Bento Fillers

Bento Fillers

This is a collection of recipes for bento fillers--they're all quick-prep items.


Ingredients stocked in your refrigerator.


1. [Okra rolled in ham:] Rinse the okra, sprinkle with salt, wrap in plastic wrap, then microwave for 15-20 seconds. Cut off the stem, diagonally slice in half, roll in ham, then secure with a toothpick. Serve with mayonnaise for dipping.
2. [Edamame and cheese:] Combine cubed processed cheese, boiled and shelled edamame, mayonnaise, and black pepper and toss together.
3. [Okra tossed with bonito flakes:] Rinse the okra, sprinkle with salt, wrap in plastic wrap, then microwave for 15-20 seconds. Cut off the stem, diagonally slice in thirds, then toss with bonito flakes and shiro-dashi (or a small amount of soy sauce).
4. [Cucumbers tossed with yukari and chirimen-jako:] Thinly slice the cucumbers and rub in salt, mince the yukari (salted and dried red shiso leaves) that are pickled with umeboshi, and toss with chirimen-jako, toasted sesame seeds (black or white) and a few drops of soy sauce.
5. [Aonori seaweed egg crepe:] Sprinkle aonori on an omelette. Rather than cooking the omelette with the aonori mixed into the batter, this maintains the color and flavor of the aonori.
6. [Chicken tenders and wakame seaweed tossed in mustard:] Season the chicken tenders with salt and sake, wrap in plastic wrap and microwave. Once cool to the touch, shred, and toss with wakame, Japanese mustard, and shiro dashi.
7. [Chicken and watercress salad:] Thinly slice the chicken thigh and cut it into small pieces, then season with a pinch of salt. Combine in a frying pan with oyster sauce and mayonnaise until shiny. Once it cools, toss with finely chopped watercress.
8. [Yakiniku-style chikuwa:] Simmer diagonally sliced chikuwa in a frying pan with yakiniku sauce (store-bought). Sprinkle on sesame seeds, then it's ready. It will become too salty if you simmer it too long, so be careful.
9. [Maitake and daikon with sesame dressing:] Place shredded maitake mushrooms seasoned with a pinch of salt and sake in a heat-resistant dish, cover in plastic wrap, then microwave until tender. Drain excess liquid, then toss with shredded shiso leaf and sesame seed dressing (store-bought).
10. [Mock sushi:] Wrap nori seaweed around pieces of omelette.
11. [Sweet and savory grilled shrimp:] Shell the shrimp, brown both sides in a frying pan, sprinkle with soy sauce and mirin, then coat evenly.
12. [Shiitake stir-fry with gochujang:] Stir-fry fresh shiitake mushrooms in sesame oil, then stew in gochujang, shiro-dashi, and mirin.
13. [Chirimen-jako and carrots:] Quickly stir-fry julienned carrots in vegetable oil, add chirimen-jako, then simmer in shiro-dashi and a dash of usukuchi soy sauce. Remove from heat, then toss with sesame seeds.
14. [Snap peas sautéed in garlic:] Parboil snap peas, then stir-fry in a frying pan with a dash of salt, a tiny pinch of curry powder, and garlic powder. Try it with snow peas or green beans, too.
15. [Kimpira-style fuki:] Stir-fry boiled fuki with sesame oil, season with shiro-dashi, a dash of soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar and continue to stir-fry. Sprinkle on sesame seeds to finish.
16. [Mashed potato dumplings:] Make a mashed potato with ham and edamame (seasoned with mayonnaise, salt, and a pinch of sugar) wrap in plastic wrap and shape into dumplings. The dumpling in the background is seasoned with a dash of curry powder.
17. [Komatsuna tossed with zha cai:] Finely chop the komatsuna, stir fry in vegetable oil, then add a splash of shiro-dashi, and toss with chopped flavored zha cai (store-bought). If it needs more seasoning, add a few drops of soy sauce.
18. [Sweet and spicy fried egg with shiso leaf:] Grease a frying pan with vegetable oil, break an egg into the pan, then top with a shiso leaf. Once it slightly sets, fold it in half with a spatula, and cook both sides.
19. [Bang bang style salad:] Finely slice boiled chicken breast, then toss with julienned cucumbers (lightly salted to wilt), sesame seeds, and mayonnaise. Sprinkle with a few drops of sesame oil (to boost the fragrance), then mix.
20. [Macaroni salad with dashi soup stock:] When you run out of ham or tuna for macaroni salad, add dashi stock granules (with bonito flakes) to give it flavor. The photo shows it with cucumber and carrots.
21. [Kabocha squash and wiener sausage stir-fry:] Microwave kabocha squash until tender. Thinly slice the wiener and stir-fry in a small amount of butter. Add the kabocha, and season with salt and pepper, and a few drops of oyster sauce.
22. [As a bento divider item...:] I use red-leaf lettuce as a divider between bento items. Pleated salad leaves are handy since they don't require any extra effort and look nice. I also use shiso leaves when I have extra. It's good to eat them up after they do their job.
23. [Shimeji mushroom tsukudani:] Stir-fry shimeji mushrooms and thinly sliced ginger in a few drops of vegetable oil. Add a few drops of dashi soup stock, sugar, mirin, and soy sauce and continue to stir-fry over high heat. Once the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens, remove from heat, then add a few drops of sesame oil. Sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds. This is nice and fragrant.
24. [Glazed carrots with a twist:] Seasoned with a touch of soy sauce. Boil carrots in water, consommé soup stock granules, a dab of butter, and few drops of usukuchi soy sauce (for producing a nice color) until tender. Adding a touch of soy sauce makes this a nice complement for Japanese bento items.
25. [Bean sprout and wakame seaweed namul:] Toss boiled bean sprouts with wakame, sesame oil, salt, a dash of soy sauce, a tiny pinch of sugar, and sesame seeds. Season well with salt. The flavor improves if prepared the previous night to allow flavors to absorb. I recommend lightly grinding the sesame seeds.
26. [Kiriboshi daikon tossed with yukari:] Squeeze excess water from rehydrated kiriboshi daikon, then toss with shiro-dashi, a few drops of soy sauce, and yukari.
27. [Salty bamboo shoots and bacon stir-fry:] Thinly slice a boiled bamboo shoot and stir-fry in vegetable oil with bacon. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
28. [Wiener sausages with a grown-up flair:] Roast a wiener sausage, then wrap in a shiso leaf. The aromatic shiso leaf gives this a grown-up flair.
29. [Avocado and hanpen salad tossed with wasabi and mayonnaise:] Chop the avocado and hanpen into small pieces, and toss with mayonnaise sauce (a blend of mayonnaise, wasabi, and a few drops of usukuchi soy sauce).
30. [Gingered carrots:] Stir-fry julienned carrots and ginger with a splash of vegetable oil. Once the carrots become tender, add mentsuyu, a dash of curry powder, and continue to stir-fry. Enjoy the ginger flavor.
31. [Atsuage simmered in Japanese style curry] Simmer atsuage and julienned ginger in sweet and savory sauce (dashi stock, soy sauce, sugar, and mirin), then season with a dash of curry powder. Thicken with a katakuriko slurry.
32. [Broccoli seasoned with Japanese mustard:] Toss boiled broccoli with Japanese mustard sauce (a dressing made from shiro-dashi, a few drops of soy sauce, and Japanese mustard).
33. [Naruto wasabi-mayo sandwich] Spread a mixture of wasabi and mayonnaise on a piece of thinly sliced naruto (omit the wasabi for children) and sandwich another slice on top.
34. [Flower-carved fish sausages:] Carve the fish sausages into a flower pattern as you do with boiled eggs. It's simple, but it's appealing--just carve them into flowers.
35. [Mayonnaise and ra-yu salad:] Microwave thinly sliced cabbage and ham and toss with mayonnaise and ra-yu.
36. [Spiral egg rolls:] Place a sheet of nori seaweed on top of a thin omelet, and roll it up. Leave the nori 1 cm longer than the egg. Seal the nori with mayonnaise.
37. [Chrysanthemum greens stir-fried in sesame oil:] Chop the chrysanthemum greens into 1 cm lengths, then stir-fry in sesame oil. Season with a few drops of shiro-dashi and soy sauce. An easy marinated dish.
38. [Sweet and savory tuna:] Season tuna chunks with a dash of salt. Lightly coat in katakuriko, then stir-fry in vegetable oil. Season with soy sauce, oyster sauce, mirin and sugar to taste.
39. [Shimeji mushrooms and carrots:] In a heat-resistant dish, season shimeji mushrooms and julienned carrots with salt, pepper, and butter, cover with plastic wrap, then microwave. Add a few drops of soy sauce to taste.
40. [Takuan pickled daikon radish with cucumber:] Thinly slice cucumbers and rub in salt, then toss with thinly sliced takuan, bonito flakes, grated ginger, soy sauce, and toasted sesame seeds.
41. [Chinese stir-fried bean sprouts:] Stir-fry bean sprouts and julienned carrots in sesame oil, then season with salt. Add a dash of oyster sauce, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and mix.
42. [Shiitake stuffed with mayonnaise:] Spread mayonnaise on the underside of the shiitake mushroom cap, then bake in toaster oven until brown. Sprinkle on minced parsley to finish.
43. [Bacon rolls:] Wrap cabbage in plastic wrap and microwave until tender, then wrap in strips of bacon. The bacon strip should be 1 cm longer than the cabbage. Fry.
44. [Simmered snap peas seasoned with Japanese mustard:] Simmer snap peas in dashi soup stock, sugar, soy sauce, and mirin, then toss with a dab of Japanese mustard.
45. [Potato salad wrapped in bacon:] Wrap potatoes from a leftover potato salad in bacon, then brown in a frying pan. This will make them fragrant and delicious.
46. [Bacon and green peppers:] Stir-fry green peppers and bacon with salt and pepper, then drizzle on a few drops of soy sauce and a touch of oyster sauce. This also makes a good refrigerator stock item.
47. [Tamagoyaki with shiso leaf:] Mix a coarsely chopped shiso leaf into omelette batter. (Apologies for the wonky shape...) This is delicious.
48. [Kabocha pumpkin and shimeji:] Microwave the kabocha until tender, then stir-fry in vegetable oil with shimeji mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper (coarsely ground), and a touch of oyster sauce.
49. [Aonori potatoes:] Microwave potatoes until tender, then toss with a pinch of salt and mayonnaise. Sprinkle on aonori for the final touch.

Story Behind this Recipe

While it might be easy to come up with a main dish for bentos, the fillers can be quite tricky. So, I put together this digest of handy filler recipes. I plan to update it from time to time.