Deep-fried crumbed Beef & Pork Patty (Menchi Katsu) is a perfect food for a bento box. When you make Menchi Katsu for dinner, make some extra and freeze them for bento to use them later. My Beef & Pork Patty Bento is packed with vegetables that are prepared in different ways.
The standard size of Menchi Katsu (Ground Meat Cutlet) is similar to a Hamburg steak. That’s a bit too large to go into a bento box, unless of course your bento box is pretty big.
My bento box today is a modest size (11cm x 20cm / 4⅜” x 8″), purchased from the Daiso discount shop. If you make a couple of smaller Menchi Katsu, they can fit nicely in a bento box, allowing room for other side dishes.
What’s in Beef & Pork Patty Bento
Here are the ingredients of Beef & Pork Patty Bento box.
- Cooked rice – this can be made ahead. Please refer to How to Cook Rice the Japanese Way. Pack the cooked rice in a bento box while the rice is still hot or warm as it is easier to shape it, and let it cool down before adding other ingredients.
- Menchi Katsu (Ground Meat Cutlet) – this can be made ahead and you can even freeze it. It is easier to freeze after deep-frying. The size of Menchi Katsu needs to be smaller than the ones in the Menchi Katsu recipe – about 2/3 of the full size. For this bento, I made them into about 4cm x 6cm / 1½” x 2⅜” sized oval shapes. If the bento box is smaller, like a kids bento box, you may want to make the patties even smaller.
- Snow Pea Leaves Warm Salad (Nibitashi) – Nibitashi can be made ahead up to 2-3 days. When you make Nibitashi for dinner, put aside a small amount for the bento. Instead of snow pea leaves, you can use spinach.
- Simple Pickled Celery – The flavour of the sauce for the Menchi Katsu and Nibitashi is on the sweet side. Adding a small amount of pickles balances the palate. It is also a make ahead dish. You could have sunomono (dishes with vinegar dressing) such as Cucumber and Seaweed Sunomono instead, if you have time to make it on the day.
- Shredded lettuce – shredded lettuce or cabbage is a ‘must’ when you have Menchi Katsu or other crumbed deep-fried dishes such as Korokke and Tonkatsu. Since there are different vegetables in the bento, I think that a plain shredded lettuce or cabbage leaf will do the job.
- Baby tomatoes– I needed red in my bento. Boiled carrot pieces or a couple of strawberries can work, too.
- Sauce – the sauce is to be poured over the Menchi Katsu. It is much better to put the sauce in a small container and pour it over just before eating, rather than putting the sauce over the Menchi Katsu when packing a bento.
How to Pack an attractive Bento
Japanese people are said to eat with their eyes. Part of the enjoyment of eating is admiring the beauty of the food and arrangements. The better the food looks, the more delicious we feel the food will be.
This concept also applies to bento making. People make every effort to make their bento box look gorgeous and well balanced.
It is not difficult to pack a bento box that looks pretty and delicious. There are three major areas that you can focus on – (a) effective use of dividers to separate foods, (b) colour combinations and (c) packing techniques. I listed key points in each area in the following sections.
- Dividers prevent different foods from mixing while carrying the bento box.
- Unless each food is solid with no sauce or juice, you need to separate each food.
- Use a divider to separate food with no sauce or juice.
- Use okazu cups (see my post Yakitori Bento for details) or small cupcake liners to place saucy foods.
- To separate dry ingredients, you can also use a lettuce leaf as a divider.
- Try to add a bright colour, even just one green leaf will make a big difference.
- If most dishes are brownish, add a couple of mini tomatoes or carrots to brighten up the bento.
- Boiled eggs or Dashimaki Tamago are a good side dish to add a bright colour and they can be made ahead.
- Place the foods that are opposite each other in the colour wheel next to each other to give a vibrant look, e.g. green and red.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds or furikake (dry Japanese seasoning for rice – see samples in How to Cook Rice the Japanese Way) over the plain rice to give an accent.
- Cool down the food before packing to avoid water droplets on the lid of the bento box.
- Pack the foods from the larger quantity to a smaller quantity, e.g. rice first, then main dish followed by side dishes.
- If there are two high volume foods, try to place them apart instead of putting them next each other. The bento box will look more balanced.
- Do not leave empty spaces – small side dishes can fill the gaps.
- It’s OK to put the main dish on rice, e.g. Pork Shōgayaki Bento. I sometimes put grilled salmon on rice when the space for side dishes is limited.
- Drain liquid from the dish if possible, otherwise use an okazu cup.
- Sauces to be poured over food should be separately packed and used at the time of eating.
My bento box today came with one divider to partition the bento box into two areas. So, I placed the divider to separate the rice from all other foods. I used okazu cups for Nibitashi and pickles as they come with a bit of liquid.
About The Sauce Container
It is easier to pour the sauce over the Menchi Katsu (Ground Meat Cutlet) and pack them in a bento box, instead of packing the sauce in a separate container. But when you open the bento box and are ready to eat, you will be grateful if the sauce is not poured already.
Nothing is so unappetising as seeing a cutlet stained with a brown sauce that has soaked into the crumbed coating and lost the shiny surface of the sauce.
The same applies to pouring soy sauce over the dish. See my Chicken Karaage Bento where I packed soy sauce in a little container for Spinach Ohitashi Salad.
You don’t need a large amount of sauces for a bento, so I use one of the following containers to be added to the bento box.
- Smallest air-tight container bought from a supermarket (top left photo below)
- Plastic sauce bottle from Daiso discount shop (top right photo below)
- Small sauce container from a take away shop, after you had a good take away meal (bottom left photo below)
When the sauce is thick like today’s dish, the first two options would be easier to fill. But I did fill the plastic sauce bottle from Daiso with Bulldog sauce when I made Tonkatsu Bento.
The plastic sauce bottle from Daiso came in a pack with a dozen of these (bottom right photo above). I think it was only few dollars a pack.
Due to COVID-19, I am sure many people are staying home and may not be able to go out to get take away food for lunch. Why don’t you make a lunch box for yourself even if you are eating it at home? It hopefully makes the life more tolerable!
Bento Box – Beef & Pork Patty Bento (Menchi Katsu Bento)
Beef & Pork Patty Bento (Menchi Katsu Bento) consists of cooked rice, Menchi Katsu as a main, a couple of vegetable dishes and fresh salad leaves with tomatoes. Make small size of Beef & Pork Patties so that they can fit in the bento box nicely, allowing for other side dishes to go in.
Having the sauce in a separate container is strongly recommended.
Because bento is usually made mostly from left-over dishes or make-ahead dishes, the time indicated in this recipe only shows the time to pack the bento box.
Ingredients (tbsp=15ml, cup=250ml)
While the rice is still hot or warm, place it in the rice compartment of the bento box and let it cool.
Place shredded lettuce and then Menchi Katsu on the lettuce, allowing some lettuce leaves next to the Menchi Katsu to be seen.
Place Snow Pea Leaves Warm Salad and Simple Pickled Celery in an okazu cup individually.
Place these cups next to the Menchi Katsu to fill the space (note 6).
Place tomatoes on the shredded lettuce.
1. The standard size in the recipe uses just over 60g of mince/ground meat per patty. For a bento box, 40-45g mince would be better. In other words, out of 2 standard patties, make 3 smaller patties.
2. Shredded cabbage is the best as an alternative because the sauce goes well with it.
3. You can substitute with boiled carrots or strawberries.
4. See the post for the sauce container samples.
5. Okazu cups are the paper or aluminium cups specifically made to put a small amount of food in. They look just like the cupcake liners but more durable against liquid. Please visit my post Yakitori Bento for sample photos. You can buy okazu cups at Japanese grocery stores and Daiso discount shops.
6. I placed the warm salad near the shredded lettuce so that the tomatoes sit next the warm salad. Remember, green and red are complimentary colours in the colour wheel.
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