Ekiben Map & Special Menu At NYC Restaurant
Ekiben are bento box meals which are specifically sold in railway stations throughout Japan. Ekiben often contain local specialties from the region in which they are sold, and their debut in Japan Week will allow attendees to experience a culinary tour of Japan’s diverse regions. Some train stations are so famous for their ekiben that people will make the trip to that station just for the delicious meal.
EKI-BEN in NEW YORK
Participating restaurants in New York City will offer special ekiben featuring regional Japanese specialties for a limited time. These ekiben will also be sold at the Japan Week event held at Grand Central Station Terminal.
EKI-BEN in JAPAN
One of the joys of travelling in Japan is eating local food. Each region has its own culture that has been preserved for ages, including foods, dialects, and traditional crafts. Whether you are visiting for a business trip or for pleasure, you may find in any guidebook great places to eat that will enrich your experience. This experience is not limited to local restaurants, but extends to train stations along your way that serve unique ekiben.
Amiyaki Gyutan, Kobayashi Bento
Masuno Sushi, MINAMOTO Co.,ltd
For Japan Week, nine participating restaurants have created original ekiben to introduce New Yorkers to this unique aspect of Japanese food culture. These ekiben include Gyu Zanmai Bento (beef lunch box), Kani Meshi (crab meat on rice lunch box), Omusubi Bento (rice ball lunch box), and Shokado Bento.
Ekiben literally means “railway lunch boxes.” It is sold at small shops inside train stations, on platforms, and occasionally inside trains themselves. The ekiben concept is said to originate at Utsunomiya station in Tochigi in 1885. A Japanese-style inn at this station would sell two rice balls and a few slices of pickles wrapped with a bamboo leaf to travelers passing through. This style of on-the-go meals gradually developed into the modern-day ekiben, a convenient lunch box for hungry travellers.
Ekiben is different from regular lunch boxes sold at delis because it includes unique regional ingredients, which means you can only find certain ekiben in particular train stations. In addition, tourists are often attracted by the freshness and their reasonable price at an average of $10. More than just lunch boxes, some have even become destinations in themselves. People would travel to certain stations just for their ekiben.
Tohgeno Kamameshi, Oginoya
Toyama prefecture, which is located along Sea of Japan, is known for rich seafood, quality salt and rice. Masu no Sushi (Salmon trout sushi) was first created in 1717 by using these ingredients. This ekiben offers a layer of vinegar-marinated rice that has thin layers of salted rainbow trout on the top. Bamboo leaves are laid on the bottom to preserve the color and flavor of these natural ingredients.
Gunma prefecture, which is 60 miles north of Tokyo, has two popular ekiben: Toge no Kamameshi and Joshu no Asagayu. Toge no Kamameshi is a rice bowl prepared in a large earthen pot. Rice is mixed with chicken, eggs, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and various other root vegetables. An earthen pot makes it possible to keep food hot, which reminds travelers of home-made food. You can find Joshu no Asagayu at Takasaki station in Gunma in the morning. It is rice porridge commonly eaten when you are sick or hung over and is low in calories.
Finally there is the Kiyoken Shumai Bento in Kanagawa. Kiyoken started its business in Yokohama, which has one of the biggest Chinatowns in Japan. Kiyoken adapted the Chinese dumpling recipe for shumai by utilizing a technique of industrial rice steaming that keeps rice fresh even when it is cooled.
Among various ekiben sold in Japan, these nine examples of ekiben. Once rare and confined to certain locations, ekiben has become so popular that some department stores have started to introduce various ekiben from all over Japan. Now ekiben is considered to have advanced far beyond a simple lunch box. Make sure you don’t miss the delicious tastes of ekiben, where decades of culinary tradition and local flavors have developed into a wonderful meal to enhance your travel experience.
Here are nine popular ekiben that you might want to try in Japan. Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture and Japan’s second largest island, is famous for quality seafood since it is surrounded by sea. Uni Ikura Bento (sea urchin and salmon roe bento), Taraba Sushi Bento (king crab sushi bento) and Ikameshi (squid stuffed with rice bento) are all rich in fresh seafood from this area. Uni Ikura Bento has sea urchin and salmon roe over rice. The Taraba Sushi Bento is one of the most luxurious bento boxes available at any station. This bento provides a hearty portion of sumptuous crab meat alongside salmon sushi and salmon roe. From these bento boxes, you can enjoy much of Hokkaido’s beautiful array of seafood. Ikameshi is squid, which is stuffed with minced tentacles and rice. It is simmered in broth made from Japanese seasoning such as soy sauce. Ikameshi originally gained its popularity as a way of rationing rice by utilizing plentiful squid around this area.
Uni Ikura Bento, JR Hakodate Kaihatsu
Gyuniku Domannaka, SHINKINEYA
When you travel south from Hokkaido you will arrive in the Tohoku area. Sendai, a capital of Miyagi prefecture, offers Gyutan Bento (Cow tongue bento). It is grilled cow tongue served over barley rice. The cow’s tongue is sliced thin and grilled slow over coals to be tender. Yonezawa city in Yamagata prefecture is famous for Gyuuniku Bento, minced and grilled beef bento. Beef from Yonezawa is acknowledged to be comparable to Kobe beef. Snow from the mountains in this area is rich in minerals and enrich the soil and create superior rice straw, which is then fed to cows.
Text: Rena Suno