Egg heart rice

A very simple but effective way to make your left over egg fried rice look more attractive!

I use a special heart shaped shape for it, but basically any metal cookie cutter would work. Just make sure that you brush some oil on the inside of your cutter, oil your pan carefully and fry on a low heat. I tend to buy large eggs, so sometimes the quantity of egg seems to large for a cookie cutter and threatens to spill, but I managed to solve that by adding the egg very slowly to the pan. That way all the egg stays inside the cutter and you end up with a nice thick egg.

Another way to quickly “cute” up your lunch is by adding small nori (seaweed) shapes. There are special bento nori cutters but I have found that paper punchers work equally well (as long as you keep them for kitchen use only).

The little onigiri shaped container has some grapes hidden under (gigantic) radishes.

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Dosirakbento

The eagle eyed might spot a new bento box in this post!

Yes, I know…I have loads of boxes already but still… I just couldn’t resist this one as it’s very practical for packing my lunches 😉

I am a big fan of this brand (Black+Blum) and have a few of their bento/lunch boxes. They are sturdy and practical and there are lots of different shapes and sizes for different needs. I have to confess that I am actually tempted to also buy the bigger version of this round one as I had to pack my rice separately. But I will be good and wait a bit longer until I have used it more often and know better how much food I can pack into it. Quite often the trick with packing lunches is to pack the food quite tightly together. This will help avoid that the food shifts around and the chances are bigger your lunch will still look attractive by the time you are actually opening your lunchbox and eating it. (As you can imagine, for my blog I tend to make the photos directly after packing.)

In my dosirakbento today, I packed some of the Korean meatballs I had made previously (and frozen) and some Japanese Tonpei-Yaki pieces. The recipe for Tonpei-Yaki can be found here. I also cheated and used some ready cooked rice. I had run out completely of my rice freezer stash (read more about bento preparation here) and these little tubs are a great back-up to have.

Although the rice is not as tasty as my beloved Koshihikari (see my “rice snob” post) these are quite good and especially practical when travelling etc. The brand I buy is again CJ (same as the Hetbahncups I bought last year) and they come in different varieties (plain, rice and black beans, five grains etc) but there are lots of other brands around.

 

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Omurice Bento

Today’s Bento is an Omurice Chick!

Omurice or Japanese Omelet rice is a fusion between fried rice and omelet. The rice is usually pan-fried with ketchup and chicken before being wrapped in thin sheet of egg and a great way to use up leftovers.

According to Hyosun from Korean Bapsang, omurice gained a lot of popularity after appearing in a Korean drama called Rooftop Prince (옥탑방 왕세자). She also gives a recipe if you would like to make this at home.

Most omurice versions will have some more ketchup drizzled on top of the omelet, but I turned mine into a chick by adding some face decoration made from carrot and cucumber. I completed this bento with some more veggies and raspberries. There is some soy sauce in the cute little chick bottle.

 

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Banchan – Korean side dishes (part 2 of 2)

 

My banchan dinner!

In my previous post I wrote about banchan, aka Korean side dishes and shared some photos made at the Korean supermarkets (I shop at both H Mart and Korea foods @ New Malden, UK) of shelves full of banchan.

Today I want to blog about some of the banchan I actually bought during my supermarket trip. Most of these have already been eaten by the time this blog post gets posted, my meals in the last week mainly consisted of rice and banchan like the one above! Not that I’m complaining of course… 😛

Firstly the most important ones: Kimchi! It would be very unusual not to have any kimchi included in the banchan, it is such a Korean staple dish and a Korean meal without kimchi would just feel incomplete.  The kimchi in the photos below are matt kimchi (sliced kimchi) and cucumber kimchi. Cucumber kimchi is much less punguent than cabbage kimchi, mainly because of the high amount of liquid in cucumbers but also because it is hardly fermented at all. Whilst cabbage kimchi can be stored for months, cucumber kimchi is usually freshly made and eaten within a few days.

 

Another big favourite: fish cake. Fish cake is not a cake at all, but a savoury “thing” made from fish mixed with a starch and flavouring. This mix is sort of rolled into balls, or pounded into a flat sheet and can be boiled, steamed or pan fried. Rice cakes and fish cakes are also often combined together, cooked in a spicy sauce. But my favourite is bokkeum, ie stir fried with chilies. Whenever I buy this I can’t resist eating some before it even reaches the fridge at home!

 

One dish I can make myself, but it saves time to buy is Beef Jang jorim. Beef gets shimmered in a soy flavoured broth until it is tender, almost – but not completely – falling apart. The taste is slightly sweet and salty and it’s ideal for packing in lunch boxes as it can be eaten either hot or cold. Sometimes the beef gets combined with boiled eggs, quail eggs are somehow the best ones, as their creamy center works very well with the jang jorim sauce.

 

I also often buy these banchan. The bright yellow pickles are danmuji, a slightly sweet tasting yellow radish pickle. I love the refreshing crispness of these and always have some in the fridge. It is also an essential ingredient to make gimbap.

The green “sticks” are spicy garlic scape, which is basically garlic stems. I have never used this fresh, but I know that it can be used in a variety of dishes. The banchan I buy is a spicy salad one.

Next to it are some kongjang/kongjaban, soy braised soybeans with a sweet and salty flavour. I have never been a big fan of beans, often they are cooked to a too mushy texture for my liking, but these braised beans are chewy and great to eat with rice.

 

This time I also bought some never tried before banchan. The first is some seasoned pickled sesame leaves. Although these are called sesame leaves, they are actually Perilla leaves and not related to sesame at all, nor do they taste anything remotely sesame. The taste is a bit difficult to describe but slightly sharp and minty with a hint of aniseed. They are often sold as a fresh herb/vegetable in the supermarkets. This seasoned version is very nice to eat with rice on it’s own.

The other green leaves are garlic leaves with soy sauce. I had never seen this before and suspect it is quite a seasonal dish. They tasted very different to what I expected, I thought it would be vaguely garlicky or spring onions related. Instead it reminded me of a honey-mustard dressing, more a Western than Asian flavouring!

 

Lastly some seasoned Gim. Roasted – and often seasoned – seaweed sheets are delicious! It’s great to wrap around food or eat on it’s own as crisps. I included a photo to show how many different variations are on offer, and this is only about a third of the aisle! I usually buy plain roasted ones or seasoned with perilla/sesame, but I have seen versions that are kimchi flavoured or even wasabi! I also noticed that they are slowly infiltrating the crisps aisle of western supermarkets as they are a great – and healthier – alternative to more mainstream crisps!

 

I forgot to take a (single) photo of the spring rolls that are in the main photo, but basically I buy these ready made as well. Not sure if you could really consider them banchan though I have been served them one time as such in a Korean restaurant. 

I hope you enjoyed reading more about banchan. Also, I am curious to hear about your favourite banchan or Korean food, so feel welcome to share in the comments!

Banchan – Korean side dishes (part 1 of 2)

Last week fellow blogger “myeverydayeats” asked me about my favourite Banchan, after I had commented on some that she had bought and blogged about. Her question inspired me to dedicate a blog post about these amazing range of side dishes, and to show you some of my favourite ones.

(This will a very long post, so I will split it in two and post about what I actually bought in a second blog post).

Banchan, or aka Korean side dishes, are an essential part of a Korean meal. They are not just snacks or side dishes, but often can be the meal, together with rice and soup.  Banchan is so important that restaurants are judged by the quality of their banchan—and how often they get refilled. (Unfortunately, here in the UK most restaurants will charge for banchan but luckily, I live close to New Malden where the Korean restaurants will always give you some for free)

Banchan are set in the middle of the table to be shared, and are always served in odd numbers, because even numbers are considered bad luck. Usually, the more formal the meals are, the more banchan there will be.

Korean families typically cook up large batches of these sides to be eaten over the course of the week. Depending on the cooking technique, they can last between 1-2 days (like some of the namul) up to months (most pickles and kimchi). There are endless variations of banchan, but the most common ones served are:

  • Kimchi: fermented vegetables (cabbage, cucumber, radish).
  • Namul: steamed, marinated or stir-fried vegetables usually seasoned with sesame oil, salt, vinegar, minced garlic, chopped green onions, dried chili peppers, and soy sauce.
  • Bokkeum: stif-fried food
  • Jjim: steamed food
  • Jjorim: food simmered in flavoured broth
  • jjeon: variety of pan-fried or pancake food
  • Ganmul: pickled food
  • Salad: this can be anything from simply some iceberg lettuce to korean potato salad
  • Gyeran mari: rolled omelet
  • Gim: seaweed

When I was at the supermarket yesterday (I went to both H mart and Korea Foods), I grabbed some of my favourites but I also made a few photos to show you the huge variety of food available.  Aside from banchan, the supermarkets also sells ready made food that is a meal on itself, like japchae and fried chicken. When I’m lazy or very busy, I often buy some of this and pack that for my lunch, like the supermarket lunch I wrote about in this post.

Loads of different banchan:

Loads of ready made food:

Bibigo had a food stall to promote their new mandu: 맛있어!!

And just to show you the sheer size of ramen options! So many to choose from… 😛

I will write in my next blog post more about the banchan I bought, so keep tuned! Or if you have any questions about the food seen in these photos, please let me know in the comments.

Soup for lunch (Slunch?)

How to call packing soup for lunch? Liquid lunch has a whole different meaning to me 😉 but not sure if Slunch sounds very appetising? I do realise that this lunch doesn’t actually look that appetising either, but that is mainly because I packed the soup (and made the photo) whilst it was cold. It does look – and taste – a lot better once I have heated it up ready for eating.

The soup that I packed is a Korean beef & radish soup called Seogogi-Muguk. I think this soup that is quite often eaten in Korea, as it is easy to make and non spicy. I really like the texture of the cooked radish, it is tender but retains a little bite and the slightly sweet flavour goes well with the beef and other seasoning (soup soy sauce/sesame oil/garlic). For this recipe it’s best to use Korean radish (Mu) but if you can’t find it, it can be replaced by daikon.  I won’t give a recipe here, as there are lots of recipes available online, this one at Maangchi is very easy to follow.

There is some more Korean radish on top of the rice, this is the yellow pickled one called danmuji. And some fruit, but I was a bit in a hurry so didn’t prepare the fruit into a container.

Looking back at the photo, I wish I could make the soup look nicer, but you will just have to believe me, google a recipe and try it out! 🙂

 

Trio of prawns

prawn bentoI do like prawns. Whether they are the tiny brown variety (which I think they call shrimp here in the UK) or the large tiger ones, I think prawns are delicious. Steamed, stir fried, tempura or a prawn cocktail, or added to pasta or soup, it doesn’t really matter how they are prepared, as long as they are not raw! I know that some (better) sushi shops offer a prawn nigiri made with a special prawn variety which I have tried several times, but there is just something in the texture that puts me off. But other than that, bring it on!

I have packed prawns before, some readers might remember the Song of the shrimp (and yes, I am humming the song whilst eating this lunch), or the home made prawn patties. I think that as long as prawns are cooked, it is perfectly safe to pack for lunch, but you might consider packing a cool pack or storing your lunch in the fridge if it’s a warm day. My lunch today was kept in the fridge, and I only reheated part of it in the microwave when I wanted to eat it.

So, which trio of prawn did I pack today? On the left there is some sweet & sour prawn. I bought this ready made at the Korean supermarket, so unfortunately I do not have a recipe. (I would love to find one, as it is delicious, so if any of my readers has made this dish, please feel welcome to share (your link) in the comments). Next to that are two prawn gyoza and two prawn dim sum (I think they are called siu mai). I usually buy these either ready to eat from a sushi shop, or frozen from the Korean supermarket. They can be packed cold and just need a minute or two in a steamer or microwave before eating. There is a little container of soya sauce for dipping, and I decorated with a few pickled danmuji flowers (danmuji = Korean pickled radish).

More flowers, this time vegetable ones, are in the other container, and also some radish and fruit to complete my lunch. I packed it all in my nice new lunch bag, which I was given by a friend (thanks G, I love it and use it daily). I do have a few specific bento bags, for example the one with the lovely Konglish slogan to Enjoy your well being life 🙂 but this new bag is a bit larger so most of my bento boxes fit in it with room to spare for a set of chopsticks/utensils, a small bottle of water, additional tubs/containers with rice, or fruit, or sweets etc.

I don’t know why, but this lunch makes me feel all ready for the Spring/Summer. I guess it’s because it’s quite a light lunch and full of colours, so it just makes me feel all happy and nice! Can’t wait for the berry season to start so that I can add even more colours to my lunches!

 

Dosirakbento

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A little bit of everything and nothing… Actually now I think about it, this is a vegetarian lunch as there is no fish nor meat in it. ..

Made little quail egg sticks with cherry tomato and carrot flowers and added some vegetable spring rolls. Filled up with more vegetables including radish pickles next to the rice and sprinkled that rice with some Perilla furikake. These radish pickles are very different to the ones I normally pack. You might remember seeing very bright yellow pickles in my lunches called danmuji, which is a slightly sweet pickle. The ones I packed in today’s lunch are a bit more savoury and less pickled if that makes sense, but I have forgotten how they are called.

There are a lot of vegetables that can be turned into pickles. So far my favourite are the Korean radish ones but we have just received some golden beetroot in our veg box delivery (our wonky veg one) so I am thinking of turning those into some Japanese pickles too!

I love sprinkling Perilla furikake to my rice as it adds a nice salty type flavour to it. Sometimes I even eat just plain rice with furikake, there are so many different varieties so your rice will always turn out different.  If you’re not familiar with furikake it’s worth looking this up. Basically furikake are Japanese sprinkles/seasoning which can be added to rice. You can find it at most Asian supermarkets, or you could make your own like I did here.

Recently, via another blogger, I learned about a different Japanese ingredient that I want to try out, which is called Mazekomi. Yukino is a blogger who shares her knowledge about cooking healthy Japanese food at home, and if you scroll to the comment section of this blog post, she explains what the difference is between Mazekomi and furikake. To summarise, both add flavour to rice but in a different way. Check out her blog though, the food looks delicious and I love her explanations and how she makes her recipes accessible for the not Japan-based cook!

 

Bento Bits

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Wasn’t quite sure how to call this Bento, but basically there are sweet bits and savoury bits in it!

This bento wasn’t made for myself, I made it for a friend who was staying with me whilst working in London. She didn’t need a bento for lunch (had already other plans) but did need one to sustain her during the day, hence the bits and pieces.

She chose the lovely rabbit/cherry blossom box for packing, so I thought that a rabbit shaped egg would be quite fitting. Other bits packed are cheese hearts and cucumber stars, blossom carrots and a few grapes. The container at the back holds all the sweets bits, ie some different pieces of cake (marmalade and carrot), a chocolate, some nougat, a cake pop (with the white chocolate flower) and more filled chocolates.

I guess this bento doesn’t really count as a fully balanced bento, even though it contains at least 2 portions of your 5 a day (or is it 10 a day now?), but way too much sugar…

It was quite fun though to pack a bento for someone else. Recently I have just been quickly packing some left overs or soup (or instant ramen …!…) into a box for myself without making much effort in creating something good looking. I do think the sweet bits look a bit boring because the colours are all similar but not much that one can do about that. However, the savoury part has all the different shapes cut out and is more vibrant in colour, which made a huge difference.

And my friend did agree with me that food that looks cute(r) does taste better. She even felt inspired to start cutting her cucumber and carrot into food shapes once she’s back home 🙂

 

To be Odd or not to be Odd

Hello,

Please meet Mr and Mrs Odd. Oh and Junior.  They are beets. Bet you didn’t notice that as you were so distracted by the fact that Mr Odd is wearing a hat. And has a moustache. And yes, I know that Mrs Odd went a bit overboard with the false lashes. Junior is fine. He has a bit of an hair issue (probably inherited from his mum) but other than that he’s fine. Seriously.

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Ok, jokes and photoshopping aside, what’s so Odd about them? Well, they got rejected. By the supermarket. Apparently, being Odd is out. At least, that is what supermarkets say. They don’t like Odd. They like normal. Like in same old, same uniformly evenly boring normal. Thirteen a dozen as bakers say. And the family Odd doesn’t fit in that dozen. Because they are a bit wonky. And Junior is small. Maybe he will grow, but not fast enough to make it to the supermarket shelf. So they got left behind. For being Odd.

Well, to be honest, if I have to choose between being normal and boring, or being Odd, I rather choose the latter. As you know, I am a grown up woman who still goes into happy overload mood whilst creating cute bunnies or piggies from rice balls, so some people will probably say that I’m not normal anyway.

But I digress. Because how come that whilst the family Odd didn’t make it to the supermarket they still ended up in my kitchen? Because of Oddbox. Oddbox are my new foodheroes. They rescue wonky veg and fruit. They fight foodwaste. And they give to charity. Plus they don’t mix up avocados with mangoes…. Did I already mention they are my foodheroes?

Oddbox buys up Odd produce from local suppliers, packs that into boxes and delivers this to your door. They are my new weekly veg & fruit box delivery service and we love them. Cheaper than other schemes, a generous quantity, seasonal produce (no nonsense about #courgette crisis or #lettuce rationing) and just look at these amazing colours:

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Ok, maybe that pear looks a bit wonky, and, hmm, that apple didn’t pass the red colour test (yes really, supermarkets reject apples because they are not red enough!), but I can tell you they taste gorgeous. So farmers happy, Oddbox happy, and we happy. 

Unfortunately though for the family Odd, this story didn’t have a happy ending for them. Rejected by the supermarket they briefly perked up being selected by Oddbox and featuring in a photo shoot. They also were quite pleased with themselves about having a whole blog post dedicated to them. But in the end they ended up where food should end up and they were eaten.

It was nice to meet you family Odd. And you were delicious!

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(Roasted beets with goat cheese and walnut salad)

If you would also like to be a food hero and rescue Odd fruit and Veg, Oddbox is now offering a 50% discount on your first box with ref code: REFBOX (They currently deliver in South London only, but are expanding).