Nosh Hunt: My bento soy-mate

I remember when I was younger, I would be at supermarkets hunting high and low for unhealthy snacks, anything from sugar-filled cereal to sodium-packed cheetos. And understandably, that made my family super concerned. It actually took a dietician to point out where I messed up – turns out balanced meals are important. Everyone knew that I would always refuse to eat complete meals, and then end up finding random excuses to satisfy all that hunger. Since then, my mum would always make sure she split my plate according to carbs, protein and fiber to make sure I’d be satiated... And that’s my long-winded way of saying that Bento reminds me a little of my childhood.

The word Bento actually comes from the Chinese Southern Song dynasty slang word Biandang, literally translating to “convenience.” Makes sense, right? In my eyes, bento is home cooking but better; it’s balanced but wholesome. It’s a bit of everything and more. I hope some Japanese restaurants on campus get the memo to sponsor me, but let’s get into the review for now. The criteria today will be a) variety, b) value for money, c) overall taste.

First Bento: Nori’s Tofu Bento

The first place that I tried was Nori, a go-to for convenience. Ironically, it took two years for me to finally try the place. The first dish I tried from here was the tofu bento, because, contrary to popular belief, vegetarian bentos can be amazing too. There were three slabs of tofu atop sesame rice cushioned with a side salad, veggie sushi rolls and sweet potato tempura. I loved the combination. I think that it was great value for money too, considering it was under ten dollars. The only thing that brought it to a 7.5 rating was the lack of flavour in the tofu – I’d say this is pretty important for this protein in particular. Perhaps there could’ve been more sauce or more time in marination for all the flavours to soak in. Other than that, it’s a great veggie/vegan option.

Nori's Tofu Bento.
Nori's Tofu Bento. Sara Arora
  • Dish: Tofu Bento
  • Location: Nori, 6055 University Blvd
  • Includes: Grilled tofu, sweet potato tempura, 4 veggie roll pieces, side salad, ginger & soy
  • Price: $9.99
  • Rating: 7.5/10

Second Bento: Nori’s Chicken Bento

The second dish I tried was a campus all-time favourite Chicken Bento. I genuinely think this is the epitome of value for money – you get this huge fillet of grilled chicken perfectly doused in teriyaki sauce and, when accompanied by Nori’s variety of sides, it’s convenient heaven. The few pieces of tempura alongside the California rolls created a flawless ratio of crunch to mush. Easy on your wallet, easy to eat on the go and easy satiation. This was easily my favourite.

Nori's Chicken Bento
Nori's Chicken Bento Sara Arora
  • Dish: Chicken Bento
  • Location: Nori, 6055 University Blvd
  • Includes: Grilled teriyaki chicken, veggie tempura, 4 California roll pieces, side salad, ginger & soy
  • Price: $9.99
  • Rating: 9/10 (not a 10 because the side salad and California rolls lacked flavour!)

Third Bento: Ryuu’s Bento Box D

The last comparison is Bento Box B from Ryuu, opposite Nori. This was an interesting dish to say the least. In terms of variety, there was definitely a ton. They even had the sweet egg roll – tamago – which the other two bentos didn’t have. The iconic shrimp and chicken tempura was absolutely spectacular! The price was slightly higher though, perhaps because they also provide dine-in, which looked great too. However, this was rated a 7 because of the quantity of chicken you get, and for me the sweet egg roll didn’t pair well with the rest of the intensely savoury dish. But definitely an awesome option to try for its variety.

Ryuu's Bento Box B
Ryuu's Bento Box B Sara Arora
  • Dish: Bento Box B
  • Location: Ryuu Japanese Kitchen, 5980 University Blvd
  • Includes: Shrimp tempura, rice, Tamago, side salad, a few pieces of grilled teriyaki chicken, 4 pieces of california roll sushi.
  • Price: $13.50
  • Rating: 7/10

It’s no surprise we have a clear winner: the Chicken Bento from Nori! I’ve had it a couple times since, and it’s impossible to go wrong with this bento!

So there you have it, a comparison of three bentos on campus.

If you have any other food ideas you’d like us to compare and review, send an email to culture@ubyssey.ca. Be on the lookout for the next nosh hunt!