Hawaiian bento

O.G. Meal Prep: Hawaiian Bento

In this video, we continue our Asian inspired lunchbox series with a look at the Hawaiian plate lunch. The plate lunch is a product of the plantation era in Hawaii where leftovers were brought to work, usually consisting of some protein and rice. The influence of the many cultures that worked in the plantations like Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino, brought a unique identity to these meals that evolved to become distinctly Hawaiian. Since the 1950’s the plate lunch was offered at many diners and are still popular today at places like Zippy’s, Rainbow Drive-In, and one of my favourites, L&L.

A Hawaiian plate lunch consists of 3 essential components: 2 scoops of rice, a scoop of mac salad, and a protein main. In a Hawaiian-style bento, you will usually see rice, protein, and takuan pickles. This is a lot of food to most people, but back in the day, working in a field all day long was hard work, and for most people that have ever worked on a farm, lunch is the main meal of the day. 

Today’s Hawaiian bento is inspired by Zippy’s. In the tradition of keeping things economical and easy, we are going to make a mix meat bento using chicken thigh, hot dog, and Spam. These are common proteins you will see in any Hawaiian restaurant’s bento menu.

You will need (for 4):

  • 4 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 hot dogs
  • 4 slices Spam
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Mirin, or honteri
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Takuan (pickled daikon)
  • Furikake

First thing to do is to prep the chicken thighs. Simply trim off any excess fat. Score them underneath so as to make them uniform thickness. Put them into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Mix well to coat the chicken and set aside to marinate for at least an hour. 

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of mirin, and a tablespoon of sugar. Mix well and set aside.

Heat up a pan on high heat and add a couple tablespoons of oil. Add the chicken thighs and sear for a couple minutes. Turn over, making sure you have a nicely browned surface, turn down the heat to medium, and cover. Continue to cook for about 5 more minutes. Take off the cover and add the sauce from the bowl. Allow to reduce, as you turn the chicken over to coat all sides. When it’s done, remove from heat and set aside.

With the hot dogs and Spam slices, simply fry them in the pan together. You should have enough fat rendered from the Spam to cook them all. When they are cooked and have some colour, remove from heat and set aside. 

Assembly is pretty straight forward. Lay down a bed of furikake seasoned rice and place your proteins on top. Garnish with a couple takuan pickles and finish with the remaining teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds.