For me, one thing that defines bento is the presence of an assortment of food items in a single container. Instead of bringing multiple re-sealable containers holding different dishes, you bring a small amount of a variety of food, giving you a nice, balanced variety without necessarily increasing your food intake. To make it easier, not to mention neater, a nice addition to your bento arsenal would be dividers and cups.
Take this bento for example. While this box originally comes with its own partitions, I decided not to use it, in favor of making my own partitions. Doing this allows me to be more flexible with the number of contents and their amounts.
See the red plaid cup at the right side, holding the Patis-Calamansi Fried Chicken? Those are disposable bento liners specially designed for bento boxes. They’re not the easiest things to find but can easily be substituted with colorful cupcake liners. They’re good for dry food. Some people opt for reusable silicon cupcake liners. They’re great as well, and can be used for food that’s a bit more liquidy.
Small-sized re-sealable containers like those used for taking out sauces and dips on the other hand, are good for wet food that have sauce or dressing but isn’t liquidy, like this potato salad. If you’re putting something wetter, it’s best to use it with a cover. If it doesn’t come with a cover, you can use a piece of tightly pulled cling wrap.
Of course, there are also mini-cups that are specifically created for bento, like the square yellow cup, pictured here with orange wedges. I like them because they are colorful and come in a wide variety of shapes so I can choose one that will fit the alloted space in my box.
Lastly, I used romaine lettuce leaves to serve as edible dividers for my onigiri and apple wedges. Because of the curly edges, they’re not only functional but attractive as well. Mostly, I use non-edible baran or dividers. They’re those fake grass sheets you usually see adorning sushi. That’s only one kind though; they’re actually available in a range of colors and designs to help make your bento prettier.
The use of dividers, while not totally necessary, goes a long way when it comes to bento prep. Whether it’s for functional or aesthetic reasons, it always pays to have a few portioning tricks up your sleeve.