Flowers with my sandwich

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It was suggested to me that I could put some flowers in my bento lunches to help cheer people up, as currently the weather and time of the year is not very helpful.  I will be making a more flowery rice bento lunch within the next few weeks, but meanwhile I thought it might be nice to meanwhile decorate my simple sandwich snack with flowers.

This bento holds just a simple sandwich (for those interested, there is some ham on it) and I topped it with vegetable flowers: there is courgette, daikon and carrot. I also added a few quail egg flowers, two cheese thingies with flower cut out and a tomato flower.

This was actually my breakfast today. Although my cupboards are full, my fridge/freezer seems to be quite empty of suitable lunch food, so I will pop into the car and drive to the Korean supermarket later to stock up. Might treat myself to Bibimbap for lunch….hmmm that will definitely cheer me up further!

Dosirakbento

Bento

After my previous lunches, today it’s just a very simple dosirakbento.

I mixed some cooked rice with soy salmon snippers (left over cooked salmon that I had flaked and mixed with some soy sauce), and steamed a few fish-shrimp dim sums (shop bought). I added some peas and carrot flowers and filled another container with melon stars and seaweed salad. Luckily the lid of the partitioned container has small ridges so that the filling of each compartment won’t mix with the others…not sure how my melon would have tasted with seaweed all over it…

Year of the sheep dosirak

Bento with sheep made of crabstick

The Year of the Sheep has now started….or is it the Year of the Goat?

The animal which represents 2015 is apparently up for debate as the relevant Zodiac sign refers both to goats and sheep depending on the country/language/culture.

I read somewhere that in Korea this year is mainly referred to as the year of the sheep, and as my blog mainly concerns Korean (and Japanese food), I think I will stick with that and show you my sheep dosirak!

Some readers may remember that I showed this lunch before, I actually made it last year, but I thought I would show it again :-)

The sheep is made by cutting out small circles out of crabstick, and the head and legs are made from nori. Everything is positioned on a “field” of rice topped by cucumber and avocado slices, with some flowers from corn, cress, cucumber and ginger.

Oh, and I had my first bowl of Tteokguk yesterday…so now I am a year older….

Seollal and Baby DosirakBento!

Baby Bento

Happy Lunar New Year to everyone!  Today it is Seollal, Korean New Year.

In Korea Seollal is one of the most important national holidays and the celebrations normally lasts 3 days: the day before, the actual day and the day after. Korean New Year is generally the same day as the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year as it follows the Lunar Calendar.

Korean New Year is typically a family holiday, many people return to their hometowns to catch up with their families, perform ancestral rites (pay respect), exchange gifts, play games and of course to share food.

The most important food eaten at Seollal is Tteokguk, a soup with sliced rice cakes.

As well as the start of a New Year, the Korean New Year is similar to a birthday for Koreans, and eating tteokguk is part of the birthday celebration. Once you finish eating your tteokguk, you are one year older. People often ask “How many servings of tteokguk have you had?” as a fun way to ask each other’s age.

According to Korean age calculation, you are born one (1) year of age, and you increase your age count on 1st January every year, not on your birthday.

So, aside from celebrating Seollal today, I would also like to celebrate the birthday of 2 little baby girls, as some of my readers have recently had an addition to their family!

Many congratulations to Baby Margot and Baby Isla to have made it into this world :-) & Happy Birthday!

To be honest…I did feel a bit guilty about eating this dosirakbento…normally I don’t mind eating my creations but eating a baby….well, I was hungry so I did…oops sorry ..

Good thing it was only a rice baby….

I used a pink coloured onigiri to make baby’s head, the same method as in my Oink Oink piggies, but in this case I used a little bit less pink colouring. The face details are made from nori and a pink egg sheet. Her body is made by wrapping more rice in an egg sheet blanket and I added a little bottle filled with milk… The other container has some broccoli, edamame beans, carrot flowers cherry tomatoes and tamago.

I will also be eating some tteokguk later today as I am celebrating Seollal with friends tonight. How are you celebrating Lunar New Year?

New Year

A Korean twist to Shrove Tuesday: Kimchijeon

Will you be making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

Last year I made some more traditional ones, but this year I wanted to give it a Korean twist and made some Kimchijeon instead!

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Jeon refers to pancake like dishes in the Korean kitchen. As far as I understood there are two versions, one where food is dragged through (seasoned flour) and fried and another where food is added to a batter and fried. Ingredients can be meat, fish, vegetables or a mix, and Jeon is often eaten as an appetizer, snack or side dish.

This was the first time that I made Kimchijeon, and I followed Maangchi’s recipe. It’s so easy to make and only needs a few ingredients: kimchi, onion, flour, salt, sugar, water and vegetable oil. The trick is to use a generous amount of oil, this will help it crisp up and to add the kimchi liquid, which will help to give it it’s nice red colour.

One other thing I did is, instead of chopping the kimchi on a chopping board, I cut it with scissors in the bowl. This helps keeping your chopping board kimchi stain free :-)

Please see Maangchi’s instructions on how to make Kimchijeon, and below my photo’s:

 

Dosirakbento 1 year blogging!

Can’t believe it’s 1 year ago that I started this blog!

My first post featured some onigiri bunnies, so of course I wanted to recreate them again for this anniversary. Because it’s also Valentine, I added some carrot hearts to show that these bunnies are in LOVE…

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When I started blogging, I didn’t imagine that I would still be blogging one year later. I actually started my blog a bit on a whim, without any clear thoughts or goals. I just thought it would be fun to have photos of the lunches that I was making for myself, partly because the evidence got all eaten :-P …so a photo diary would keep track of my creations, and partly because I thought blogging about it would challenge myself to come up with some more creative lunches.

I had always been interested in Japanese and Korean food, and after I had seen some bento blogs, I thought… hmmm, I might be able do that :-). Creating bento and dosirak, or at least, my interpretations of them, would also give my blog a sort of theme, namely playing with food in a box.

Well, 1 year later,  with over 160 posts (according to my stats this is post 165, ie an average of 3 per week), almost 18.000!!! views and with more than 825 followers (including email followers), I think I have shown how much fun playing with food in a box can be!

Naturally, there have been times that I struggled to come up with a creative lunch and creative post. As some readers might remember, I did have a bit of a breakthrough last August, when I had a rethink about my blog motivation and decided to stick to the reasons why I started blogging, a diary, my love for Korean/Japanese food and playing with food in a box. That said, not all my posts have been strictly bento/dosirak/lunch/Japanese or Korean related, occasionally other recipes made their appearance, or other subjects caught my attention, and it’s likely that going forward this will happen again. I also still feel I could improve my food photography skills, but am not bothered enough about it to make big changes to what I’m doing now.

My main thought now is, that after 1 year, I still love blogging! What I couldn’t have imagined a year ago, is that I would not only enjoy being creative with my own lunches, but that I would actually feel proud showing them to all the lovely readers that have taken the time to view, read, like, comment, pass on and follow my blog. I think that without all the interaction with other bloggers, the connections made and lovely feedback received, my blog might not have been here today.

So, a big big thank you to all you out there & happy blogging!

Dosirakbento

Maki sushi on bamboo tray

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I always admire the Japanese way of presenting food. It looks so very elegant and is often served on beautiful tableware.

The other day I passed a Japanese Teashop in Museum Street, London. Unfortunately I can’t recall the name (will have to go back) but when walking by I was attracted by the most beautiful Japanese teacups displayed in the window, so I popped inside to have a closer look.

The shop turned out to, apart from serving tea and lovely looking cakes, sell a wide assortment of tea varieties and tableware to serve tea. There was too much to choose from, lots of tiny, very fragile but oh so beautiful tea cups, pretty teapots and small dishes. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted some egg shell blue bowls, or the ones which had flowers (hand)painted on them, or the one with the ingrained pattern…choices choices…

In the end, I only bought this pretty bamboo tray. It feels very nice and smooth, and it’s a good size to serve some maki sushi as in above photo.

I think it would be also the ideal size for a cup of tea and some chocolate for on my bedside table :-P

 

Oink! Oink! Onigiri Piggies

Onigiri piggies

Do you like them?

I made these before (see my Animal Farm post), but this time I made some step by step photo’s of the process.

Ingredients & equipment needed:

  • sushi rice
  • pink food colouring & sushi vinegar or pink sushi colouring (sushi plum vinegar powder)
  • egg sheet
  • nori
  • thin noodle or spaghetti
  • optional: filling, for example salmon, tuna or pickled plum

Step by step method:

  • First I mixed some freshly cooked sushi rice with pink sushi colouring. The pink colouring is sushi plum vinegar powder (I bought mine at Bento & Co), and luckily Hilary from Hilary’s Global Cafe was able to translate the instructions for me as they were in Japanese!
  • (If you can’t find pink sushi colouring, you can also use some food colouring mixed with sushi vinegar)
  • I mixed 160 gr cooked rice with 7 gr powder (1 teaspoon). It is important that you mix it whilst the rice is still warm as otherwise you will get uneven coloured rice.
  • Once mixed, I scooped half of the rice on some plastic wrap, which rested in a small bowl. Before gathering the plastic wrap and forming a ball shaped onigiri, I added some smoked salmon as filling. You can of course use any filling you like, or even leave it out completely.
  • I wrapped the clingfilm tightly around the rice, making sure that the filling wasn’t showing and put it aside whilst I prepared the face decoration.
  • Repeat with remaining rice.
  • The snout and ears are cut out from thin egg sheet. I have included instructions on how to make an egg sheet on tips & tricks page. I used small food cutters, but you can also use straws or just a sharp knife.
  • The eyes and mouth are cut out of nori.
  • Unwrap the rice balls and place them in some cupcake moulds.
  • Finally, add the face details.You can use a thin noodle strand to attach the ears to the onigiri. I really like it how you can change the character of each pig by changing the way the ears are attached :-)
  • That’s it! Two cute piggies to add to your bento box!

Japchae

imageMade some Japchae for dinner last night and had enough leftovers for my lunch today :-)

Japchae are Korean sweet potato noodles, stir fried with vegetables and beef.  My recipe is loosely based on that of Maangchi and CrazyKoreanCooking. Although you can serve this dish cold, tepid or warm, I prefer to finish the Japchae by sauteing it again, as the noodles have cooled down after the rinsing, like the Crazy Korean ladies do, and I also omitted the mushrooms and bell pepper.

The recipe looks time consuming because all the ingredients are prepared separately before mixing together, but they each just need a few minutes cooking.

Basically, I mixed:

  • 4 tbls soy sauce with 2 tbl sesame oil, 2 tbls sugar, 1/2 tbl sesame seeds, 2 minced cloves of garlic.
  • I used half of this mixture to marinate some beef (about 100 gram cut in strips).
  • I cooked 100 gr of Dangmyeon (potato starch noodles) in boiling water for about 6 minutes, then drained and rinsed several times in cold water. I put these in a bowl and added the remaining soy sauce mixture, stirring well to make sure the noodles don’t stick together.
  • In an non stick frying pan, heat 1 tbl of vegetable oil and (stir)fry (adding more oil if needed):
    • 1 small onion, cut in thin slivers, for about 5 minutes, add to bowl with noodles
    • 1 carrot, peeled, cut in match sticks, for about 3 minutes, add to bowl
    • spinach, cleaned, for 1 minute, add to bowl
    • the beef strips, for about 5 minutes, add to bowl
  • Once all the ingredients are added to the bowl of noodles, mix it well, and return to frying pan. Reheat for a few minutes on medium heat until the noodles are warm.
  • Optional: garnish with some omelet strips

My dosirak also holds some fried tofu, but I don’t have a recipe as I bought this ready made from the Korean supermarket :-)