Can boxed lunches stay minimalist and delicious at the same time?

Japanese housewares brand Mujirushi Ryohin, better known as Muji, has got you covered when it comes to lifestyle goods.

From casual wear to mini houses to even food like famous Baumkuchen cakes, Muji has a reputation for selling affordably priced, understated goods, and one man who regularly partakes in a Muji shopping spree or two is our very own P.K. Sanjun.

On a recent trip to Muji’s Cafe Meal & MUJI stores, P.K. discovered they have started to sell bentos (boxed lunches). Not only that, but bentos whose menus change daily.

The Muji bentos are said to be healthy lunches that follow the minimalist and simple principals of Muji, but P.K. was curious. With seven bento menus in rotation, there would have to be some ingredients amongst the bentos on offer that wouldn’t fit the minimalist brief, right?

While all this speculation was well and good, there was only one way to find out, and so P.K. bought all seven of the daily bentos on offer over the course of a week.

▼ Each bento cost 750 yen (US$6.65).

▼ The first bento P.K. bought was the Big Salmon Bento.

The Big Salmon Bento was the first of the daily lunch boxes on offer, and after he’d finished, P.K. wasn’t feeling too confident about the rest of the week.

The salmon was steamed, marinated in salted rice malt, and was certainly delicious, but the meal itself felt kind of plain, like he was eating his grandfather’s lunch or something.

The hijiki seaweed, string beans and fried egg were good, and sometimes simple is best, but P.K. is someone who prides himself on his ability to put away a lot of food, and this boxed lunch just wasn’t doing it for him.

▼ Next up was the Double Mackerel.

The Double Mackerel consisted of shredded mackerel and mackerel cooked in a sweet vinegar sauce. The meal also featured kimpira, pickled ginger and stewed shiitake mushrooms, which P.K. immediately decided was the star of the show.

P.K. polished off this lunchbox much quicker than yesterday’s, as there was more variety to the meal.

▼ Day three: Beef and Rice

With the arrival of Beef And Rice, P.K. was starting to get excited.

So far all the meals had been relatively minimalist, with simple yet delicious ingredients. Surely this beefy bento was going to be so bursting with a range of flavours that it would break ranks!

…or so he thought, but the beef was only lightly seasoned, and didn’t make a huge impact in terms of flavour. The stewed shiitake mushrooms did make a return though, and P.K. happily devoured them.

▼ Day four’s Bento of the Day was Chicken and Rice.

There may have been no stewed shiitake mushrooms in the Chicken And Rice bento, but P.K. still thoroughly enjoyed it, due to the soboro — finely ground chicken, with eggs and spinach.

Although the main component of the lunch was the teriyaki chicken on the top, P.K. found that he much preferred the soboro part of the meal much more, as it packed more of a punch in terms of flavour.

▼ Day five was Deep River Rice.

Despite the slightly unappealing name, Deep River Rice — made up of asari clams in ginger sauce and boiled conger eel — was reasonably tasty.

It was slightly blander than P.K. had hoped for, but his favourite stewed shiitake mushrooms made a welcome return, so overall this bento got a thumbs up. Really though, they should just sell the stewed shiitake mushrooms separately, because they’re that delicious.

▼ Day six saw the arrival of Kamameshi-Style Teriyaki Chicken.

The Kamameshi-Style Teriyaki Chicken bento was already scoring big points because it featured — you guessed it — the stewed shiitake mushrooms, but the rest of the meal was equally delicious, particularly the burdock root.

Kamameshi literally means “kettle rice” and is named so because traditionally, the meal was cooked in together a large iron pot. P.K. enjoyed that the rice wasn’t separate from the meat and veggies like in the other lunches. Of course, the volume was still a little less than what P.K would have liked, but apart from that this bento was flawless!

▼ The final Bento of the Day was Saikyo Grilled Pork.

Saikyo Grilled Pork, sometimes called “Kyoto-style” in English, had pork grilled using saikyo miso paste that originated in the Kyoto Imperial Palace many years ago.

The saikyo pork tasted decent enough, but it was lacking a certain something — something stewed and mushroom-y — which meant in the end, P.K. was left feeling a little unsatisfied.

On the whole, the bento lunches on offer from Muji were pretty delicious, but very lightly seasoned and lacking any strong flavours, which might turn people away. They would be perfect for health conscious bento buyers, but the smaller amount of food also might put some people off too.

And for 750 yen, you could definitely get more bang for your buck elsewhere in Tokyo.

Images: ©SoraNews24
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