The Bento Box History: by Bellevue Japanese Restaurant

The Bento Box: From Lunch to Luxury

The bento box is ingrained in Japanese culinary history. Over the last 15 centuries, the bento box evolved from an ordinary utility container to status symbol, prominent in Japanese popular culture. Japanese farmers, hunters and warriors in the 5th century would pack their lunches in sacks or boxes and take them to the fields. Designed from a farmer’s seed box, it contains separate compartments for rice, fish and vegetables. It spread to other countries and each culture adapted their own dishes for the box.

Actually, the word ‘bento’ was derived from the Southern Song Dynasty slang term biàndāng, which means “convenient.” Nonetheless, the general idea is to have variety and a balanced meal, and that remained constant.

Bento boxes can be made of basket material or lacquered wood, or of aluminum which became popular during the Taishō period, between 1912 to 1926. People loved their bento boxes; they brought them to cultural and social events, like religious holidays, festivals and to the theater. As Japan was recovering after World War I, the economy only permitted the rich to have shiny bento boxes; poor families could not afford it.

Then the government recommended nutritious meals for all school children in the late 19th century, which then became standard in 1954, post-World War II, that all lunches contain a cup of milk, a loaf of bread, a pat of butter, rice, and a bowl of soup.

By the 1980s, with the influx of TV dinners and convenience food, the bento resurged in popularity. Japanese-American sugar plantation workers were the first to bring the bento lunch to the US, and from hence, it caught up in other western cultures. In the 1990s, character bentos came into being and are still popular today. Children bring them to school, workers to their offices and factories. Mothers and housewives love preparing their bento boxes, in itself is art. There are bento recipes, bento blogs, and more.

Stores are all over out-selling each other with their own creative box designs and edible characters in malls, supermarkets, train stations, airports, among others. Eating spots, like lounges, bars, restaurants and hotels have their own bento offerings. Truly, the humble farmer’s lunch box has come a long, long way. But remember, a balanced meal remains constant.

Balanced and Beautiful in Bellevue

Enjoy our bento box lunch specials at FLO, your authentic Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. When you do, remember the beginnings of the lowly lunch box as you savor great Japanese cuisine now in our stylishly crafted bento boxes.

Fish: Best Source of Omega-3

Know Your Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Much has been said about omega-3 fatty acids (or omega-3 FA), which foods are rich in them, and their health benefits. Most people think you get them only from fish and that any fish will do. Not quite. Let’s clear up first what omega-3 fatty acids really are. They are essential fatty acids, necessary for body health. But our bodies don’t make them, so we get them from other sources.

Omega-3 is naturally abundant in cold water fish and shellfish, plant and nut oils, English walnuts, flaxseed, and algae oils. But there are 2 types of omega-3 fatty acids – the long-chain ones and the short-chain. Fish and shellfish contain long-chain FA which are EPA and DHA. Algae however provides only DHA. Plants, like flaxseed, contain ALA, the short-chain omega-3 FA with less potent health benefits.

While fish is the richest source of omega-3 FAs, they are also high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and low in saturated fat. The omega-3s have been proved anti-inflammatory and consuming large amounts can reduce the inflammatory process that leads to many chronic conditions, like cancer, asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, and autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.

What about Omega-6?

On the other hand, you must have heard about omega-6 FAs as well; they are pro-inflammatory. The American diet, composed of crackers, cookies, cereals, poultry, eggs, mayonnaise, whole grain bread, corn-fed beef and most vegetable oils – are rich sources of omega-6 FAs. Consuming large amounts is a key step in many chronic diseases.

Eating two 8-ounce servings of fish each week may be all that is necessary to stay healthy, or better, supplemental daily dosages of between 2 and 5 grams of EPA and DHA. And DHA is considered as brain food, with studies showing decreased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. A study also showed how tuna and other non-fried fish lowered the incidence of silent brain damage which are linked to higher rates of stroke and cognitive decline. Salmon, herring or mackerel proved to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer in men and promotes healthier arteries in postmenopausal women.

Since mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are common toxins found in seafood, safer sources with less amounts of mercury can be found in canned light tuna, catfish, pollock, salmon (especially wild salmon), and shrimp. Predatory fish, like shark, swordfish and king mackerel may have higher mercury levels. Remember to be safe while staying healthy.
Fish at FLO: Omega-3 Rich and Healthy

At FLO, find only the freshest and safe-sourced fish and seafood that we serve our diners. Enjoy our traditional and modern take on omega-3 rich fish and seafood, prepared in true Japanese manner in Bellevue, WA.

Eating Healthy Seaweed

Seaweed: Beyond Color and Packaging

There are many types of seaweeds as there are different ways to eat them. Seaweeds are categorized based on their pigments, cell structure, and other traits. Most commonly consumed include: green algae (such as sea lettuce or ulva, and sea grapes), brown algae (such as kombu, arame, kelp, and wakame which is the miso soup seaweed), red algae (as dulse, laver, and nori which is the sushi seaweed), and then blue-green algae (like spirulina and chlorella).

Fresh seaweed can be bought at an Asian specialty store or at a Chinese market, while the dried variety can also be available at the same, plus at supermarkets and online. Dried seaweed should be rinsed well and soaked in hot water before use. And if your seaweed, like kombu, is thick and tough, better to slice them first or boil them. Some seaweeds may be sweet, most are not bitter at all, so you can really enjoy eating them even if you are not fond of vegetables.

The versatile seaweed can be enjoyed as seaweed soup, most can be made into a Japanese-style salad with vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic, or can be sprinkled on other foods, like rice, for flavor. Seaweed snacks available in bags are popular, too.

And did you know that seaweeds are packed with lots of beneficial nutrients and are helpful in certain physiologic functions? Take seaweed’s micronutrients – folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and selenium, and most especially, iodine. Know that they are even more nutrient-dense than vegetables that grow on soil.

They are also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, known to fight a wide range of diseases like asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. And due to their antioxidant content, they protect against oxidative stresses and prevent chronic diseases.

While this sea vegetable added to your diet will prove beneficial, one must take precaution against consuming too much of it. It has the potential of increasing your iodine levels which can prove problematic especially if you are susceptible to thyroid problems. The Japanese diet, which contains staples such as tofu, soy milk, and cruciferous vegetables, fortunately can inhibit iodine absorption by the thyroid.

Hence, it is not so much a problem with the Japanese and other Asian cultures.

Seaweeds for Health in Bellevue

Enjoy health-giving seaweed at Flo, your Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. Have our seaweed salad, seaweed in your sushi roll, or have it sprinkled in your soup or rice. Healthy can also be flavorful.

The Japanese Diet Described at FLO Bellevue Japanese Restaurant

Why the Japanese Diet is Healthiest in the World

One of the things which explains the health and longevity of Japanese people is found in their diet. The traditional Japanese diet is largely fresh and unprocessed, very little of refined foods or sugar. In fact, the British Medical Journal has recently revealed that the Japanese diet reduced the risk of heart disease and stroke.

A diet high in grains and vegetables, moderate in animal products, and minimal in dairy and fruit have contributed to the decreased risk of dying early. The Japanese’s reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lowest rates of obesity and long life expectancy are attributed to a diet high in fish and soy.

Japan’s diet has changed little over the centuries, hence, it has held on to a very traditional cuisine. The country, being made of scattered groups of islands, enabled them to rely more on marine life for their sustenance, consuming a lot more fish compared to other Asian countries, including raw fish.

Japanese staples consist of rice, cooked and pickled vegetables, plus a lot of pickled, fermented and smoked foods. Soybeans in the form of tofu or fresh edamame and other beans like aduki as well as fermented soybean products such as miso and natto are part of the diet. While tofu contributes amino acids, iron, calcium and other micro-nutrients, fermented foods aid healthy digestion. With a wide variety of land and sea vegetables such as seaweed, the Japanese consume pack-fulls of health-boosting minerals, reducing the risk of high blood pressure.

Not forgetting also, the Japanese are great tea drinkers, especially matcha tea, known to fight cancer, viruses and heart disease.

The Japanese behavior of eating small food servings in rotation is also key to healthy living. Where sweets and snacks are concerned, they enjoy these, too, but with customary restraint.

The country tend to have a healthy attitude to food and eating. There’s a traditional saying among the Japanese – “hara hachi bu”, meaning to eat until you are 80% full, and start teaching it to their children from a young age. This is clearly a way of life and so it is not surprising why the Japanese diet is the world’s healthiest.

Traditional and Fashionable at FLO

Find at Flo a lovely and fashionable setting to dine on the world’s healthiest foods. Also find why Flo is the best among Japanese sushi restaurants in The Best of 425 from 425, Eastside’s community magazine. See readers’ choices of the best of everything, tallied from thousands of votes. It describes Flo as a tasting tour of Japan without leaving Bellevue. So if you’re nearby, come see us and find out why we are readers’ pick.

Bellevue Japanese Restaurant: Having Calamari or Squid?

Know Your Molluscs

Most people will think that calamari and squid are the same thing. Or that once squid is cooked, it becomes calamari, so believed in some places. Or that calamari is just the Italian term for squid. They look quite the same anyway. Well, not at all. They are two different species and hence, not the same. And for that matter, even cuttlefish. The three are closely related cephalopod molluscs found in virtually all of the world’s oceans.

You can tell squid from calamari by the fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the hood. Squids have fins, but these run only for a short distance on the sides of the body. The fins of calamari extend almost all the way down the hood. Squid is generally from Nototodarus gouldi, also known as Gould’s squid, calamari from the genus Sepioteuthis, sepa referring to ink. Squid is generally larger in size than calamari.

At the table, squid is tougher, calamari is more tender. There’s also a price difference between them – about $10 per kilo – calamari being more expensive. You can make squid as tender as the flesh of calamari by marinating it or slow cooking the squid. Because of its tenderer flesh calamari cooks sooner and is tastier. It is best for frying, grilling, and stir frying dishes.

Squid is best for stuffing and stewing. Generally, cuttlefish is the most flavoursome of the three. With nearly all their parts edible, the cooking rules for all three are the same – either short cooking time on high heat or long slow cook on low heat. Anything done in between will result in a tough dish.

In Japan, squid is used in almost every type of dish – sushi, sashimi, tempura, stewed (nabemono’), and grilled (”ikayaki). it is best to eat it as sushi (nigiri way), and can be also sautéed or simmered with vinegar.

Enjoying Molluscs in Bellevue

Over at Flo, your Japanese restaurant in Bellevue, we serve delectable hot or cold specialties of your three favorite mollusks. Try our sunomono salad with squid, sashimi squid, sushi, and our crunchy calamari tempura. You can also ask us to have any of them prepared the way you want it – for a more enjoyable dining experience.