I used to make bento a lot when I was working full time in an office. Cooking just for one bento can be a real pain, but I got into a “co-op” with a colleague and we took turns to make bento for each other so we would cook for two each morning and then take a rest the next day. I applaud Japanese mothers who get up early every single day to make bento for their families! I still do it now and then, when I feel like it. 

Here’s a bento I brought into work recently :)


Bento is a really integral part of Japanese culture. If you read school manga, you’ll notice that high school girls often bring packed, homemade lunches to school, that’s bento! A lot of manga have scenes where bento improves relationships. You might also have seen “confession” scenes where a girl presents a bento to a classmate that she likes; or girls gathering in the classroom to share (and compare!) bento!

Hatsukoi Lunch Box is a short manga that focuses on bento and how the right bento can bring together couples. In Chapter 2, Sae, our protagonist, wants to help her best friend Ayano get closer with an upperclassman that she has a crush on. Ayano says that her sempai often takes a morning run, but eats convenience store snacks as breakfast. Sae plans a bento for Ayano, and together with Yuuki and his sister Saori, they create a perfect, heart-warming bento.



The process, as is with most non-kyaraben, is very simple. Sorry, no pictures for you as it was too dark this morning! All I have is the finished product. 

I did some replacements. My preferred pasta is rotini, so that’s what I used. I was eating my own bento so I didn’t bother with the heart carrots, or the love message on the bun, although if I had a vegetable cutter handy I might have cut my carrots into flowers! I also used bacon (I had some to clear!) instead of sausage franks. I was most intrigued by the possibilities of using tomato juice, so I stuck with that. I realised only this morning  that all I had was spicy tom yum bouillon cube, so that’s what went in my soup. By the way, I doubled the recipe/juice required but only put one cube in. I am vaguely horrified that the recipe requests for a whole bouillon cube for 150ml of liquid. Instead of tuna, I went with turkey ham as I didn’t want to open up a whole can of tuna for one tablespoon. My salad greens are baby spinach, but you could conceivably use any sort of typical sandwich greens like butterhead, arugula, rocket or if you really must, iceberg.

I was a little concerned that there wasn’t enough liquid for the ingredients, and after the step where you simmer the sauce for 12-13 minutes, I felt that the soup had reduced to a sauce more than a soup. It is PROBABLY because I was using a frying pan to cook the soup, so I suggest a covered pot for cooking. For my bento, I basically just diluted out the soup with more hot water while it was still on the stove and let it cook through again. By the way, I used real tomato juice from Heinz, so it was already pretty thick to start with.

I budgeted an hour in the morning to make this bento, and I finished well within the time (about 30-40mins total, including cooling time). I had however, spent a few minutes last night dicing my potatoes and cutting my carrots to save some time. Cut potatoes can keep up to overnight if stored in water in the fridge.

Looks very cute!

Looks very cute!

I don’t have my larger bento boxes with me here in my apartment, so I simply wrapped my sandwich with plastic wrap, put my soup in a food jar and then brought it all in a lunch bag (I have the owl from Skip Hop!) to the office.


 I was a little skeptical about whether or not this could get me full, and was already prepared to write some scathing remark about how this pathetic lunch could never have filled a growing high-school boy up. Of course I have to eat my words because I always forget just how much a bento can really pack it in! The soup was hearty with the potato and pasta. The vegetables in the form of broccoli, carrot and of course the tomato soup itself make it relatively healthy (I hope!).  All the ingredients made the soup really chunky, which filled me up. The sandwich was the kind I prefer too, just simple lunch meat, salad greens and a little bit of dressing. I came into lunch really hungry and was super full by the end of it. It was great! I think the soup would have sufficed as a light lunch by itself. Now I have to battle the after-lunch syndrome, oof!


Hatsukoi's Heart-warming Soup and Sandwich Bento
Serves 1
A delicious lunch or breakfast bento with a warm tomato soup and sandwich!
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Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For the soup
  1. Carrots - 1 small
  2. Potato - 1 small
  3. Broccoli - 1/2 small head
  4. Sausage frank - 1
  5. Tomato juice - 150ml
  6. Farfalle pasta - 12g
  7. Stock cube - 1
  8. Milk - 1 tbsp
  9. Salt, olive oil, pepper - suitable amount
For the sandwich
  1. Bread roll - 1
  2. Salad greens
  3. Tuna - 1 tbsp
  4. Mayonnaise - 1 tsp
  5. Ham - 1 slice
  6. Butter/Mayonnaise - to taste
For the soup
  1. Cut broccoli into pieces, frank into 1cm pieces
  2. Dice potato and soak in water
  3. Slice carrot into thin circles, and decorate if you like using a vegetable cutter
  4. Heat some oil and fry your sausage.
  5. After the sausage changes colour, add your carrot, potato and broccoli to the pan. Saute.
  6. Add tomato juice and allow to come to boil.
  7. Add pasta and buillon cube and allow to come to boil. Simmer on low for 12-13 minutes.
  8. To finish, add milk, pepper and salt to taste.
For the sandwich
  1. Drain oil from tuna and mix in the mayonnaise.
  2. Slice the roll into two and spread butter on the cut roll.
  3. Cut your message out of the ham slice.
  4. Place salad leaf and tuna mayo into the roll.
  5. Stick the letters on the roll with a little mayo as the glue.
Adapted from Hatsukoi Lunch Box
Adapted from Hatsukoi Lunch Box
The Manga Menu

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