The term Soboro (そぼろ) is used to describe foods that have been crumbled. It’s usually seasoned with a combination of soy sauce, salt, sugar, and sake and served over rice as a donburi, which is known as Soboro Don (そぼろ丼)
Because of its low moisture content as well as the potential to make it in many different colors, Soboro is also commonly used in bento boxes to make Soboro Bento (そぼろ弁当)
Soboro is more a description of the crumbled texture of the food than a particular dish, so it can be made from almost anything that can be broken up into small crumbs such as ground meat, fish, tofu, egg, or vegetables.
Some examples include: Chicken (鶏そぼろ – Tori Soboro), Pork (豚そぼろ – Buta Soboro), Beef (牛そぼろ – Gyu Soboro), Shrimp (海老そぼろ – Ebi Soboro), Tofu (豆腐そぼろ – Tofu Soboro), Mackeral (鯖そぼろ – Saba Soboro), Salmon (鮭そぼろ – Sake Soboro), Cod Roe (たらこそぼろ – Tarako Soboro), Carrot (にんじんそぼろ – Ninjin Soboro).
The only hard and fast rules of packing a Bento box are to make it colorful and pack it tight. A colorful bento is not only fun to eat, but it’s also one way you can gauge the diversity of nutrients you’ve packed since different color foods tend to contain different nutrients.
As for packing it tightly, traditional Japanese bento boxes are compact and only offer one compartment. By packing it tightly, you not only ensure you have enough to eat, but you can also prevent the food from shifting around and making a jumbled mess.
I’m showing just two ways to pack these ingredients, but if you think of the bed of rice as a blank canvas, the different colored soboro can be arranged any way you like to make an infinite number of patterns.
This recipe is not vegan; however, it can be easily be converted to a plant-based recipe by substituting your favorite ground plant-based meat (such as TVP, chopped mushrooms, or frozen tofu) in place of the ground chicken. The egg can be replaced with silken tofu that’s been seasoned with salt and sugar and scrambled in a frying pan with a little bit of oil.
I have a separate recipe for a more standard Chicken Soboro Don, but if you don’t need to take it anywhere, you can easily serve this in a donburi bowl, in which can you can call it Yonshoku Soboro Don (四色そぼろ丼 – four-color soboro bowl).
I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to save money and eat better is to pack and bring a bento lunch from home. In this series, I recruit fellow YouTubers and food bloggers to create delicious balanced bento box lunches for under $3 a serving. The ingredients for this Soboro bento came to a grand total of $5.85 divided by two servings, that’s $2.93 per bento. The thing is, there’s really enough toppings here to make three bentos, so the actual cost per bento is probably closer to $2.
If you’d like to take a stab at the challenge, pack a bento lunch, snap a photo of it, and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #3DollarBento.
Other Chicken and Rice Recipes
Green Bean Goma-ae
- 120 grams green beans
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 75 grams carrot (1 small carrot, peeled & shredded)
- 12 grams onion (sliced thinly)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- Flat-leaf parsley (minced)
- 190 grams ground chicken
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons evaporated cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 servings cooked short-grain rice (1 rice cooker cup)
- 2 cherry tomatoes
For Green Bean Goma-ae
- Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil and then add the whole green beans. Return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes or until they are your desired texture. Drain the beans and plunge into ice water to set the color.
- Drain and dry the green beans with paper towels and then trim the stem end off and chop the green beans into small pieces.
- Grind the toasted sesame seeds, sugar, and salt together with a mortar and pestle, or clean spice grinder and toss the green beans with the resulting mixture.
For Carrot Salad
- Put the shredded carrot and onion into a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Mix to combine and let this sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the excess water to come out of the vegetables.
- When the carrots are limp, use your hands to squeeze out as much water from them as you can.
- Dress the salad with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and parsley.
For Chicken Soboro
- In a non-stick frying pan, mix the chicken, sake, soy sauce, sugar and ginger juice, breaking up any clumps of ground chicken as you go.
- Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook the chicken, using a spatula to break up the meat as it cooks into small crumbles.
- The Chicken Soboro is done when there is no liquid remaining in the pan, and the chicken is well cooked.
For Egg Soboro
- Beat the eggs, sugar, and salt until the yolks and white are thoroughly combined.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat until moderately, but not scorching hot.
- Pour the egg mixture into the pan, and scramble vigorously with chopsticks, or a whisk, breaking the egg up into small curds.
- The Egg Soboro is done when it is crumbly and no longer wet.
Assemble Soboro Bento
- Split the size between your two bento boxes and spread the rice in a thin layer, leaving a little space at the edge.
- Pack the carrot salad and tomatoes in the gap you left in the rice.
- Cover the rice with the chicken, egg, and green beans in whatever pattern you like.