By: Hill Choi Lee
February 7, 2023
The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO) brings the art of Japanese bento delicacies to the Hong Kong dining scene with a special pop-up store. Japan is known for its culinary artisanship. With elongated mountainous island geography that stretches from north to south and is surrounded by oceans, its climate gives birth to unique regional ingredients that inspire unique indigenous flavours
JFOODO launches a campaign that promotes Japanese bento on 8 February with the participation of renowned chefs and restaurants in Hong Kong, including the prestigious Nadaman at the Island Shangri-La hotel.
“The bento offered in this campaign are designed to make them more enjoyable for everyone in Hong Kong in terms of flavour, while maintaining the aesthetic food presentation based on the four seasons that is unique to Japanese cuisine,” says chef Takatsugu Koyama of Nadaman. “We hope that everyone in Hong Kong will take this opportunity to enjoy the bento packed with Japanese artisanship.”
The art of bento preparation has been well-documented over time. It goes as far as creating a competitive spirit among those who delve into the practice with pride. Beyond constructing a boxed meal that is visually and palatably pleasing, there is serious Japanese artisanship involved.
The “Shokado bento”, for example, is a simplified version of Japanese kaiseki cuisine (which you will often find in traditional guesthouses, or “ryokans” in Japan) that combines carefully crafted Japanese ingredients with classic artisanship. The Shokado bento represents one of the most authentic styles of bento with its characteristic four equal sections as one of its main features. This separation allows the food to be beautifully arranged and separates the dishes in order to preserve the food’s distinct flavours.
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There are three key artisanship elements that are always present in a Japanese bento. Firstly, the way one would experience these boxed meals is by preparing the ingredients via ingenious techniques that evoke the four seasons. February heralds the end of a long winter and the coming of spring and sees the use of plum blossom-shaped vegetables and ripe blossoms that symbolise the budding springtime. There is an emphasis on the colours of the ingredients as well – white represents snow, green represents leaves, and pink represents flowers.
The second element is in the production process itself. While rice is an essential part of Japanese cuisine, farmers go to tremendous lengths in preserving and nurturing the rice from pests, typhoons, and other weather conditions. High-quality white rice should be beautifully and uniformly grained – a sign that a master rice grower is skilled.
Thirdly, Japanese artisanship must make the most of local ingredients. While taste and visual aesthetics are important aspects of the bento, the moment of preparation is also important to create the most outstanding dishes for bento. The partition you find in bento boxes – which separates the different dishes that make up one wholesome meal – is unique to Japanese bento. The positioning allows for the food to maintain its beauty until the moment they are opened and discovered. In each partitioned space, there is an ingredient for each theme, and the overall balance has to be considered to suit a wide range of palates.
To see the summation of years of experience and practices of more than 10 authentic Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong, you can head over to the campaign’s pop-up store at Lab Concept from 8 to 17 February, or the participating restaurants from 8 to 21 February. Along with Nadaman, participating restaurants include Kappo Roan, Sara, Tsukada Nojo, among many others.
Visit the pop-up store and respective dining venues to try the bento with highly crafted Japanese ingredients on this special occasion. Check out the participating restaurants to experience the different bento offerings in town.
For more information and participating restaurants, please check out the full list here.
Restaurants, bento menus and sales schedule are subject to change.
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