If you’ve ever stepped inside of Tokyo station, you may have noticed that the station boasts a countless number of shops that sell packaged meals. These meals are called ekiben. The name comes from an abbreviation of “eki”, which means station and ben which is short for bento boxes in Japanese. While most Japanese people refrain from eating on local trains, it’s a whole different story when it comes to traveling long distance. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that most Japanese people look forward to buying ekiben since the options of ekiben differ depending on the region and station. In recent years, ekiben has become a popular souvenir and a cuisine that promotes local tourism as many of the dishes inside the ekiben use local ingredients and specialties. Going through all the ekiben options can be overwhelming, so we did all the hard part for you. Take a look at 5 of the tastiest ekiben options in Japan.
A well-known souvenir of Toyama, Masuzushi is a type of pressed sushi that uses thinly sliced salt-pickled trout which is placed on top of a bed of vinegared rice. The pressed sushi is wrapped in bamboo which keeps the rice and fish soft for an extended period of time. Due to its long shelf life, Masuzushi has long been considered as the ideal meal for people on the go. The leaf-wrapped sushi does not taste like your average sushi with raw fish, it has a sour and slightly salty flavor that is packed with umami. While you can get your hands on a Masuzushi in pretty much any convenience store or station in Japan, we highly recommend you to try out the one from Minamoto.
2.Gyuniku Domannaka(米沢名物 牛肉どまん中)
Often touted as the most popular ekiben, many people line up to get a taste of this hearty meal. This ekiben contains Japanese wagyu beef seasoned in soy sauce that is neatly placed on top of rice. The name of this ekiben is pretty much self-explanatory. The word “Gyuniku” means beef in Japanese and the word “Domannaka” comes from the name of a type of rice produced in Yamagata. Despite the fact that the meal comes cold, the rice in this ekiben tastes exceptional which is no surprise as Yamagata is most notably known for producing high-quality rice.
If you have a soft spot for fish, this ekiben may be straight up your alley. This longtime best selling bento includes octopus, conger eel and bamboo shoots that are served over rice. While the seafood tastes delicious on its own, it’s the rice that brings it to a whole different level. The rice used in this ekiben is drenched in a specialty soup which compliments the octopus and the conger eel. With every bite you take, you’ll become more obsessed with the Hipparidakomeshi. Bonus points: this bento comes in a fancy Japanese ceramic bowl that you can reuse after your done with your meal.
4.Toge no Kamameshi(峠の釜めし)
An ekiben with a history of over 50 years, Toge no Kamameshi is a cult classic from Gunma prefecture. Kamameshi is a traditional Japanese rice dish cooked in an iron pot. Aside from the rice, this dish is seasoned with various toppings such as chicken, mushrooms, and eggs. The toppings and the rice blend nicely and create a rich flavor that will get you completely hooked with this kamameshi. If you’re like most people, you prefer eating a warm meal over a cold one at any time of the day. Unlike most ekiben, Toge no Kamameshi is kept in a container that preserves the heat of the food so you won’t have to worry about heating up your meal.
5. 30 Ingredients Balance Bento
Do you find yourself often getting sick when you go on a trip? Taking ourselves out of our normal routines can cause an immense strain on our bodies and will weaken our immune system. This bento is a nutritious option for those of you that want to incorporate a healthy meal while you’re traveling. The 30 Items Balance Bento contains side dishes of grilled fish, mustard chicken marinade and simmered vegetables. A well-balanced meal with 30 different ingredients, you won’t get bored of eating this bento.