. There was a page of best bargains in Waikiki: Cosmetics … designer handbags … cologne … Oberto beef jerky …

In U.S. terms, it sounds like a game of “one of these things is not like the others.” But different strokes for different folks.

How come my favorite onigiri

How come my favorite onigiri are all at the very bottom of the list? Haha My ex-bf, although not single at the time but I lived in America, had his bento put together by his mom still hehe.

My fav onigiri are salted

My fav onigiri are salted salmon followed by tarako.I think I ate way too many combini onigiris when I was in Japan.

I wish I have someone to make bento (yup, 愛妻弁当lol) for besides myself and wish that someone will make one for me (other than my mother that is!)

My fav onigiri are salted

My fav onigiri are salted salmon followed by tarako.I think I ate way too many combini onigiris when I was in Japan.

I wish I have someone to make bento (yup, 愛妻弁当lol) for besides myself and wish that someone will make one for me (other than my mother that is!)

My fav onigiri are salted

My fav onigiri are salted salmon followed by tarako.I think I ate way too many combini onigiris when I was in Japan.

I wish I have someone to make bento (yup, 愛妻弁当lol) for besides myself and wish that someone will make one for me (other than my mother that is!)

P.S. I hope this is not a double-post. I’ve been having some problems commenting.

I love Spam

I think the love of Spam must be some recessive Asian gene because as much as I loathe the concept of a pressed smorgashboard of meat products, I adore Spam. My mother uses it in her kimchi-jigae, fries it to eat with rice, or places thin strips of it in her gimbap. I’ve made musubi with it (sans teriyaki sauce though), but I think my favorite way to eat is to fry it in a non-stick skillet with no oil until a light brown crust forms. Then eat in small pieces with a big piece of hot rice. Yum!

Embarrassing

Okay, I have a somewhat embarrassing question… (> ///////// >) When you put the nori wrapper on an onigiri, do you eat it? Or is it just to help you hold onto the onigiri?

nori

Don’t be embarassed :) The nori is entirely edible. Some people don’t like it much, but I think it’s an acquired taste.

haha, i live in Korea, and

haha, i live in Korea, and they LOVE spam here, it’s considered a delicacy! on big Korean holidays, people give gifts of Spam hampers. and now there’s even cheesy Spam!

My favorite fillings are:

My favorite fillings are: all mentaiko versions, tuna with mayo, maguro. I love uni, it’s one of my favorite food, top 10 certainly, but I think I haven’t eat it in onigiri form. Now konbu and umeboshi is kind of uninsteresting….

My favorite fillings are:

My favorite fillings are: all mentaiko versions, tuna with mayo, maguro. I love uni, it’s one of my favorite food, top 10 certainly, but I think I haven’t eat it in onigiri form. Now konbu and umeboshi is kind of uninsteresting….

I like very much the tuna

I like very much the tuna version but ume is also an excellent and quick version. thanks for alternative ideas

One of my favorite onigiri

One of my favorite onigiri to make is extremely nontraditional. I mix sliced banana with a bit of honey, and instead of using salt on the outside of the onigiri, I use sugar. It’s unusual, but tasty. (And now I may have to make some tomorrow…)

Re: Popular onigiri fillings and flavors, single Bento ...

i love Japan and everything japanese especially their food...each time i watch mangas cartoons i c people eating onigiri and i just wana try n make sum...i love the ideas posted n the suggestions bout the different fillings...but when u say Tuna with mayo do u mean canned tuna or fresh Tuna???
arigato go za imassu (thnx)

Re: Popular onigiri fillings and flavors, single Bento ...

i think canned tuna should be okay for the onigiri, but most japanese use fresh. have you ever tried raw salmon with soy sauce mixed with wasabi? try it. its really good once you get past the texture of the salmon.

Re: Popular onigiri fillings and flavors, single Bento ...

I need to try a lot of these. I haven't tried most of them...However, I LOVE tuna with mayo. I mix a little wasabi or horseradish with it, though, to give the whole thing a little kick. White rice + plain mayo + tuna= a little plain after a while.

Re: Popular onigiri fillings and flavors, single Bento ...

Last Thanksgiving we had some cranberry sauce leftover, the kind from a can. It tastes reeeaaally good as a filling (and you can put powdered sugar on top of it to make some sort of dessert onigiri! :3)

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.