Recipe: Simple Japanese Obento

Tuna Mayo Rice Balls, Colored Eggs And More

By Fiona Uyema
September 8, 2021
Food & Drink

This simple bento is cute, healthy and so easy to make!

While the creativity behind some Japanese packed lunches (obento) can be truly ah-mazing, sometimes simple is best — especially when you don’t have time but still want to send your kid off to school with a cute and nutrient-rich lunch box.

Here is a recipe that you can use on any given day of the year and spend no more than half an hour preparing — yet, still manage to impress your little one(s)! Enjoy!

Obento: Tuna-Mayo Onigiri, Pickled Beetroot Egg, And Star-Shaped Cucumbers

Pickled Beetroot Egg

  1. Place an egg in a small saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil.
  2. Leave to boil for up to 4 minutes. Then remove and place under cold running water.
  3. Once the egg has cooled, carefully peel off the shell.
  4. Place in a jar of pickled beetroot vinegar overnight (I buy a small jar of pickled beetroot in the supermarket and use the pickled beetroot vinegar from it).
  5. Remove the egg from the jar and slice it in half before placing it in the bento box. The egg should be a beautiful vibrant color.

Onigiri with Tuna Mayo Filling

Makes 6–8 onigiri


  • 160g tin of tuna in brine, drained
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • Cooked Japanese white rice (2 rice cooker-measured cups of uncooked rice, 320g)
  • Bowl of cold water, for dampening your hands to make the rice balls
  • 6-8 small sheets of nori (seaweed) 
  • A few tablespoons of sesame seeds


  1. Mix the tuna and mayonnaise together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Leave the piping hot cooked rice aside for a minute or so to avoid burning your hands.
  3. Dip your hands into the bowl of water and shake off excess water.
  4. Take a handful of rice and, using both hands, shape it into an oval shape. Then, using your thumb, make a hollow in the middle of the rice ball, deep enough to fit one tablespoon of the tuna mayo.
  5. Place the tuna mayo in the hollow. Gently fold the walls of the rice ball over the filling until it is completely covered.
  6. Using both hands, shape the rice ball into a triangular or oval shape, pressing firmly on the rice so it’s secure and won’t fall apart.
  7. Take one of the strips of nori (seaweed sheets) and wrap it around the bottom of the rice ball. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top.
  8. Continue to make the rice balls until all the rice is used.

Tip: To keep the onigiri fresh, wrap them individually in cling film or tin foil.

To complete the obento, cut out cucumber rings into a star-shaped form and decorate all empty areas in the lunch box with them. Include apple widgets or other fruit for dessert and voila! Packed to go!

Using this recipe? Share your photos with us via Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #savvytokyorecipe  Enjoy!


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