Growing up outside of Tokyo, Chef Kenji Miyaishi’s mother used to send him off with bento boxes of onigiri rice balls, karaage fried chicken, tamago-yaki egg omelets and vegetables from her garden.
Now, as he’s pivoted his upscale restaurant in Napa, California, to prepare and deliver bento boxes amid the pandemic, he says he aims to serve with the same values of precision, culture and care his mother did.
Bento boxes can be traced back to the Kamakura period in 12th century Japan, and this year — with restaurants relying on takeout and delivery — they’ve become a relevant and culturally authentic way for kaiseki chefs across the country to stay in business.
And some chefs say, at a time of uncertainty, the boxes have also come to symbolize nurturing and comfort.
“Bento is usually made by a mother for her children