Build your own bento

Updated: Mar 25

There’s something uniquely satisfying about seeing your favourite foods arranged so neatly (and colourfully) on a bowl, box or plate.

Case in point: The bento or bento set.

And if you happen to be hankering for a healthy and delicious one at the moment (like me), then you can’t go wrong with those by Afterglow.

The Singapore restaurant offers wholesome plant-based meals that are made of sustainably sourced ingredients with no additives, animal products, and artificial flavourings whatsoever. Aside from bento sets, they also have delivery and takeout menus, meal plans, ready-made products, sauces and desserts.

But customers aren’t the only ones who are so into Afterglow’s bento sets. The Afterglow staff loves them too.

“We created the bento sets with our team and customers in mind,” says Afterglow co-founder Carmen Low.

“Afterglow has been around for seven years, and we have constantly been improving our menu. The COVID-19 period allowed us to rest, reset and reimagine plant-based food again as a community. The bento sets allowed us to create new dishes every day that are different. It challenged us to create more, and to also provide new options for our customers during the COVID-19 period.

“Now that dine-in service is allowed, many of the bestsellers from our bento sets have been launched in our restaurant.”

More than plant-based

Somehow, we can’t just throw stuff together and call it a meal (or a day). 😊

Creating a bento set also doesn’t end with us merely picking plant-based ingredients and foods. There’s a certain “element”, “technique” and “feel” to it, if you will.

“For me, (what makes a good plant-based bento set) would be texture and a good balance of fresh ingredients and umami flavours,” Carmen observes.

“I’ve always believed that having a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that the food has to taste bland. Each Afterglow bento comes with a raw plant-based cake that complements the main dish, allowing a juxtaposition of sweet and savoury, light and creamy textures and flavours.”

So can Carmen share with us her favourite ways to assemble a plant-based bento set at home? Of course she can. 👏

#1 Always check the seasonal vegetables that are available at your local markets

“… and work with them. We try not to work with non-seasonal vegetables or ingredients that are not from this part of the world.”

#2 A good sauce is very important

“I would recommend that you pair your food with a sauce you have in mind. I personally prefer Asian-based sauces, so I tend to use many Asian herbs and spices to create my sauces.”

#3 Always include a snack

“Snacks are a highlight for me, and they will help elevate your mood for the day as well,” Carmen admits.

“For a fuss-free snack, I love dehydrating my fruits for a great mid-day pick-me-up. One of my favourite dehydrated fruits is watermelon. It tastes like gummy bears to me after one day of dehydration.”

#4 Plating is key to a good bento set at home

“I highly encourage everyone to have a few good pieces of dining ware, and to plate your dishes like how you would want them to be served in a restaurant.”

#5 Do not be too stressed about the whole process

“… as it takes some time, trial and error to successfully create a plant-based bento at home! Have fun in the process and document your creations!”

Mix it up

Afterglow’s bestsellers include the Afterglow Kimchi Avo Rolls, Lentil Flaxseed Nuggets, Raw Crispy Lasagne, Salted Eggless Yolk Burger (a seasonal special), and Raw Chocolate Salted Caramel Fudge.

Have their bento sets and bestsellers together with your other go-to dishes to liven things up. 😊

But if you’re looking for something simple, Carmen reveals what she currently finds herself reaching out for to create her own meals.

“I always enjoy fresh, leafy vegetables with a good basil mint dressing,” she states.

“During this period (with the pandemic and most of us staying at home), eating fresh, crisp vegetables helps to elevate my mood and provide me with the energy to keep going.

“I also enjoy using cashew as a base ingredient when I’m craving for something creamy,” she adds.

“For example, at Afterglow, we use cashew to substitute dairy for our cakes. We also use it in our sauces to create a ‘cheese’ texture!”

What will we find in your bento set? 😊

Afterglow is at 24 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089131. You can make a reservation, or choose pick-up or delivery. Check out their website, Facebook and Instagram for details.