Japanese Bento Trivia: What is Ekiben?
Have you ever heard of “Bento (弁当)” boxed lunches sold at train stations in Japan? which are generally called “Ekiben (駅弁)”. Actually, the word Ekiben is a portmanteau of “Eki (駅)” meaning “train station” in Japanese and “Ben (弁)” that stands for Bento.
Ekiben comes in numerous varieties, so you will see various types of Ekiben bento being sold at the station and on the train when you travel in Japan. In fact, shops in large train stations usually stock many different kinds of Ekiben, so it’s hard to decide what bento to choose.
Ekiben bento began to be sold in 1885 at the Utsunomiya railroad station in Tochigi for the first time and the original Ekiben was Nigirimeshi rice balls.
There are two types of sales methods of Ekiben. One is shops and stalls sell the boxed lunches over the counter in train stations. This is the most common selling method. The other is salespersons carry around Ekiben in a cart and sell them on the platform in the train station or on the train.
Anago Meshi (あなごめし)Image: Gurunavi
It is said that amazingly there are over 2000 different kinds of Ekiben bento in Japan. In fact, unique boxed lunches packed with various local specialties are available in large local train stations.
Incidentally, according to Gurunavi’s Ekiben popularity ranking, “Anago Meshi (あなごめし: grilled sea eel rice)” ranks first as of Today. Anago Meshi is the Ekiben bento whose rice is boiled with sea eel bone broth and topped with bite-size pieces of grilled sea eel on which a sweet soy sauce-based sauce is applied.
Toge no Kamameshi
Toge no Kamameshi (峠の釜めし)
“Toge no Kamameshi (峠の釜めし)” is one of the most famous and beloved Ekiben bento in Japan. It first went on sale in 1958 at the Yokokawa railroad station located in Gunma Prefecture.
The classic Ekiben bento consists of pilaf-like rice in a small pot of “Mashiko Yaki (益子焼)” ware. Incidentally, Kamameshi is a kind of Japanese rice pilaf dish cooked in a small iron pot. If you want to know more about Toge no Kamameshi bento, this article will help.
(Reference Page: Wikipedia 駅弁 )