Near many train stations in Japan, there is usually a 24-hr bento shop that caters to the early birds and road warriors. The one in front of my train station happens to be Origin Bento.
I absolutely love this place, and not just because I love bentos in general. The bentos sold at these 24-hr shops aren't pre-made refrigerated kinds you see in conbinis. They are made to order, fresh off the grill/pan/pot hot bentos and they are just absolutely heavenly! When we first arrived in Japan, hubby and I lived off of these for a week or two before we got our kitchen up and running. I remember one time, hubby made a comment that made me roll over laughing. After inhaling one delicious buta-kimchi bento, he exclaimed, "These has got to be government subsidized charity bento shops or something!"
Why is that funny? Well, because while the cost of living in Japan is generally very high and food are quite expensive, the tasty bentos at these shops are oddly really cheap! Honestly, I'm not sure how these businesses survive, having to pay wages 24 hours a day in addition to sky high rents, only to turn around and charge incredibly affordable prices for their incredibly tasting foods! Then again, I guess these bento shops aren't alone, as there are others super affordable quick-eats joints like Yoshinoya too.
Anyway, Origin Bento offers a special bento that changes every month, and most of the time, it's blah and not that interesting. Save for the delicious buta-kimchi bento they did for August/September 2010, I wasn't tempted by anything else they introduced after. For January 2011, however, they did a special 30th Anniversary celebration with a East vs. West theme and introduced a Sukiyaki Bento vs. Hamburger Bento. I must note that the "hamburger" in this Hamburger Bento is cooked Japanese style, more like a meat loaf with gravy rather than the hamburger on buns as we know it. Also, I must admit that I don't like the Japanese style hamburger at all. It's good, I just don't like how rich it is. Every time I had it I felt like I just ate a giant meatball. Bleargh. But a sukiyaki bento? Hell, yes please!!! I LOVE sukiyaki!!!
The first time I saw the poster ad for this Sukiyaki Bento, my stomach literally growled. It looked soooooo good with the juicy beef and half cooked egg! When hubby and I finally came around to try it, goodness it was to die for!!! By the way, the red sticker on my bento says "extra full" (read "biggie size"), and hubby's bento had 2 red stickers on it, and they stand for "special extra full" (read "super size") LOL! Yes, they were that good.
It was quite clever how they packed the bento too, since most bentos are dry food and this Sukiyaki Bento had broth. It came in a bowl with a more shallow compartment that was stacked right on top, then the lid was put over the compartment, secured with tape and rubber band. The rice went in the bowl below covered in a sheet of clear plastic so the rice won't stick to the bottom of the compartment above, and the sukiyaki was in the compartment above. For however many times hubby and I bought this bento to go, the sukiyaki broth had never spilled. Pretty ingenious packaging if you ask me!
The half cooked egg is refrigerated and came in its own packaging, and you just crack it into the sukiyaki prior to eating! It was so delicious and we ate it so many times hubby got sick of it ^.^ Thank goodness the bento got so popular it became a permanent offering instead of a limited edition bento that's discontinued at the end of each month. Now I can have it anytime I want and don't have to go crazy eating as much of it as I can before it goes away for good. That or it was a clever marketing tactic and I was a total sucker :P
Did I mention it's delicious and cheap?!? It's really yummy and very cheap.