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NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (September 2019) - Bento Box Essentials

Doi Farm Nikomaru RiceNikomaru Rice from Nagasaki


In Japan, where rice is traditionally eaten with every meal - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - rice has a very special place in Japanese cuisine and is the cornerstone to every great bento. In fact, numerous varieties of rice are grown in Japan, each prized for their own unique texture and flavor profiles.

This rice from Doi Farm is the "Nikomaru" variety, a strain of rice developed by the National Agricultural Research Center in 2005. Nikomaru rice won the distinction of receiving the highest ranking in national taste rankings for 5 consecutive years. With its beautiful large grain and appealing soft texture, "Nikomaru" rice is popular for both its appearance and taste. In addition, the variety has attracted attention due to its resistance to global warming environmental changes.

Doi Farm, which produces this nikomaru rice, is an environmentally conscious company with the motto "sound crops grow in healthy soil." Instead of chemical fertilizers, farmers at Doi Farm use a unique agricultural method combining raising pigs and cultivating rice. Compost produced by pigs is added to the rice paddy to fertilize and prepare the soil. 

Learn more about Doi Farm in our Producer Spotlight.

Suggested use:  Use to create onigiri (rice balls) for your bento following the insert or as a side in your bento. Cook the rice following the instructions for your rice cooker or click here to download stove top instructions.
Ingredients: Rice

Nutritional information: N/A

Asahi 16 Kinds of Grain Mix

16 Kinds of Grain Mix

A fun and healthy addition to white rice! 

Zakkokumai (or mixed grains rice), has become increasingly popular in Japan as a healthy and convenient alternative to plain white rice. It is basically rice to which a mixture of grains and seeds has been added. You simply add the packet to regular rice and cook as usual. Nutritionally, the mixture adds a variety of nutrients and vitamins, as well as flavor and texture. Plus, the whole grains typically found in such mixes provide lots of fiber and may help improve digestion. 

This mix from Asahi foods boasts 16 different types of grains and seeds! Several nonglutinous varieties of rice are included. Compared to glutinous (or "sticky") rice, non-glutinous rice has higher levels of amylose, which may help slow down digestion and may help lower insulin levels. The mixture includes the ancient grain amaranthus, which is loaded with healthy nutrients. Amaranth has more protein than other grains, is high in calcium, and full of antioxidants. Another grain of note is Job's tears, which has been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Suggested use: After washing the rice and adding the water for cooking, add the grain mix. The grains may float on the surface of the water. Simply cook as usual. After cooking, stir gently to distribute the grains throughout the rice.
Ingredients: Rolled oats, black rice, black soybeans, glutinous millet, brown rice, soy beans, glutinous wheat, sprouted brown rice, red rice, glutinous millet, nonglutinous millet, corn, glutinous rice, Job's tears, amaranthus, green rice

Nutritional information: Per: 100g, Calories: 356kcal, Total Fat: 6g, Sodium: 0g, Total Carbohydrate: 66.99g, Protein: 13.1g

Isoya Nori Paste
Nori Paste


Nori (seaweed) paste, also known as tsukudani, is a commonly used condiment in Japan. Toasted nori sheets are pickled then simmered into a delicate paste the has balanced sweet, salty and umami flavor. 

Traditionally added on top of a steaming bowl of rice, you can also use it as a spread on crackers or toast, as a topping for fish or chicken, or mix it with diced avocados or hard boiled eggs. Use your creativity!

Suggested use: Add on top of rice, as a spread for crackers or toast, a topping for fish or chicken, or mixed with diced avocados or hard boiled eggs. Makes for a great filling in onigiri (rice balls) as well. Refrigerate after opening.
Ingredients: Soy sauce (includes wheat and soy, non GMO), sugar, dried seaweed, syrup, salt, fermented seasonings, shavings of dried bonito, shrimp, bonito dashi, sake
Nutritional information: (Per package) Calories: 14kcal, Total Fat: 0g, Sodium: 0.5g, Total Carbohydrate: 2.6g, Protein: 0.7g

Soukennosato Japanese Butterburr Simmered in Soy Sauce
Japanese Butterbur Simmered in Soy Sauce


Experience the natural taste of the Japanese mountain vegetables!

Japanese butterburr (also known as Japanese sweet coltsfoot) is harvested in Japan for its stalks (like rhubarb). The stalks have a slight bitterness and succulent texture, similar to cucumber or celery stalks. The plant is quite dramatic in appearance. From each small underground bulb, the plant plant produces stalks that can be up to 3 feet long, supporting leaves that can measure 48 inches across. Japanese butterburr has high levels of fiber, as well as Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C. The vegetable has long been prized in Japan as an herbal remedy for asthma, pollen allergies, and fever.

This Japanese butterburr is cultivated at the foot of the Hachigatake Mountain. The area is irrigated by abundant underground water springs and has clean, fresh air. After cultivation, the Japanese butterburr is gently simmered in soy sauce and other traditional Japanese seasonings. All the ingredients used by Soukennosato are produced in Japan. The companies uses no additives and no artificial colors, making this a delicious and healthy addition to any bento! You can use the Japanese Butterburr as a seasoning, or you can simply slice it and enjoy as is. It pairs well with a cup of tea for a healthy afternoon snack.

Suggested use: Use as a pizza topping or seasoning in pasta sauce. Delicious with eggs! Try in an omelette or scrambled eggs. Also try chopping it finely and adding to salad dressing. Plus enjoy as is, with a cup of green tea.
Ingredients: Japanese butterburr, soy sauce, sugar, mirin (contains alcohol), brewed vinegar, yeast extract, bonito extract, kelp extract
Nutritional information: N/A

Kawamoto Hijiki Furikake
Hijiki Furikake


Like the salt and pepper of Japan, furikake can be sprinkled on rice, noodles, vegetables, salad - pretty much anything! - to deliver satisfying flavor and an instant umami boost to your bento or meal.

Furikake are seasonings of various dried ingredients. Typically sold in packets, a single furikake packet adds a powerful kick to any bowl. This furikake from Wakasa Kawamoto includes hijiki, a healthy Japanese seaweed packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. In fact, hijiki has 12 times the calcium of milk! 

Wakasa Kawamoto, the producer of this furikake, started in 1959 focused on processing kelp. Since then, the company has grown and now produces a variety of foods from the sea, including fish stock, seaweed, konbu, and more!

Suggested use: Sprinkle on top of rice, vegetables, salads, tofu or fish. Use in rolled Japanese omelette (tamago yaki).
Ingredients: Hijiki, sugar, salt, sesame seeds, fermented rice seasoning, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, scallop extract, kelp powder, spices, shiso flavoring
Nutritional information: Per: 100g, Calories: 218kcal, Total Fat: 3.7g, Sodium: 9.9g, Total Carbohydrate: 48.1g, Protein: 5.6g

Kenchanzuke Tsukemono Flake

Tsukemono Flake

Not too salty and with a touch of sweetness, these flakes have a depth of flavor that will keep you coming back for more! Or as they say in Japanese - you will not be able to stop your chopsticks!

The producer of these tsukemono flakes, Kenchanzuke, prides itself on using only the finest vegetables raised in Japan. The company works closely with local farmers to ensure that high quality ingredients go into making their handmade premium pickles. The particular vegetable used to make these pickles is called "tsuda turnip," which is a traditional heirloom variety of Japanese turnip cultivated since the late 1800's in Japan. Prized for its curved jewel shape and bright crimson color, tsuda turnips are mainly cultivated for making into pickles.

These flakes can be treated as a seasoning and sprinkled as is on rice, vegetables, fish, salad, and pasta. The prefect seasoning for any bento!

Learn more about how Kenchanzuke is preserving the traditional art of vegetable pickling in our Producer Spotlight.

Suggested use: Sprinkle on top of rice, vegetables, salads, pasta, tofu or fish.
Ingredients: Tsuda turnip (from Shimane Prefecture), salt

Nutritional information: Per: 100g, Calories: 173kcal, Total Fat: 2.2g, Sodium: 52.3g, Total Carbohydrate: 31.2g, Protein: 7.2g

Daships Salt Flavor
Daships Salt
だしっぷす 塩


A great snack the whole family will enjoy! These Daships are a type of Japanese chips known as wa (和). They're made from okara (soybean pulp), wheat, mackerel powder produced in Numadu, Shizuoka and are lightly fried in non-GMO rapeseed oil.

Okara is the leftover pulp from soybeans, which have been filtered to make soy milk and tofu. It contains potassium, calcium, and niacin. In Japan, okara is traditionally used to make a side dish called unohana, which is made from okara simmered with soy sauce, mirin, carrot, mushrooms, and burdock root. These chips combine the nutritionally goodness of okara with wheat and fish broth produced in Japan to create a novel and delightful snack!

Munch and crunch your way through these delicious treats. They have a crunchy texture both you and your children will love.

Suggested use: Enjoy as is.
Ingredients: Wheat, raw sugar, vegetable oil, soy pulp powder, dried mackerel shavings, dried bonito shavings
Nutritional information: (Per package 50g) Calories: 243kcal, Total Fat: 9.8g, Sodium: 0.4g, Total Carbohydrate: 34.5g, Protein: 4.4g 

Mulberry Tea

Rather than being steeped, this unique tea utilizes the whole mulberry leaf! Since you are consuming the entire leaf, you get all the nutrition packed inside. Mulberry leaves have a high nutritional value, including dietary fiber, calcium, iron, as well as many vitamins and minerals. Many nutrients are found in higher amounts than kale.

In addition to their commitment to the growing the highest quality mulberry, Kuwanosato is also committed to preserving the land and environment. The company takes special care of their soil. Instead of pesticides or herbicides, the company mows their fields with a brush cutter and uses cultivation methods that coexist with nature. Their natural farming methods allow their mulberries to grow with vitality. No compromises are made when making their tea. The leaves harvested in the morning are made into tea that same day.

Simply mix with water (either hot or cold) to enjoy a cup of this refreshing and nutritious mulberry tea at lunchtime or during afternoon break!

Learn more about Kuwanosato and their commitment to Yamanashi, Japan, and the world in our Producer Spotlight. 

Suggested use: Combine 30 ml of water with 1.5 grams of powder. Mix thoroughly. Then add 200 cc of water (cold or hot). Adjust to desired strength.
Ingredients: Mulberry leaf
Nutritional information: N/A