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  Season 8 - Episode 806
 

Bento Boxes

Bento Boxes

Bento Boxes

Bento Boxes

Bento Boxes


  Bento Boxes

Japan is a country of people moving at a frenetic pace, including the fast-moving transportation like the famous bullet train. For a quick lunch the Japanese turn to something we may call a "TV dinner." The Japanese call it a Bento box.

"It's typically associated with travel. It's a meal you take with you on the run,' said Jeffery Schnack, president of NRE Restaurant Enterprise.

Now East meets West. Seven thousand of these ready-made meals are turned out every day for Japan at a new plant in Fairfield, California.

"We started out looking for organic product in Japan and we were not able to find enough supply, especially rice. So we found it right here in California," Schnack said.

Last May NRE Bento became the first overseas venture for the company's majority shareholder Nippon Restaurant enterprise. The move wasn't without controversy. Japan's agricultural cooperatives were against the use of foreign rice in the Bento boxes. And that concern by Japanese farmers over the use of California rice, instead of their own, created a media frenzy. NRE Bento has taken advantage of a loophole in the tax laws that exempts processed foods from rice tariffs. NRE Bento has gone to great lengths to produce the same strain of organic rice that satisfies the fussy Japanese palate.

Lundberg Family Farms have been growing rice near Chico since 1937. While their product is organic, they agreed to get a special certification to meet the tough Japanese standards. Some three hundred tons of Lundberg rice is used in the Bentos this year, alone. The other essentials of the meal-beef, chicken and vegetables also come from California. Again, all must be perfect in quality and even the way they're cut for the Japanese consumer.

NRE sells 80 thousand Bento boxes a day to train travelers in Japan. You may be able to enjoy a Bento lunch. The company is strongly considering bringing these meals to markets and convenience stores throughout the United States, thanks to our growing taste for Japanese cuisine.

 
   

 

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