Deconstructed gimbap

These are the leftovers from my gimbap (see previous post), quickly turned into a deconstructed version (aka as lazy gimbap) :-)

lazy gimbap deconstructed kimbap

Rice (lightly flavoured with some sesame oil) covered with the egg strips, pickled radish stars*, cucumber and the stir-fried carrots. There is no beef in it as I ate it all, but I packed some crab sticks separately. Crab sticks are also often used as a filling for gimbap.

*pickled radish (like other pickles) keeps well for some time in the fridge, so I saved the long strips I used for the gimbap in case I will make some more later this week. The stars are cut out from some other danmuji that I keep in the fridge. 

Gimbap

gimbap or kimbapYou would think that with my love for sushi and for Korean food, I would have posted earlier about gimbap (aka as kimbap). Unfortunately, although I love gimbap it’s a bit time consuming to make, especially early in the morning!

But…with some preparation the evening before, the rice cooker timed and my alarm set a bit earlier than usual, I managed to make a few rolls and pack some for my lunch (the rest will be eaten for dinner).

(Korean) gimbap / kimbap (literally translation seaweed rice) is very similar to (Japanese) maki sushi, but at the same time very different. Instead of sushi vinegar, the rice gets flavoured with a mixture of salt and sesame oil. The finished roll also gets brushed with some sesame oil before being cut in smaller pieces.

Fillings include vegetables (such as carrot, spinach, pickled radish, burdock, cucumber) and egg, beef, crabsticks, fishcake, tuna or even spam!  Chopped Kimchi can also be used as a filling. My local sushi shop is actually owned by Koreans and the owner told me that his wife makes a very good gimbap with spicy pan fried kimchi. I have been trying to convince him to start selling Korean food besides sushi but he isn’t convinced yet about the commercial merits of it…Looks like I will just have to continue to make my own :-).

Another big difference with maki sushi is that there are no raw ingredients used in gimbap, or at least, I have never encountered any, but if someone has, please let me know in the comments…

I followed the recipe from Maangchi, you can find it here, but made a few minor changes. Her recipe is a classic version with beef, carrot, spinach, omelet and pickled radish.

My fillings, all prepared the evening before:

Gimbap or kimbap filling

Egg, cucumber (I didn’t have any spinach so used cucumber instead), pickled radish, pickled burdock (I have never encountered burdock before, except in gimbap, so wouldn’t really know what else you can use it for), carrots and beef. The marinated beef (with garlic, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil) adds a delicious flavour to the gimbap. seaweed for kimbap

This is the seaweed I used: gimbap gim. don’t know whether it is a good brand or not, but I could decipher that it is specifically for gimbap (plus the picture is a bit of a give away) and also the package (translation) says it’s already flavoured with perilla and sesame oil.

Gimbap or kimbap rolls

And the finished gimbap rolls :-).

Of course I forgot to make any photo’s while filling and rolling the gimbap, but it’s worth mentioning that I actually didn’t follow Maangchi’s instruction. Well, I did initially, with the roll furthest to the right, but as you can see the filling in that roll doesn’t end up nicely in the middle. Maangchi says to keep about 2 inches of the seaweed free of rice, and when rolling, one edge of rice needs to meet the other edge. Maybe it’s because I have too much filling, or too much rice, but the only way to get my filling nicely centered is by spreading the rice to almost the top of the sheet.

Looking back I actually think that I should have spread the rice a bit thinner as there is quite of lot of it, but anyway, the result looks pretty and it tasted great!

 

A colourful bulgogi dosirak

Dosirak-bento-lunch-bulgogi-colourful

One thing I like doing to make my lunches creative looking, is by adding as many different colours as possible!

Think I succeeded :-)

The white stuff: an car shaped egg (another great trick to make a lunch more fun: pop a hard boiled egg into an egg mould: instant result!) and of course rice

The green stuff: broccoli and cress

The red and orange stuff: cherry tomatoes and carrots

The purple stuff : purple cauliflower, raw to show off it’s colour. And some shiso perilla furikake on top of the rice. It doesn’t show here yet but by the time I open my lunch box to eat it will have stained the rice a pretty pink/purple

The brown stuff: pork bulgogi

Bento/Dosirak accessories or how to make your lunch cute/creative

Maybe I should have titled this: What I spent my money on since I started blogging about my lunches!

Be warned, this is a long post…

As I wrote in an earlier post, I sort of got “sucked” into the whole bento/dosirak addiction and spent a fortune on bento boxes and other accessories. I’m not even going to show you a picture of the number of lunch boxes I currently have, but trust me, I could probably pack 3 weeks of lunches and use a different box every day! Writing it down seems even worse than seeing them on my cupboard shelf…

Even with that high number of boxes, I tend to use the same ones over and over again, mainly because they are the right size (for me, but I’m a bit greedy…), are leak proof and/or transport friendly, come with chopsticks/containers/dividers and can go in the dishwasher :-). You will have seen these appearing regularly on my blog.

What I do want to show (off) in this post is my growing collection of accessories that I use to “cute up” my lunch. Some are quite bento specific, and bought mainly at Bento and Co,  CasaBento, and Japan Centre, but I also found some in cookery shops (think small biscuit cutters), high street shops or supermarkets (like the silicone cupcake molds).

First up: chopsticks

chopsticks

Chopsticks are not really necessary to “cute” up your lunch, but you will probably want some if you’re packing rice based lunches! Some of the above came with bento boxes like the little black box with grey “collapsible” chopsticks, others were bought or given  to me (the cute strawberry ones). The very long ones with red ends are used for cooking, and the metal ones are Korean.

I tend to use the Korean and the plain brown ones a lot when packing my lunches in the morning (have multiple sets of these), as I try to handle the food as little as possible with my fingers (food safety and such…). My favourite set to take with me for lunch is the Totoro one, not only is this set cute – and has both chopsticks and spoon – but the container has some sort of strip to hold them in place, which means they won’t rattle or make noise whilst carrying around.

I don’t use chopsticks rests when taking a lunch with me, only at home. Unfortunately it’s quite hard to find pretty ones here in the UK, unless very expensive (because imported).

Next up: food picks, cutters, soy sauce bottles  / containers and more

bento accessories food cutters and picks

Wow, it looks like a lot! Well, it is a lot :-). Just find it hard to resist cute stuff… The pipettes/tiny funnel I use to fill the soy sauce bottles. Metal cutters are great for cutting vegetables like carrots, and the plastic ones are better for softer ingredients, like cheese, ham or egg sheets. You can use them for carrots but I would advise cooking the carrot briefly first. Otherwise you will end up with very sore thumbs pressing down….

The elastic bands are to keep bento box and lid tightly together. I love the 3 animal containers (left bottom picture) but now realise I actually don’t use them a lot.

Another box full of stuff: nori punchers and egg molds

nori punchers and egg moulds

Some of these are actually paper cutters, but they do the job :-). I have been slightly disappointed by the quality of some of the Japanese nori punchers, they don’t seem to be very sharp. I read somewhere you can sharpen them by punching through foil, will have to try that out.

This box also holds some onigiri shapers and other stuff too large for others boxes, like the chick furikake container, and egg molds.  Egg molds are very easy to use and a great way to add some creativity to your packed lunch. My Hello Kitty egg mold is not being shown here, as it’s currently in use (shaping my egg in the fridge).

More (yes, there is more) stuff:

sushi mats egg moulds and rice paddles

Sushi mats (bamboo and silicone, more disposable chopsticks, rice paddles and more egg molds. These are for use with quail eggs, but I guess that Japanese quails must lay smaller eggs than UK quails… The ones I buy are always too large so I often end up with “exploded” eggs… >.<

And last photo: silicone containers, more accessories and tools

bento accessories

Silicone containers are ideal for separating food in your lunch box and packing it tightly. As you can see I have quite a lot! The little flower and bear are used to shape rice, and there are also more (o)nigiri shapers and sauce containers.

I use the clips and mat when I cut out nori details with my sharp X-acto-knife. The syringes are also used for filling soy sauce bottles. Sharp scissors, straws (great for cutting out little details out of egg sheets), lots of pincers to handle small nori bits and finally food dividers.

Pfff…..so that’s where my money went! ;-)

When packing my lunch in the morning I tend to quickly grab the two boxes in the top and bottom picture, as these hold the easiest, and most used accessories. I have the boxes open on my counter while packing my ingredients and just grab what I need.

Packing a (basic) lunch will take me about 15-20 minutes at most, including adding “cute” food picks. But creative ones can take up to an hour or even longer!

Couscous salad

couscous salad

A very simple but delicious salad!

After my previous post about “thoughts on blogging”  & all the lovely comments & likes received, I don’t feel guilty at all for showing you this lunch, which isn’t even in a lunchbox!

I actually forgot to make a picture of the same salad I took to work for lunch, this is a picture of the salad eaten at home :-)

Somehow, I never manage to make this salad in a small quantity,  so I have been eaten this twice for lunch now and once for dinner…plus there is still a bit leftover…

Basically prepare some couscous by following the instructions that are on the pack. Most will tell you to add boiling water to couscous, let is stand for a few minutes and fluff it with a fork, but some require you to cook the couscous for a few minutes.

I always use the easy, almost instant version and instead of plain boiling water, I use vegetable stock with a table spoon or two of olive oil, some lemon juice and salt. If you add more liquid (in the form of olive oil /lemon juice) just make sure you add a little bit less water, otherwise you end up with very soggy couscous.

After fluffing and cooling down, I mixed in the other ingredients, in this case cucumber, tomato, spring onion, black olives and feta cheese.

 PS some readers might have noticed that I changed the design theme of my blog.This was mainly because the old theme had problems with categories and archives. I hope it works now but please let me know if not. 

Not that I can promise to solve it…(without changing design theme again)… I‘m learning/struggling to learn about the technical side of blogging on the go and welcome all advice! For example does anybody know how to get ALL my widgets together instead some of them on the side bar & others lurking somewhere deep down the page…they seem to be all over the place depending on what  device you read my blog on…????

A basic Dosirakbento and thoughts on blogging

Basic dosirak bento

A basic dosirakbento

A few days ago I was talking with a friend about my blog and she remarked that my recent blog posts have received a lot more likes than before. We tried to pinpoint the blog post where my “followers” and “likes” count suddenly started to go up, but couldn’t really decide when it happened. After that conversation, I actually went to have a look at my stats and saw that in July the numbers trebled from 522 (June) to 1465 views (July)!

But my stats are not the reason why I wanted to bring up the subject “thoughts on blogging”. Because during that same conversation I said something along the lines of “well, yes, I’m very happy that I have new followers and likes, but I do sometimes feel obliged to make sure I create nice and interesting looking lunches / blog posts”.  Her response was to ask ” But why do you blog? And for whom? Yourself or your readers?”

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about this question, because I actually wasn’t sure how to answer it.

I started my blog  in February of this year with this Bunny Bento post  and this About Dosirakbento post. The last post explained the difference between  dosirak / bento and also my reason for blogging (to keep a photo diary of my lunches). The Bunny Bento post was my first, actual lunch photo blog post.

This might be familiar to other new bloggers, and other bento makers, but the first few weeks, well maybe months, of blogging I got sort of “taken over” by my new hobby. I couldn’t stop talking about blogging, connecting with other bloggers, showing off my blog to friends, family and colleagues and in general being a nuisance about it. I also spent a fortune on bento and dosirak accessories.

Now, about 5 months later, it has slowed down. Not  stopped though. I still buy the occasional bento box but don’t order any longer for lots of ££’s at my favourite shops. And I continue to love blogging and reading other blogs (especially about food, Korea and Japan but not limited to those subjects only). But I stopped talking non stop about my blog.

However, having a blog did “take me over” in another way.

The more likes I received, and the more followers I gained, the more I felt I had to offer creative, well written, blog posts showing different lunches, new recipes, kawaii (cute) character lunches, food art, explanations on what I make, and why, and how, and so on. I have been pondering about getting a proper camera so I could make better food pictures.  I have been feeling guilty about not taking the time to properly thank for (and accept) the nominations I received from some lovely other bloggers  (HotDish, MsWuKitchen and lefthandedchopsticks, please accept my apologies. I truly appreciate your nomination, really).

Basically I have been lured into the thought of not wanting to disappoint my readers.

The questions “Why do I blog? And for whom?” from my friend, made me realise I need to go back to the beginning. And that is  going back to why I started blogging: keeping a diary of the lunches I make. Enjoy playing with food in a box. Learning about Japanese and Korean food.  And to enjoy blogging.

That doesn’t mean that I will stop making occasionally kawaii bento or trying out new dishes.  I will still do so, but only because I want to, not because I feel I “have to”.

And I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t like having new followers and receiving likes :-).  I will  always try to visit back the blogs of my followers, like back (when I truly like it) and respond to your comments.

I also love finding new blogs and reading the stories shared by other bloggers or being inspired by recipes and ideas.

But I won’t accept Awards. I do appreciate being nominated, but just don’t have the time to truly accept and reciprocate the appreciation in the spirit these Awards are being meant, given and passed on.

I will stop worrying about the quality of my photo’s and whether my punctuation is right or my writing style interesting, constructive or good enough.

Finally, and most important, I will stop feeling guilty for posting a picture of a “boring” daily dosirakbento such as the one above.
Because this is how most of my daily lunches look like. Nothing fancy, nothing creative, just rice, veggies, protein. OK, and a cute food pick. Those ££’s spent on Bento accessories shouldn’t be wasted after all… ;-)

I’m not sure if the above makes sense to anybody other than myself, but I’m sort of glad to at least have said it (written down).

Courgette Salmon Blinis

courgette salmon blinis

 Too be honest, I am not sure if Blinis is the correct term for these!

But I don’t know what else to call them, and they do resemble a savoury blini. However, there is no flour in them. The recipe is very simple and has only 3 main ingredients: courgette, smoked salmon and egg! I am not quite sure of the exact quantities, I sort of mix and see, but it is roughly this:

Grate 1 medium courgette into a sieve/colander and sprinkle with some salt. Let stand for few minutes, meanwhile cut about 50-75 gram of smoked salmon in tiny pieces.

Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the grated courgette. I find that the easiest way to do this is to literally take a handful of the courgette and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze. It is surprising how much liquid comes out (and a good exercise for your arm muscles :-) as well).

In a large bowl beat the egg, add the smoked salmon and courgette and mix all together. Add a bit of pepper if you want but limit any additional salt as the courgette has been salted already and smoked salmon is salty as well.

Oil a non stick frying pan very lightly and add the mixture in small blini size portions (about 1,5 tablespoon) to the pan. Press the mixture carefully down so it is even, and pan fry at medium heat on both sizes for about 3 minutes each side.

I sometimes serve these as a starter and add a yoghurt/mint dip to it, but as you can see they are great for a lunch as well! I have added the mangetout between the courgette salmon blinis to avoid them sticking together. There is also some mini corn, some Korean egg roll and a clementine.

Sushi

sushi roll bento lunch box

I just love sushi!

But I am not very good in rolling it, my maki rolls always seem to end up a bit wonky or with the filling falling out. Would love to learn how to make Sushi roll art, like this Japanese artist does here . It looks amazing, but would require so much patience (something I lack).

Anyway, when I feel the need for sushi (which is quite often..) I tend to make a deconstructed version or just buy it, but this time I grabbed the sushi mat and gave it another go.

Actually, I think it does look pretty ok and it certainly tasted more than just ok!

The sushi roll is filled with crab(sticks), omelet, cucumber and avocado. I added the left over cucumber sticks, some radishes and loads of gari (ginger) in the top compartment. Also some more wasabi (I spread some wasabi on the rice as well before rolling it) and of course some soy sauce.

(I ate this lunch at home, so no faffing around early in the morning)

Dosirakbento

dosirak bento carrot flower

 I have been trying to add some new Korean dishes to my repertoire (like the Gamjorim from my previous post) but some days it’s just quicker and easier to make up a lunch from the stashes in my freezer.

And still working my way through some of my salted salmon and Jeon stock… so a very simple Dosirakbento this time.

The freezer is almost empty now, have to think up some new dishes that work well for lunch.

This Dosirakbento is completed with salad, cucumber, tomato and some carrot/green bean flowers…simply but tasty!

First time potato Dosirak!

Actually there are 2 firsts in this Dosirak!

It’s the first time that I have included potato for my lunch & it’s the first time that I made this potato side dish: Gamjajorim!

dosirak bento lunch with gamjajorim potato side dish

Gamjajorim is a potato side dish, it can be eaten warm, tepid or cold and once made, keeps for a few days if stored in the fridge. The best potatoes to use are firm, waxy ones, as these keep their shape better. Also, make sure that you cut the potato cubes the same size to ensure even cooking.

Recipes can be found here at Maangchi or at Aeri’s Kitchen , they are both very similar. Maangchi uses olive oil though and adds onion. I wasn’t sure about olive oil, so I substituted this for sunflower oil as I think the taste is better suited. I also left out the onion and followed the quantities in Aeri’s recipe for the corn syrup.

Here it is, freshly made:

gamjajorim korean potato side dish

I prepared this yesterday, so this morning I only had to add the other elements, which are some sweet chicken pieces, salad, carrot, radish and some corn on the cob. I also added 2 apricots.

It all just fitted in my lunch box, it’s a good thing the lid of  this box closes very tightly…

Will definitely make Gamjajorim again, it’s very easy and delicious!