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The Shokado Bento is a Kaiseki Ryori for Japanese tea ceremonies in a special box (see photo of the box below) that a famous Japanese chef has created. This bento might be called the ultimate box lunch. A derivative of Kaiseki Ryori, it is a gourmet meal, self-contained in a compartmentalized box that keeps each dish separated from each other to avoid the intermingling of smells. Since our July 2011 issue, we have been building our own Zojirushi Shokado Bento one dish at a time, as we have introduced different cooking methods and various seasonal ingredients.

Since we are not in 16th century Japan, nor at a Japanese tea ceremony, we recommend relaxing a little and preparing your Shokado Bento the Zojirushi way. If you do not have a sectioned bento box, just improvise and use small plates or perhaps mini glass bowls to keep your dishes separate when serving your assembled meal. It's more important to get the feeling of Japanese cuisine in order to enjoy its beauty. Pay attention to the details--consider the different flavors as they are paired together, and the colors of the ingredients and how they look when arranged on the plate.

After we've completed our Zojirushi Shokado Bento over our next several issues, you will have experienced ingredients and dishes from all four seasons, seen a myriad of food colors and tasted an explosion of different flavors. Please look forward to it!

Make Ichiban Dashi (Japanese Broth).
In a separate small pan, cook fu (dried wheat gluten bread) with a little Ichiban Dashi.
Bring Ichiban Dashi to a boil and add sliced Shiitake mushrooms.
Add soy sauce and salt to taste.
Add the cooked fu and ladle into bowls. Top with Mitsuba (trefoil stalks) and serve.

What is Kaiseki?

It's a multi-course dinner where small portions of dishes are served one after the other, but only after each serving has been completely eaten. With heavy influences from Zen Buddhism, the act of eating this type of Kaiseki is revered for its respect of the season, color of the food, the cooking method, and serving bowls. Each dish is regarded as a piece of art, meant to be experienced in harmony with nature and without excess. This type of dinner is served at Japanese tea ceremonies.

Another banquet style Kaiseki can be found at the traditional Japanese inns. It is a more casual dining style served on trays, but nevertheless extremely sophisticated in terms of the quality of the food and its meticulous presentation.