Cook this: Busy Days Instant Noodle Bento

Inspired by her Japanese roots, London blogger and food photographer Sara Kiyo Popowa started making her husband healthy bento to rescue him from sad office sandwiches, sharing her creations on Instagram.

She soon amassed a following and Shiso Delicious was born. This month sees the launch of her first book, Bento Power: Brilliantly Balanced Lunchbox Recipes (20 September, £18.99, Kyle Books). We asked Sara to share a favourite recipe from the book: “I ate soo many instant noodle meals as a university student – back then I had no idea I could make my own, wholesome version in minutes!” she says. “Thin dry rice vermicelli rehydrates quickly in hot water, so just place them dry in a heatproof container, add a delicious miso paste and ginger soup base, plus raw veggies (you can use any veggie as long as it’s sliced thin or grated). When you’re ready to eat, it’s just like the original – pour boiling hot water over, wait a few minutes, then slurp down your warm instant noodle soup.”

Serves: 1 person | Keeps up to 3 days

– 1/2 nest (50–75g) dry rice vermicelli
– a handful of salad greens, like rocket, watercress or baby spinach
– 1/2 small carrot, grated
– a small piece of red cabbage, cut into thin slices
– 1 tbsp brown rice miso paste
– 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
– 1 tbsp tamari
– 2cm piece fresh ginger, washed but not peeled, finely grated straight into your bento
– fresh chilli, sliced, or chilli flakes, to taste
– fresh coriander, to taste, optional
– a slice of lime, to serve, optional

Use a leak-proof box, or a repurposed jar with a lid for this bento. Break a whole, dry nest of noodles in half (over your sink, as pieces will fly everywhere!), then jam one half into your container together with the rest of the ingredients. No need to arrange neatly for this bento! Close tightly and pack your container in a bento bag or furoshiki with a fork or chopsticks.

To serve, remove the lime slice, if using, pour boiling water over to submerge the ingredients, close the lid, leave for 5 minutes or a little more, then open, squeeze the lime over and eat.


Meal prep a few Busy Days Instant Noodle Bentos and keep ready to go in the fridge. Less perishable veggies like carrot, cabbage and broccoli are best used for this, salad greens and herbs can be added on the day. Cubed firm tofu or cooked beans are both great added to your bento as a protein boost.