Mr and Mrs Panda

A bit of an improvement of the last Panda bento I made!

Hadn’t made tamagoyaki in a very long time and fancied it so made some to pack with the onigiri. The onigiri are filled with umeboshi, and I completed the bento with some vegetables.

I love this  Russian doll bento box, should use it a bit more often as it comes with it’s own bento bag and has a matching set of chopsticks (you can see the bag in this post). So cute! The only downside is that it is quite small, more geared towards a child than an adult.

Meanwhile, I am busy preparing the cake I am making for the Wonky Supper Club later this week. The design of it will be vegetable & fruit inspired and today I started to create some of it. I will share some photos later this week, either here or or on Instagram

Snack box

snack-bento

Not really a lunch as such, this is more a snack box to help me get through the day 🙂

I am not very consistent with what I eat for dinner or for lunch. I have a lot of likes (cake yeah) and dislikes (aubergines, peppers bleh) and I often get bored with eating the same kind of food regularly.   Meal planning doesn’t really work for me,  I will have bought some chicken thinking to have it for dinner the next day, but on the day itself, I have changed my mind and want fish or beef instead.

So the chicken gets eaten the next day, or more often, I turn it into a meal to be frozen for another time. Also, the OH doesn’t always like the things I do and vice versa. This week we had some peppers in our veg box (yuk), so I will make a pasta sauce with that for him and freeze it. He can have that on an evening when I’m out, or when I fancy something spicy which he dislikes. The freezer is full of such home made ready meals  to be used at later dates or with leftovers to be packed in bento lunches.

I do have always some standard staples in the fridge/freezer/cupboard, there is always rice, eggs, cheese, bread, crackers, ramen and chocolate. And there is usual plenty of fruit and vegetables.

So when I don’t know what to pack for lunch, I can always pack myself a snack box like the one today. In it are loads of fruit, veggies, a small tub of walnuts, some cheese and a piece of almond-fig bread. I might buy a bread roll to go with the cheese, but basically this snack box should help me avoid having to buy something.

 

 

 

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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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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.

More thoughts on blogging

I have previously written a post about how I feel about blogging, it remains the most read post on my blog, so clearly it struck a chord with readers. That post was written 2.5 years ago, and this morning, I suddenly felt I needed to write some more thoughts on this subject.

You see, after I take a break from blogging, like I did recently, I tend to do the same things over and over again. I quickly write down a few draft ideas to blog about in the next few weeks. And I go on an extended blog surfing trip. Not only am I catching up on the blogs I already follow, I also try to find new bloggers, follow links leading to other links, hook up at a meet & greet (can I recommend again the one at Harsh Reality), check out WordPress suggestions etc. I usually end up with adding a few more blogs to my Reader and more inspiration for my own blog.

This time however I noticed something. Namely that a lot of new bloggers announce in their first blog post that they have thought a long time about blogging and did a lot of research and/or read blog/books about blogging before their first post. I actually can’t remember doing that. I remember that one day I thought, well, why not start a blog and I just started. After that start, yes, I got dragged into the whole blog atmosphere, making connections, monitoring stats and likes, finding blog parties, but nope, all my research before starting the blog consisted of a 15 min look around which blog platform to use (= which one is free and looks easy to navigate) and another hour or so selecting a format.

Naive? Maybe. But then I never set out to be a professional blogger, to make money from it, or to promote a business. Of course, I would be quite happy to be given kitchen gadgets to review, think that could be quite a fun thing to do 🙂 but that’s not why I started this blog. I am also not a writer (I struggle sometimes to get out a coherent sentence) so there is no aim to turn my blog eventually into a (e-)book or into a cookbook. I just want to blog about what I like to eat  – mainly for lunch – and what I like to bake.  And for the last 3 years I have enjoyed blogging, although I do sometimes take a break because of lack of time, inspiration, life getting in the way, or just because I get distracted by other things.

I am actually slowly embracing other forms of Social Media. I still don’t like Facebook and don’t use it, and although I (think I) am on Bloglovin, I never really have gotten the hang of it, nor of Twitter/Pinterest. I do like Instagram though. Often I have made, eaten or seen something I quite like sharing but don’t want to write a blog post about and I do find Instagram is great for that kind of thing. Here again though I am sort of blundering my way through it, finding out how it works after I already pressed the share button, so again a case of “do first – check out how it works later”. The silly thing is that this is not actually how I am. I am a person who very much likes to be prepared, be organised, so just doing things without a proper research is not me.

And that brings me to another thought that kept coming up in my mind the last few weeks which was how impressed I am by some (new) bloggers out there, whilst at the same time realising that their blog style isn’t suitable for me. For example, two of my friends are bloggers, one of them has blogged a bit longer than I have and the other one has recently  started. Whilst both of them are in different countries, and the subject of their blogs is different, they do have in common that their blogs are both well thought out. Well prepped and set up. Their lay-out looks professional. They are clear in the style and message they want to bring out and both have (I assume affiliated) links to products, or give aways. They were both well prepared before they started blogging. More importantly, they both are very personal bloggers. With personal I mean, they blog under their own name, and share photos of their personal life.

I like the anonymity of blogging. Like? I love it. That’s also the reason why I haven’t promoted these 2 blogs or linked to them. Because I like my anonymity. And a little part of me fears that I can be linked to them through their blog. Of course my family and friends know that I blog, most of them do follow or read my blog. And when I meet new people, it sometimes comes up. But – as far as I know – no one else out there can link this blog to me. I avoid mentioning names of friends/family, avoid detailed locations or photo’s that show me. (Yes, I do check reflections in photos). I don’t share too many details of my life. If you would turn detective, I assume that most readers will have figured out that I live in London (given that I wrote a whole blog post about it), that I am female and have an OH. If you dig deeper you might also find out my OH is Welsh and am sure there are more bits and pieces that can be deduced. But there are not many “concrete facts”, nothing that is hard evidence that links Dosirakbento to who I am in real life. I even screen comments…. any comment that uses my real name gets spammed automatically.

Does that make me paranoid? Or fake? I don’t lie on my blog, what I write and post is still who I am, what I think, what I do, what I eat, everything is real, everything is personal in that way. I think the biggest reason for me not to publish my name is that deep down I am a private person. I also don’t like the idea that everything I have typed and posted out there, will remain for eternity (or whatever counts for eternity in blogging land) out there for anyone, anywhere to see and read. So I hide behind the anonymity that blogging can provide.

The silly thing is, I like reading other people’s personal blogs. I like having a little insight in somebody’s life. I love the thoughts and ideas, the daily, weekly, monthly high lights and low lights in their life. I feel happy for bloggers – who I have never met in real life- when something good happens, or sad when something bad takes place. So I don’t have any issue with them sharing their personal info, just with my own….

Which brings me to a question for my readers. What are your thoughts on sharing personal information like your real name and photos of yourself/family/friends? Where is the line between sharing details of someone’s life but not sharing similar details of your own? It’s not like bloggers are friends in real life but at the same time there is this close blogging community and I do know that some bloggers meet in real life at events and do become friends in real life as well.  I guess that each blogger has the prerogative to make that choice, and has to decide what is best for her/him. At the moment I do feel comfortable with what I do share with my readers but I am interested to read your thoughts in the comments.

And because my blog is after all about lunches and cakes, I’m sharing this recently made cake.

It’s definitely cake time here in London!

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