Chicken teriyaki lunch

 

Back to bento.

Some leftovers for lunch today! I usually cook a bit more at dinner and pack the rest away ready for lunches, so easy to do and saves me lots of time in the morning!

This is a very quick and easy lunch, just some chicken teriyaki, rice and veggies. The rice has an umeboshi plum, a Japanese pickled plums which taste very salty and quite sour. When I first ate an umeboshi, I really had to get used to the taste, but now I quite like it.

The most simple bento is a Hinomaru Bento, and consist of rice with a single umeboshi placed in the centre, without any side dishes. This is quite a symbolic and patriotic bento, not only represents it the Japanese flag* but it is also alternately a symbol of poverty and of wealth. During times of peace and plenty, it was a symbol of poverty, if you could only afford rice and not much else, an umeboshi would help eat down the rice.  And after the war, when most rice was imported, being able to afford a hinomaru bento  with “real Japonica rice” was a luxury  (read more about this at Just Hungry/Japan Times).

Aside from being patriotic, poor or wealthy, another reason to pack umeboshi is that the salt acts as a preservative for the rice and will inhibit bacteria. It is also claimed to help digestion.  Nowadays, a bento typically consist of much more than rice and a single pickled plum but the umeboshi is still packed quite often for it’s taste and benefits. It has even reached the emoji list 🙂 If you look up bento in the emoji list on your phone, it will show a bento emoji with an umeboshi in it 🍱

 

Have you tried umeboshi and do you like it?

 

*The word for Japan, Nihon, means “the root of the sun”, or more poetically “the land of the rising sun” and the sun is very much linked to the national Japanese identity (The Emperor is said to be a direct descendant of the sun goddess).  Hinomaru which means the sun’s circle, is used as Japan’s national flag, a red ball symbolizing the sun on a white background, so in a bento this would be the umeboshi on white rice. Eating a Hinomaru bento is like making Japan part of you, it’s eating a symbolic national icon and making it part of your own body.

 

 

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Panda Bento

This is my panda bento attempt! I think it looks more like a teddy bear than a panda, probably because of the ears…. but oh well…it looks sort of cute.

Was feeling like I wanted to make a kawaii/qwiyomi type lunch as it has been quite some time that I made one, I think the last one was this Miffy bento so I guess I need to practice my skills again 🙂

The panda-teddy is made from onigiri and I filled it with an umuboshi plum and added details with nori. He is holding a carrot flower and is “standing” on some Korean meatballs I made & froze earlier this year (I pack these frozen as they will keep my bento nice and cool and will be defrosted and at room temperature by lunch time).

The other container has some tamagoyaki, more carrot flowers, cherry tomatoes and some raisins, plus there are various bits and pieces of veggies/leaves tucked in around the main items.

Will try and make another panda bento soon!

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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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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).

Happy Valentine!

Valentine bento

I know! It has been some time since my last post but I thought today would be a great date to restart blogging again.

Today is actually 3 years ago that I started this blog, and a lot has changed. I can remember how totally obsessed I was with making bento during the first months, I bought loads and loads of bento stuff and spent so much time creating them. Since then my focus has shifted, I discovered cake decorating and a lot of my free time was taken up with that instead of making dosirak/bento. So sometimes I blogged about my cakes instead. Or took some time of blogging because I felt uninspired, my lunches were boring or life got in the way.

Anyway, 3 years later, I’m still there and although I don’t want to make any promises about how often I will blog or how active I will be be, but it’s good to be back again. I would also like to thank again all my readers, followers and people who comment. It always surprises me that even when I don’t have anything new to show, my blog is still being seen and liked.

So this Valentine Day inspired dosirakbento today is to show my love for all of of you! 🙂

In the box at the back, there is some pink sushi rice, which I tried to shape in a heart but not totally successful…, with heart shaped vegetables. The box in the front has some Korean meatballs, and more of the pink rice and heart shaped veggies. And I love how the beet slices are bleeding a bit onto the radish, this was not planned, but it does look very pretty!

The Korean meatballs are my own invention, I used some beef mince and mixed that with Gochujang, soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil before shaping that into small meatballs and frying. They are great to pack into boxes and freeze well, so I made a batch to use in the coming weeks.

I hope that you have a lovely Valentine’s Day, and here are a few links to some of my previous posts that highlight (my) LOVE (for food)!

A cute boy loves girl bento made from onigiri.

I had my first blog anniversary and remade my Bunnies in Love.

Who says eggs are boring? These lovebirds were created with eggs.

And cake can be turned into love too, as these halloween pumpkin wedding couple prove.