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Introduction to Bento with Shiso Delicious

Introduction to Bento with Shiso Delicious

Sara Kiyo Popowa

Shiso Delicious, Sara Kiyo Popowa, is a blogger, photographer and creative chef.

Her food is inspired by nature and plants and feeling good in the simplest, most low-impact way possible. Through social media, events and workshops she inspires thousands of people every day with her unique approach to food.

Shiso Delicious brings together Sara’s journey to date: as a performance and visual artist, a graphic designer for the health food industry and as a member of several food or art-centred communities.

Based in London, Sara was born in Sweden, and has a Japanese-Bulgarian heritage.

Where does the inspiration for your recipes come from?

I like to eat what keeps me balanced and focused: ‘non-extreme’ foods, which to me is whole ingredients as close to their origin as possible, produced in a way that is good for the earth as well as for my own health. Inspiration for my recipes come from how to transform these kind of ingredients into something yummy I can eat in the fewest steps possible.

How do you test your recipes?

As far as bento boxes go, my love Andy does daily testing! We have a lot of visitors and guests so I try things out on them. Having workshops have proved to be a great way of recipe testing too; understanding which dishes, ingredients and methods people are most interested in.

My recipes are inspired by multiple cuisines: Japanese, Scandinavian, Balkan, Vegetarian/Vegan, Raw food, Whole-food.

How did you decide to launch bento workshops?

I’ve always loved hosting and had been thinking about workshops for a while but had not felt ready (read: procrastinating!). My friend Bettina (@bettinas_kitchen) gave me a push saying ‘You’ve gotta start somewhere, just do it!’ and gave me a load of good advice. So, I went for it earlier this year and loved it!

What makes a great bento box lunch?

To me it needs to be fast and easy enough to do every day without going crazy, and tasty and varied enough not to make you bored. Pre-prepping a few components helps, and so does picking up a few Japanese ingredients and methods. These guys have been making bento for generations and many Japanese foods are very well suited to go in a box, stay out for half a day and still taste fresh and delicious.

Why bento boxes?

When I met my husband Andy I noticed he ate ‘life-less’ lunch at work every day, despite being healthy and sporty otherwise. I wondered how to make bringing his own lunch more enticing … the answer came when we went to Japan together.

While visiting ancient cedar forests in Yakushima we fell in love with the hand-made bento we’d buy in the morning to take on our treks.

I knew this type of packed lunch already, having studied in Japan and lived with a host-family so I immediately went and bought a few bento boxes to take to London.

Back home, I started mixing my own approach to food with traditional bento and Andy’s lunches were soon brimming with life!

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What’s the secret to a perfectly balanced box?

Japanese meals, including bento, include a lot of ‘fives’ – five colours, five tastes and so on – I do something similar.

My bentos are a combination of 5 food groups: carbs, leafy greens, protein, fruit and veg and ‘crunchies’. I talk about this more at my workshops.

How you prepare and eat your bento it is just as important as what’s inside. Take a few moments to pack, think of colour and add something extra to look forward to your ‘bento-moment’ at meal time!

Two ingredients you could not live without?

Good quality salt and olive oil.

Don’t forget to check Sarah’s upcoming events and workshops on her website.


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