Onigirazu

OnigirazuI like browsing through the WP reader, and use tags like food, lunch, rice, Japanese, Korean, art, London, recipe, random, food blog, and many many more to discover other blogs and inspiration. The other day, I found this very interesting post & tutorial about Onigirazu (you can find the full post here) by Nonbirichan.

As you know, I use quite a lot of onigiri in my lunches, sometimes very simple plain ones, other times I turn them into character bento, like boy & girl or piggies, but I had not heard of Onigirazu before. A quick internet search teaches me that apparently Onigarizu has been popular in Japan for some time now, so I guess it’s also time for me to join in :-)

If I understood it correctly, Onigiri = shaping rice, with Onigirazu = you don’t shape the rice, as in Japanese “zu” at the end of a verb makes the verb negative…(but please correct me if I am wrong). Basically you put some rice on a nori sheet, add your filling, top up with more rice and fold you nori sheet around it. Using some cling film will help to create a nice “parcel”. After resting for a few minutes, you cut the parcel to reveal the filling. The tutorial by Nonbirichan is very useful, or you can follow my step by step photo’s below.

I cheated a bit with my Onigirazu, and did shape the rice, using a square food mold. Of course you don’t need to use a mold, but it does make the process even easier :-)

The larger one (8 cm) is filled with smoked salmon and green beans; just layer up all your ingredients. The smaller one (6 cm) is filled with omelet, spinach and crabsticks. This mold is not as deep as the larger one, and I  had put too much rice in the bottom layer so was really struggling to add more rice on the top so the top layer is too thin.

Few more tips:

  • I used a little “pusher” to push down the rice and layers whilst filling. Also, when you remove the mold, keep the rice pushed down so that it won’t stick to the mold itself!
  • Another cheat: I didn’t wrap/fold it using the whole sheet…I actually made a few well placed cuts with a scissor to avoid those tricky corners…. ;-)
  • When wrapping your Onigarizu, mark the outside with a single rice kernel! This will help to show where to start cutting so that the filling is displayed nicely :-P
  • Wait a few minutes before cutting, and use a wet knife (to avoid sticking). Also cut the Onigarizu with foil and all, this will help it keep together, and also, it’s easy for packing in your bento as they won’t stick together.

 

Hello Kitty Bento

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After making the Hello Kitty Steamed Buns (see post here), I still had some buns left over. I thought they would make a great addition to my lunches, but wasn’t quite sure how long they would keep and how best to reheat them. Luckily, as always, I could find the answer on the internet :-)

So, after the remaining buns had cooled down, I packed them individually, and froze them. For packing & reheating, just let the bun defrost overnight, or couple of hours at room temperature. When you are ready to eat it, take a piece of kitchen roll, wet it, and pack your bun in the wet paper. Pop onto a plate, into the microwave for 1.5 min high heat, and it will “steam/reheat”. The dough will get slightly chewy in the microwave, so you could also reheat the bun (without the kitchen paper) for 5 minutes or so in a steamer.

To keep my Hello Kitty Bun company, I also popped a hard boiled egg into my Hello Kitty egg mold :-)

The Hello Kitty egg is nestled on a bed of spinach, wilted and flavoured with soy sauce/sesame oil/garlic and sesame seeds, basically a Korean recipe (which you can use to top a Bibimbap, or in a Gimbap). There is some sweet chili sauce in the little container, this is for the bun. The lunch was completed with some carrot and edamame beans, some orange pieces and apple, and because it’s almost Easter, some chocolate Easter eggs :-P

 

Hello Kitty Steamed Buns

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Some time ago I was invited to join Our Growing Edge, a monthly food blogging event, that aims to connect and inspire us to try new things. The rules are very simple, open to anyone, you don’t have to join each month, no prizes or winners, it’s just a way to share new experiences. To enter, the blog post needs to be about achieving a food related challenge that you have been meaning to do (or redo). That can be all kind of things, trying out a new cuisine, growing your own fruit & veg, mastering a new technique etc. As long as it is food related and new to the blogger :-)

There are a few more rules/submission Guidelines, which you can all find here: Our Growing Edge

I have been thinking a long time about which food challenge I wanted to try. There is lots of inspiration on other blogs/Pinterest but I wanted to choose something that fitted in with my blog subject. Initially I thought of trying out a rice cooker recipe. As some of you might know, I am in LOVE with my rice cooker, but still haven’t tried to cook anything other than rice in it…

Then, this week, I saw a fantastic tutorial on how to make Hello Kitty Steamed Buns by Bentomonsters, and thought, WOW, I want to try that. I have never made steamed buns before, so this would be a great challenge! For the full recipe and step by step instructions, please see the post at Bentomonsters, her buns look much prettier than mine, but I am still quite pleased with my results :-)

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There are a few things I learned today:

  • My steamer needs to be used more! It was hidden in the depth of my under the stairs cupboard…so I had to dust it off a bit :-). Unfortunately, it only has 1 setting, I think the buns would benefit from a slightly “lower” steam, to avoid bursting.
  • I lined the steamer with some baking parchment, which I punched a few times.
  • Dough expands! My steamed buns ended up a lot larger then I expected!!
  • Re making the buns:
    • I didn’t have the pancake mix that Bentomonsters uses, but luckily she gave an alternative recipe as well, which uses plain flour. It makes a very soft, elastic, nice feeling dough, although I was surprised that there wasn’t any yeast in it as I had seen some other steamed bun recipes that did have yeast. But it worked and tasted very good :-P
    • I would recommend covering the dough, in between various stages, with a barely wet towel, this avoids drying out. It also helps to keep the dough slightly sticky, so that  the face details don’t  keep falling off…
    • Wash your hands in between colouring the dough!!! You really have to knead the dough thoroughly to get an even colour so your hands will get quite stained… I gave Hello Kitty a green nose as I didn’t have any yellow food colouring and as I wasn’t sure whether tumeric would work or not. I also used a red colouring instead of pink for the bow.
    • I have never made steamed buns, or filled buns for that matter, so didn’t know how to pinch/pleat the dough over the filling, but I just sort of pinched it and it seemed to work fine. There was no leaking which is always good…
    • Instead of cutting the dough to create the ears, I decided to sort of “pinch” them. I cut the ears on the first bun, and unfortunately my cut was too deep or my dough too thin, and the filling spilled out. I tried to cover it up by making an extra bow, but you can see that the bun has burst
    • I had some left over coloured dough (I think that next time I would half the quantities set aside for colouring the dough), so I just made some plain buns with left over filling. Not sure how the “brown cacao” one will taste…
  • And most importantly, aside from looking cute, these buns are delicious!!! :-P

Below are my step-by-step photo’s:

It was a great new recipe to try out, and I will definitely do this again. As said, for the full recipe and instructions, see the original post at Bentomonsters. She is a very talented & creative lady and her bento’s always look amazing!

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This month is hosted by Cynthia from EatMunchLove (who, btw, has a one-pot-tomato-rice-rice-cooker recipe that sounds like an easy recipe to finally start using my rice cooker more!)

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A rose to mask my smelly lunch…

a smelly lunch with cucumber kimchi

Kimchi is Korea’s national dish and it will be eaten with (almost) every meal in one form or another. Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage or radish. It’s packed full of flavour, low in calories, helps boost metabolism, and contains immune- and digestion-boosting probiotics.

Kimchi can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a side dish (banchan), or as an ingredient for cooking like in kimchi fried rice, kimchi stew or kimchi pancake.

If you like spicy, strong and pungent flavours, you might like Kimchi, but be warned, it is very smelly!

I do like Kimchi and eat it regularly, but I don’t pack it very often in my lunch box because of the smell. I work in a small office, in an old building with bad ventilation, and we don’t have a separate room to eat our lunch. So although my colleagues are often quite interested in the contents of my lunch box, I don’t want to have them (and me) working in a room invaded by Kimchi smells!

It’s is not that difficult to make kimchi at home, every family will have it’s own recipe (allegedly there are over 180 different kimchi varieties) and Maangchi has some great recipes and also a video which answers a lot of Kimchi questions (here). But as said, be prepared for the smell…

It’s so strong that it’s no surprise there are special Kimchi fridges. Based on my limited and recent knowledge gained while watching K-drama (which is of course not the most realistic representation of Korean life…) possession of a kimchi fridge is the ultimate dream of a “proper” Korean housewife…  (But  I am happy to be corrected on this by someone with proper knowledge of Korean life). Apparently these special fridges offer not only the special storing conditions to properly ferment the kimchi, but they also keep the smell separate from your other food!

So instead of bringing Kimchi to the office, the above plate shows my lunch at home. The cucumber kimchi is shop bought and so is the Musaengchae (radish banchan). Lots of cherry tomatoes and plain cucumber to counteract the kimchi (actually cucumber kimchi is pretty mild because of the high water content of cucumber – compared to cabbage kimchi – but it’s still very smelly), plus some carrot bits and cress. There are also the end bits of a Korean omelet which I prepared for lunches later (I freeze part of it in portions)

Obviously, the single rose can’t mask the smell at all, but I had just bought some roses and was sad to discover one stem had broken. Luckily the stem was still long enough to pop into a small vase, which looks cute next to my plate.

Inside out…

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Fancied some sushi today and as I had more time, I attempted to make inside out roll…and failed :-(

Everything went fine up to the process of rolling it…I was really struggling to make sure I didn’t catch roll the plastic foil (needed to make an inside out maki roll) with it, but failed to ensure the maki was rolled up tightly enough. You can see that the ingredients are way too loose and risk falling out….

Oh well, it will still taste very nice :-P

The sushi is made with danmuji, crabstick, omelet and crabsticks. Pus sesame seeds for the inside out roll

A Bear in Bath

Bear-in-bath

I do wonder whether Bear will actually get clean in this bath…..

The “bathwater” is some Japanese curry (see recipe below) and the bear is made with rice and carrot and nori face details. The hands and feet are quail eggs and nori.

Japanese curry is very popular in Japan and quite different in taste from Indian or Thai curry. Curry was introduced to Japan by the British in late 1800 and adapted to the Japanese taste, it’s quite thick and sweet and always served with rice. There are usually three degrees of spiciness: mild, medium hot or hot.

You can make your own Japanese curry powder (see this recipe from Just Hungry) but it’s much easier to buy a box of Japanese curry roux!  You can find Japanese curry sauce/roux in Asian supermarkets or sometimes in the Asian aisle of your regular supermarket. As I had never made this before, I wasn’t quite sure which brand to choose, in the end I choose S&B Golden Curry (sauce mix), Medium Hot as it had a very easy recipe on the back :-)

Recipe for 2-3 persons

  • Heat 1-2 table spoon vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan (I like using Le Creuset iron cast pans for these kind of dishes)
  • Fry 1 large chopped onion in the oil together with 200-300 gr cubed chicken (or beef) until the onions are soft and slightly brown. (I used 3 chicken thighs)
  • Add 1 medium potato per person, cubed and 1 medium carrot per person, also cubed. Stir and fry gentle for a few more minutes.
  • Add about 600 ml water, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until meat is tender and potato/carrot are cooked, approx 15-20 minutes.
  • Add the quantity roux cubes as needed. The packet had 8 portions, divided in 2 x 4 cubes in foil packed containers. I added 2 cubes to my dish (I stored the left over 2 cubes in an air tight container in the fridge).
  • Make sure you stir well until the cubes are completely melted, the mixture will thicken very quickly, so you might want to add a bit more water if needed.
  • Continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes whilst constantly stirring.
  • Serve hot with rice (or with bear…)

Enjoy!

Ms Bento

Mr Bento

Ever since I have seen the lunch packed in a Rantang, posted by Rudyhou on his blog (see here), I have been thinking of finding a similar style lunchbox, ie 3 containers within a insulated larger container. It’s worth reading his post about it as it shows some examples of the lunches he packs in it, they all look delicious :-P

The lunchbox I eventually bought is from Zojirushi and is actually called Ms Bento! They have various stainless steel lunch jar options, Ms Bento has 2 or 3 containers, there is a Mini Bento, and a Mr Bento with 4 containers! More info can be found here.

My Ms Bento doesn’t have a bag and comes instead with a carry strap. Like the one that Rudyhou has, it also has 3 containers, all suitable for the microwave, an outer stainless steel container, and a chopstick holder with chopsticks. Food is supposed to keep hot/cold in it for 6 hours, and as said, the inner bowls can be popped into the microwave if needed.

The photo above (right) shows the different compartments, and I packed them as following:

  • The bottom one is the smallest and has a watertight lid. I filled it with some radish soup (basically Korean miso soup with Korean radish).
  • The middle one has a screw on lid and is the largest. Although it is not 100% watertight, it seems to be almost be so. I think that as long as you keep it upright, you might be able to pack food like pasta with a thick sauce in it, but I would test it first to be certain… In my container I packed some spicy fried rice, ie “my Korean version” of egg fried rice. It has rice, leek, spring onion, baby corn, prawns, sugar snaps, egg and to make it spicy & Korean …some Gochujang … :-)
  • Finally I packed some orange slices in the top container.

I packed mine 5 hours ago, with piping hot food in the bottom two containers. When I unpacked it, the bowls holding the hot food still felt warm on the outside and there was steam coming off the food when I took the lid off. But… unfortunately the food itself isn’t piping hot anymore, it’ts more like lukewarm. Well warmer than lukewarm, but not hot. It was just a bit too cool for me to classify as a hot lunch (although I suppose you could eat it as it was definitely warmer than room temp) so I popped both containers in the microwave for 1 minute.

So, I think that next time I might try it with putting some boiling water in the containers first, this will probably help keeping it warmer for a longer time.

Still…a very enjoyable lunch :-)

 

A love for tofu

Tofu love

Hello to all new visitors! And of course to the regular ones ^*^

Quite a lot of people took the time to comment on yesterday’s post (in answer to HarsH ReaLiTy challenge) and I really appreciate that :-)

It was great fun to do something completely different to my usual blog posts and it also made my commute much more enjoyable by being more aware of my surroundings. Often I take it for granted that I live/work in this great city called London so it was good to realise that again. It was also really nice to look at the posts/photo’s from other bloggers who took up this challenge, so I can recommend having a browse! (see HarsH ReaLiTy)

So today’s post is what I usually blog about: the food in my lunchbox! :-)

I called it a love for tofu because that’s what’s happening at the moment, I seem to be totally smitten by this soy product and falling more and more in love with it….  So far I have been mainly using it in Sundubu jJigae (tofu stew) but I am now trying out new recipes.

Actually as a child I didn’t like tofu at all, but I guess my taste buds have grown up a bit. It is the same with mushrooms, I couldn’t stand those but now I am learning to like them. Not so for bell pepper though…still thoroughly dislike it which is a pity as I sometimes look for nice red food to make creative lunches….

Anyway, I digress, so back to my lunch box. There are 2 portions of spicy steamed tofu. The recipe I used is very very loosely based on one I found at Beyond Kimchee although I have also recently been inspired by the (Korean food) recipes on Catherine blog. Am planning to try out her pan-fried tofu recipe soon :-P

To show my love I have also added a heart shaped hard boiled egg, and other ingredients are the usual rice, carrots, some salad and tomatoes. And I just realised it’s actually a vegetarian lunch today!!

Hope you enjoyed reading about my lunch today and wishing everyone a good weekend!

Daily life in London (from 6 am till 8.30 am)

Something completely different today!

Inspired by the challenge of HarsH ReaLITy “Daily Life in ___.” I would love it if you could include some photos of your everyday life, your city, your town, or basic “daily photos” that will share your life and country with us. Remember that a view or landscape may be mundane to you because you see it every day, but to others these scenes may be as exotic as they come. I believe these posts will generate a lot of attention, interaction, and will be fun!”, I am today sharing some photo’s with you of my morning!

Warning: lot’s of photo’s

Not sure if my photo’s will count as exotic… ;-), but it was fun making them, and I got triggered to look more around me for photo opportunities and discovered some new sights!

I live in London and my day normally starts around 06.00….when it’s still dark…..although I can see the sky slowly lightning up at the back of the house.

I usually start with packing my lunch for that day before shower/getting dressed. Today we received our veg/fruit box, this is delivered overnight, and although I can check on the website what will be in it, I like the surprise in the morning. Today’s box had swede, leek, onions, cavalo nero, cauliflower, carrots, pears and oranges. I also order eggs with them (we go through a lot) and sometimes fish or meat. This morning’s fish arrived in a special insulated box with an ice pack.

My lunch today has some focaccia bread (as I am out of prepped rice), a tomato/egg salad, some cheese and carrot sticks. I also added orange wedges in a smaller container. Before leaving the house, I put rice in the cooker and time it to be ready for tonight.

It’s definitely getting lighter on my way to the station :-)

My commute goes via Waterloo station, but luckily it’s not very busy yet – although I did leave the house earlier than usual to allow for extra time making photo’s! These are some photo’s of my commute,around Waterloo Station, the poems in the tunnel under Imax and views from Waterloo bridge.

From Waterloo, I usually take the bus to work (I work in the Bloomsbury area), but sometimes I walk, like today and once you start to pay more attention to your surroundings you notice a lot more things like this “barrel clock” – with the wrong time, a ballerina with a globe as head in a large glass globe on the facade of the Royal Opera House and this old arch for a drinking water fountain above a modern tap!

More photo’s of my walk through Covent Garden / Bloomsbury

At work! Time for tea whilst quickly uploading these photo’s and typing a draft post before work starts. (Will finish at lunch time and publish!)

Hope you enjoyed sharing part of my life :-)

Bibimbap and Beef Gochujang

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I made some Beef Gochujang to go with my Bibimbap.

Gochujang is fermented Korean red pepper paste, and has an unique flavour being spicy, salty and sort of sweet at the same time. It is often used on its own or added as an ingredient, but you can also make sauces with it.

Beef Gochujang (yak go chu jang) is one of the easiest, it is basically minced beef mixed with Gochujang and a few other ingredients. It’s so simple to make, plus it keeps well, either store it in the fridge for a week or two (I have heard it keeps up to 2 months!) or do as I and make a big batch to freeze in small portions .

It’s a great sauce to use on Bibimbap, on salad wraps, or even on it’s own with plain rice! You can also make a vegetarian version with mushrooms, and I suppose also with tofu, but I have not tried that.

My recipe:

  • dice 1 medium onion and fry in sauce pan with 1 table spoon vegetable oil until soft
  • add 200 gr of lean minced beef and fry until almost cooked
  • add 1-2 gloves of garlic, minced and about 1 inch of fresh ginger grated, and fry a few more minutes until the beef is fully cooked
  • add 5-6 tablespoons of gochujang and stir well and often.
  • season with 1 table spoon each of soy sauce, sesame oil and honey and a pinch of salt/pepper. You can substitute honey with sugar but preferable brown sugar. Stir well and often.
  • Taste and add some more of the seasoning according to your personal taste.

Just before serving, you could also add some sesame seeds, spring onion or pine nuts to it!

Enjoy!