Easy Japanese Recipes

Karaage Bento 唐揚げ弁当

Karaage Bento | JustOneCookbook.com

Ever since I started Bento posts, a couple of my mommy friends had ask me how I make bento everyday.  I get questions like “Do you cook bento in the morning?”, “What time do you wake up in the morning?”, “Does he eat everything?”…and so on.  I thought you might be curious too, so here are my quick answers.

Do you cook bento in the morning?

No, normally I don’t “cook” in the morning, except for some day (like today) when I just needed one more dish to fill in some space in the bento box.  So I sauteed pre-blanched spinach and that only took 3 minutes.

I do “re-heat” the pre-cooked food.  For food safety, we usually re-heat the food before packing them into bento box (Why? Read here.).  I take out the food from fridge (leftover from previous dinner) or some frozen food (that I packed individually for bento) and put them in the toaster oven or in a frying pan and reheat them thoroughly.

What time do you wake up in the morning?

I think a lot of bloggers tend to sleep late, especially mommy bloggers because our “working hours” start after kids go to bed.  My night job usually starts at 8 or 9 pm and lasts till past midnight.  So, waking up in the morning is not so easy – I usually wake up at 5:45 or 6 am, and start preparing bento around 6:30 am.  By 7 am, we’re sitting down for breakfast so we can leave before 7:45 am.  My lunch packing takes about 15 minutes, at most 20 minutes.

Does he eat everything?

Good question!  My son and I have been working on this.  I have decreased the amount of lunch because he doesn’t finish all his lunch in time.  He has 30 minutes to finish his lunch AND play with his friends until the bell rings.  You can guess which part he spends more time…

…So that’s about it for now.  If I get some FAQ’s, I’ll write my answers next time.  So let’s go over today’s bento!

Previous Dinner was:

Karaage | Japanese Fried Chicken | Just One Cookbook.com

This is very easy to make and I freeze the leftover in small separate containers.  Each container has enough Karaage pieces for one bento box.  This method saves a lot of time in the morning when I am packing my son’s lunch.

Lunch Next Day:

Karaage Bento | Just One Cookbook.com

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I “cooked” one dish today, and it’s Sauteed Spinach.  This is my go-to add-on dish for bento.  If I need one more dish, I quickly saute some colorful vegetables!

Sauteed Spinach | Just One Cookbook.com

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Karaage Bento
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 1 Bento
  1. Take leftover Karaage out of fridge and bake for a few minutes in a toaster oven until it's warm.
  2. Meanwhile make Onigiri and put it in the bento box.
  3. Saute spinach and corn and pack in the bento box..
  4. Place Karaage in the bento box.
  5. Put Tamagoyaki in the box.
  6. Wash tomatoes and pat dry. Place nicely in the bento box along with thawed broccoli.
  7. Cool down completely before closing the bento box.
[Please read FOOD SAFETY TIPS .]

If you are using a thermal bento box like Thermos, you do not need to cool down before closing lunch box.

This lunch is for my 6-year-old son.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.


Posted in: Bento

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  • Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings November 9, 2012, 9:59 pm

    Thanks for answering questions, hehe. I always wonder how you do it, too! I don’t know how you wake up at 5:45 am. It’s a struggle for me to wake up at 6:30 am! You are such a wonderful Mom for making these healthy, well-rounded bento boxes! I wish I was as disciplined as you are with providing such a wide variety! Have a good weekend, Nami super-mom!

  • A_Boleyn November 9, 2012, 10:31 pm

    I’d love a bento box like this one to take to work with me. :)

  • Eha November 9, 2012, 10:40 pm

    A beautiful, appetizing, well-balanced bento box even if I would find some protein not deepfried for it :) ! Our working hours are very similar: I begin somewhat later at 6.30-7.00 am, but then go pretty nonstop until midnight or somewhat past, usually seven days a week, except for the hours Important to take off – well, I no longer have smallfry at home, so it is far esier to make minute-by-minute plans!!

  • Renata November 9, 2012, 10:57 pm

    I’m loving your bento ideas, Nami!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella November 9, 2012, 11:04 pm

    Great answers Nami! I am sure it satisfied so many people curious about your routine for making these gorgeous bento boxes (and thanks for the tip about reheating!) :D

  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com November 9, 2012, 11:56 pm

    Your bento’s are so colorful! And am so proud that your son eats spinach ;) Love it!

  • CCU November 10, 2012, 12:39 am

    Mmmm more bento love my friend, great Q&A too :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  • albertocook November 10, 2012, 1:08 am

    I like this

  • Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover November 10, 2012, 1:13 am

    i always wonder how Japanese mom prepare bento in the early morning..Thanks for your sharing Nami..you are a great mom.

  • Andrea November 10, 2012, 2:23 am

    Nami, such a wonderful Bento Box again! I continue to read and enjoy your wonderful series and my kids continue to be envious (in a totally good way) of these wonderful lunches that you prepare for your children! Today, I especially like your side dish of sautéed spinach and corn – it is colorful, looks delicious and healthy! Great post, Nami! And I continue to struggle with getting Japanese ingredients around here – so I will try another City which is about an hours drive from here and has a large Japanese community. Since I so much would like to try some of your recipes, I guess, I will just have to travel – or finally order online!

  • claire @ the realistic nutritionist November 10, 2012, 4:21 am

    oH GOSH!! I love love love bento boxes!!!

  • Ramona November 10, 2012, 4:35 am

    You and I almost mirror our schedules. I also wake up at about 5:30-6am and have the same morning routine. Mommy’s job is never done. right? :) My son is also not finishing his lunch these days… too busy being social at school during lunch I guess. I will have to make his portions smaller too. It’s a lovely bento box as always. Have a great weekend. ~ Ramona :)

  • Kimmi November 10, 2012, 6:27 am

    I really enjoyed reading the QA part of this post! =) When I was a child, my mother would pack me just a sandwich and even then, I would NEVER finish it in time.

    I especially like the smaller sized onigiri that you included in the bento. It looks much easier to eat and very convenient!

  • Eri November 10, 2012, 6:50 am

    Oh Nami, I’m waking up at 7.30! It;s not so hard though to prepare this meal, thank you so much for the information. Once again, I just looooove your bentos!
    Hugs and Kisses, Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Ira Rodrigues November 10, 2012, 6:54 am

    Oh your daily routines absolutely Wow me, best Mom! I always love your Bento series Nami

  • Ashley - Baker by Nature November 10, 2012, 8:04 am

    Such a great post, Nami! You’re such an inspiration!

  • Sandra's Easy Cooking November 10, 2012, 8:25 am

    One more amazing idea, Nami! Yes, moms who have school kids have to wake up that early. You are incredible mom and I m loving each and every of your bento boxes. Your son is a lucky kid! Have an awesome weekend!

  • Rosa November 10, 2012, 8:33 am

    A lovely interview and delicious looking bento!



  • Gourmantine November 10, 2012, 8:41 am

    I usually get up at 5.20, but for running, not cooking (I’d probably burn something if I started cooking that early), but so much admire you for doing so! :)

  • Balvinder November 10, 2012, 9:11 am

    This sounds like a tasty bento lunch. I am surprised your little ones eat such healthy meal which is actually good for them. Have a beautiful Saturday morning!

  • The Life of Clare November 10, 2012, 11:41 am

    This is such a great lunch idea! I think I should start making them for myself!

  • The Squishy Monster November 10, 2012, 11:45 am

    I always enjoy your bentos—they make food so much more fun!!

  • nipponnin November 10, 2012, 12:20 pm

    典型的な日本のお弁当だね。鳥のから揚げと卵焼きは弁当の王座を占めると思う。ちなみに私、お弁当に卵焼きは欠かせない一品。 どっちも冷めても美味しいところが抜群にいいよね。何だかお互い多忙な毎日、寒くなってきたし、風邪には気をつけて。

  • Hotly Spiced November 10, 2012, 1:08 pm

    I think you rise very early! I go to bed late too as I usually don’t get to start my blogging work until at least 9pm and I’ll have a few hours of work to do so I’m rarely in bed before 11pm. But in the morning I wake at about 6am and I’ll do another hour before getting out of bed which isn’t sensible because it means I’m rushing like made. Your son’s lunchbox is so healthy and appealing looking with all the different colours and textures xx

  • Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen November 10, 2012, 1:16 pm

    Nami, your bento boxes are like little treasure chests. I think I might have eaten more lunches if I’d had these instead of sandwiches.

  • MaryMoh November 10, 2012, 2:24 pm

    Beautiful bento! Love the colour and arrangements. I always think bento is very difficult to make. But you make it sound like it’s easy. I hope to try one day. Hope my one day is not too far away :P Thanks very much for sharing. Hope you have a great weekend!

  • chicago foodie girl November 10, 2012, 2:54 pm

    As always, your bento box is totally adorable and sounds amazing! I would love to have someone assemble one of these for my lunch every morning! :-)

  • Laura (Tutti Dolci) November 10, 2012, 4:06 pm

    Great tips on bento making, Nami! Your son eats the best lunches! :)

  • Hyosun Ro November 10, 2012, 4:17 pm

    I want this for my lunch! You are a super mom, Nami. Your children are extremely lucky.

  • Sissi November 10, 2012, 4:39 pm

    Gorgeous, as all your bentos! And of course karaage is one of my favourites, like tonkatsu or chicken katsu. Your questions-answers part was very interesting. All I can say it’s that you are lucky to be able to sleep only six hours or less. I need at least 8 hours to be able to function properly during the day and I have always envied people who can sleep 5 or 6 hours for long years (I could do this at most once a week and would look like a zombie!).

  • Ellena | Cuisines Paradise November 10, 2012, 4:51 pm

    Interesting post. I guess blogger “mums” like us tend to spend wee hours doing our post after we settle the kids and household cleaning. I love your bento which consists of so many yummy stuffs in it. Thump up!

  • Baby Sumo November 10, 2012, 6:39 pm

    Nami, your son’s bento looks good! I wish I had a wonderful mummy like you too ;)

    My daughter’s school provides them with breakfast so I just prepare her something when she gets back from school.

  • Baltic Maid November 10, 2012, 7:02 pm

    I love your bento posts! You’re amazing!

  • Marina@Picnic at Marina November 10, 2012, 7:07 pm

    Nami, those bentos are so cute! I wish I could make one for my teenager. Surprise your son eats at least some lunch. Kids are so happy to have fun during the lunch that they forget all about food! I love your idea of FAQ posts, keep doing it, please. :)

  • kat November 10, 2012, 7:14 pm

    yummy bento!

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef November 10, 2012, 7:31 pm

    I look at your bento box lunches for your little boy and I jump to my past and realize I was a pretty crap mother. :)

  • Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious November 10, 2012, 9:30 pm

    Yay another bento recipe! I can’t wait to have kids and make them all these fancy bentos for their lunch! And I love your red le creuset. I have a blue one but now I totally need to get a red one :)

  • Martyna @ Wholesome Cook November 10, 2012, 9:35 pm

    Our mornings look very similar with one exception. I walk the dog while the kids have their breakfasts – and pack lunches the night before ( I too love serving whole cherry tomatoes for the kids to much on with their sandwiches – they don’t go soggy that way). Love your bento tips – leftovers always go into Mr’s lunchbox :-)

  • Raymund November 11, 2012, 12:27 am

    Wow you are a super mom! Blogging, taking care of kids, work till midnight and wake up at 5:45 you should deserve more than a bouquet of flowers on Mothers day

  • Mandy - The Complete Cook Book November 11, 2012, 12:28 am

    I commend you for making these magical meals for your son for school everyday.
    :-) Mandy

  • Belinda @zomppa November 11, 2012, 3:28 am

    He’s a lucky kid, that’s all I have to say! I would have loved to get bento boxes for lunch!

  • Kristy November 11, 2012, 4:51 am

    Loved this how-to Nami. I did wonder what time you had to get up to prepare these! 5:45 seems so early! I only get up that early when I have to (for work somedays). Otherwise, I’m a 7 a.m. girl. We’re fortunate that school doesn’t start until 9. And my son’s lunches go the same way – 30 minutes – most of which is spent playing with friends. ;)

  • yummychunklet November 11, 2012, 5:38 am

    I don’t know why, but I’ve been waking up early as well. Great looking bento!

  • Parsley Sage November 11, 2012, 5:58 am

    BENTO BENTO BENTO! Nami, have I told you that this is my favorite series that you’ve done? One of these days, I’m going to man up and give it a try myself.

  • Kelly November 11, 2012, 6:18 am

    So does that mean when the bento is consumed everything will just be room temperature? Or is there further reheating just before eating? I don’t know if I can take fried chicken cold…. hehehe

  • Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb November 11, 2012, 6:29 am

    hm, I feel guilty that I get up at 8 these days, well that’s pretty earlier compared to the rainy season where we used to get up at 10. Good god, I am so happy that i didnt have kids yet! O.O As I said before Nami, I admire your work day and your activeness! Oh and the Bento looks pretty. =)

  • Liz November 11, 2012, 9:21 am

    I want you to fix MY lunch, Nami! This looks wonderful! And I’m sure your tips will help lots of moms :)

    PS…the one advantage of having your youngest head off to college is no.more.packing.lunches!!! I was happy to give up that duty!!!

  • donna mikasa November 11, 2012, 11:07 am

    I hope your son knows how lucky he is to have a gorgeous, lovingly prepared bento! And thank you for answering some questions I was wondering, too. Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

  • Alessandra November 11, 2012, 2:26 pm

    Great topic Nami! I have always been impressed by the love and dedication Japanese Mums put into their kids Bento, and I love to make bentos myself, but generally not for school, just for picnics or for fun. At school here in New Zealand children don’t have a table to sit on, they just go outside their classrooms and sit on the grass, or a bench if there is one, or on the floor, eat with fingers (thus sandwiches and that sort of things) plus they are not really supervised and often prefer to play rather than eat. Still, I try to do some nice lunch boxes, with lots of fruit and cut raw veggies that can be eaten with fingers and have many colours (I learned in Japan about trying to fit 5 colour groups in a bento). But I don’t like to take out a frying pan in the morning, that is just not me :-).

  • peachkins November 11, 2012, 2:53 pm

    You make the cutest and most delicious bentos! One that both kids and adult would enjoy…

  • Carolyn Jung November 11, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Waking up at 6 a.m. is sleeping in? LOL Gawd, I must be a total slacker then.

    By the way, if you hear a knock at your door, that’s probably my husband, wanting to beg for one of your karaage bentos. ;)

  • Magic of Spice November 11, 2012, 3:32 pm

    OK, so you are saying 5;45 or 6 am is sleeping late? Wow, if I get up before 7 I am doing well, lol! And what a wonderful healthy lunch for your little one :)

  • Bam's Kitchen November 11, 2012, 3:33 pm

    Nami-san, I am so glad you covered the food safety issue in this issue. I also like how we use the leftovers kicked up and made decorative to make it enticing for kids to eat their lunch. When my youngest went to school in Japan, he attended a school where he was the only international student. The stress and competition was on for me and I had to seek the help from other moms on how to make these sweet little bento boxes. They are a lot of work but quite a nourishing and healthy lunch for the kids. Some of the moms really get into it and make the food into shapes of animals. I was lucky it I could just get my onigiri rice balls to stay in a ball form. So desu ne…. Ja Mata, BAM

  • Elizabeth @Mango_Queen November 11, 2012, 5:51 pm

    What a wonderful idea for a bento box! My son now makes his own bento because he’s all grown up. He used the bento box I bought him and enjoys making different lunches. I will send this post and recipe to him so he can try to make it. Thanks for sharing this, Nami! Thanks for the kind blog comments. Have a great week :-)

  • Jean | Lemons &Anchovies November 11, 2012, 6:04 pm

    I’d be happy to have this for lunch any day. I’m so bad about packing my lunches for work that inevitably, I end up eating less than healthy lunches once in a while. The fact that you do this every day encourages me to make more of an effort. Love this. :)

  • mjskit November 11, 2012, 8:15 pm

    What a schedule! There’s something to be said about semi-retirement, working from home and only have a husband and cat to feed. :) I don’t know if I could handle your schedule on only 5 hours of sleep! I do love our karaage and this bento box looks so good that I would want to eat the whole thing, but I guess I don’t have my friends asking me to hang out with them.

  • Lynna November 11, 2012, 9:03 pm

    I like this post. It’s really nice to see your answers to these questions.

    I admired that you can wait up that early!

  • Helene @ French Foodie Baby November 11, 2012, 10:04 pm

    Nami, you just made me hungry and depressed at the same time. Do you mean to tell me that when Pablo starts school I am going to sleep EVEN LESS than now?!! :-( I guess I better get used to the idea now… Love the bento box for school lunch, what a crying shame it is that kids have 30 mn to eat lunch AND play! Before his – and my – school days start, we might just do a bento for a picnic at the park!

  • Linda | The Urban Mrs November 11, 2012, 10:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been wondering about bento prep coz you know…I’d rather sleep longer than doing this, hahaha. Hence, I always prepare my lunch the night before. The bento looks very colorful and appetizing. Love!!

  • Sandra November 12, 2012, 5:41 am

    Your kids are going to have the fondest memories of meal times when they grow up. This is a great series and I am so happy to started it.

  • Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) November 12, 2012, 9:12 am

    Looks great! And I love your useful tips to make sure there’s really a variety of prepared foods in the bento! : ) I think that’s one of the most challenging parts of making bento lunches. I sometimes pack a bento for my girlfriend, but I have trouble thinking of lots of different tiny “dishes” that could fit in there; instead I’m more likely to put rice in one half, and fill up the other half with just one dish– our leftovers from the previous night’s dinner! Your tip to quickly saute some vegetables is a helpful one!

  • Food Jaunts November 12, 2012, 7:34 pm

    I’m sorry Nami but I’m still confused (and I’ve read all your bento posts so far). So you reheat the food really well, then place it in the bento box, then let it cool before putting on the cover? And then you pack it with an ice pack? So the food is eaten cold?

    • Nami November 13, 2012, 10:21 am

      So here’s the break-down summary.

      1) Re-heat the precooked food from previous night or from freezer. Re-heating will kill bacteria that may have started to grow. I’m not saying all the food that kept in the fridge has bacteria (but food gets bad even you kept in fridge), but to avoid risk of any bacteria already started to grow, this is an extra step to keep the food safe, especially if you live in humid/hot area.

      2) Cool down all the food completely before you cover. Bacteria likes to grow in humid/moisture condition.

      3) Pack it with an ice pack to keep the bento stay safe longer.

      4) In Japan, most of bentos are eaten at room temperature. No microwave in school, and some office probably do, but most people actually don’t mind room temeprature bento food because that’s how we’ve been eating bento from school days.

      That’s another thing – we put food that still tastes good at room temperature. We won’t put something that needs to be eaten cold or hot. If you go to Japan, there are many bentos sold in stores, convenience store, or bento shops, and you are expected to eat at room temperature.

      Hope this helps. :) Please read more on Food Safety Tips for Bento.

  • amelia from z tasty life November 13, 2012, 6:46 am

    I love this Nami! I too prepare a warm meal for my kids every day (we use sealed containers). My son is into everything Japanese and loves fish and seaweed. So I have been thinking of venturing into Bento lately… I have to peruse your blog to find some ideas!

  • Patty November 13, 2012, 1:59 pm

    Hi Nami! I’m so impressed at your dedication to making such healthy tasty bento box lunches for your family-thanks for sharing your ideas and recipes with the rest of us- I do find it inspirational ;-)

  • Priscilla@ShesCookin November 13, 2012, 2:22 pm

    You are a super mom, Nami! I made my daughter lunch everyday, too – and she really appreciated it. There were boys in her class who tried to trade for her favorite cornbread, and that was not happening :) I wish someone would make me a bento!

  • Charles November 16, 2012, 1:33 pm

    Waking up at 5.45 or 6??? You’re nuts, you know that, right? Gah, does this mean I have such treats in store for me some day if I want to be both a blogger and a great parent? Sigh… I’d best make the most of my hours in bed now then :(

  • Shirley November 16, 2012, 4:43 pm

    Nami, if somebody made this for me no way I’d be playing instead of eating it! :) My lunch never looks this good.

  • Christine @ Cooking Crusade November 17, 2012, 5:25 am

    Wow, what a lucky son to have someone making such delicious lunches for him! Amazing lunch and put together so beautifully :)

  • Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake November 18, 2012, 6:58 am

    You are such a great mother Nami. :D I don’t think I’d ever be so patient as to make such a pretty and delicious bento for my children…well, I’d probably try and fail at it..:P I loveee karaage…I can eat them all day every day!

  • Ellen November 9, 2013, 4:52 am

    Your bento tips are like manna from heaven. I look forward to your bento recipes.

    • Nami November 10, 2013, 1:29 am

      Thank you Ellen!