[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.
[Edamame and cheese:] Combine cubed processed cheese, boiled and shelled edamame, mayonnaise, and black pepper and toss together.
[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).
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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).
[Mock sushi:] Wrap nori seaweed around pieces of omelette.
[Sweet and savory grilled shrimp:] Shell the shrimp, brown both sides in a frying pan, sprinkle with soy sauce and mirin, then coat evenly.
[Shiitake stir-fry with gochujang:] Stir-fry fresh shiitake mushrooms in sesame oil, then stew in gochujang, shiro-dashi, and mirin.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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).
[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.
[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.
[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).
[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.
[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.
[Mayonnaise and ra-yu salad:] Microwave thinly sliced cabbage and ham and toss with mayonnaise and ra-yu.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[Tamagoyaki with shiso leaf:] Mix a coarsely chopped shiso leaf into omelette batter. (Apologies for the wonky shape...) This is delicious.
[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.
[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.