As a food lover and a perpetually hungry Indonesian, I am always up for exploring new things in Paris. So When a friend of mine texted me an article about the opening of a pop-up bento stand from Japan called EKIBEN I jumped at the occasion. So last week during lunch hour, I ventured to Gare de Lyon to try out this Japanese delight!
For the Japanese, Ekiben is not just a bento that is a companion to eat on the train, but it also represents their regional gastronomy that is derived from the local products. Historically, the first Ekiben is created in 1885 in the Utsunomiya train station at Tochigi at the launch of the railway between Ueno (Tokyo) et Utsunomiya. This first Ekiben was confectioned by an inn nearby at the demand of the railway company and it mainly consists of rice balls (onigiri).*
When I arrived I was thoroughly excited by the prospect of trying the delicious Japanese Ekiben. The pop-up stand was really cute, all the employees were all Japanese and we were greeted with a warm smile and an origami paper crane that we can take home. It was really a cute touch!
The menu consists of 5 different bento variations to choose from ranging from 8 to 15 euros.
I had a hard time deciding what to order and I finally settled for the 2 Ekiben that you see from the left on the picture above (the Maki Sukeroku and the Bento Onigiri). I was joined at the station by my friend Roberto who was visiting Paris for fashion week and was leaving as well from this station. He took the famous Makuno-uchi bento. Overcame by hunger, I completely forgot to take a picture of my food when it was still instagram-worthy -(I was not able to resist those shrimps were calling my name) so instead, I took a picture of Roberto's beautiful Ekiben.
The Makuno-uchi bento is considered as the typical Ekiben and was sold for the first time at the Himeji train station in Hyogo in 1889. Now, 130 years after its creation, there are more than 2000 variety of this lunchbox in Japan. Ekiben is a good representative of"washoku" Traditional Japanese food- also known literally as "food of Japan"). "Washoku" has just been registered as UNESCO intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is also to celebrate this fact that the Ekiben pop-up stand is created to introduce this tradition of Ekiben in France.*
Washoku is written in Kanji characters as 和食. The first character 和 (wa) , means in Japan or Japanese also represents harmony, and the second character 食 (shoku) means food or to eat. Wa is considered to be the most traditional, indigenous and important value in Japanese culture. As the name implies, "washoku" blends each ingredient in a harmonious fashion, it is an intangible cultural heritage which is passed on from generation to generation and encompasses a variety of know-how and techniques which are used to prepare and present different dishes.**
It was a delicious lunch and for a moment, I really felt elsewhere, a little escapade to Japan in Paris. The pop-up stand will be at Gare de Lyon only until the 30th of April, I have the feeling I will be back again for another lunch before it's gone. Anyone interested to join me? ;)
Until next Adventure! | À la prochaine! | Sampai Jumpa!
Words & Images by Diana Rovanio
Address : Gare de Lyon (Paris) – Hall 2
Hours : 8h00 – 19h30
1st of March until 30th of April