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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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!

 

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.

 

Sundubu Jjigae

Some more Korean comfort food, Sundubu Jjigae or aka Spicy Tofu Stew!

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I love this stew! So nice and comforting, especially now it is getting colder.

There are lots of different versions of this stew, with seafood (my favourite one) or with kimchi and pork, but they will all have this lovely soft dubu (tofu) in it which gives it an amazing creamy-melt-in-the-mouth texture. Hyosun on Korean Bapsang posted recently a very interesting white variation which had Perilla seeds. I quite like perilla but am often not sure how to use it, so her recipe is on my list to try out. A good recipe for the classic seafood version can be found on Maangchi, and she shows how to make the soup-broth-stock base for it.

I actually cheat a bit and use this packet:

wp-1479421800474.jpgI buy these at the Korean supermarket – where they even sell an instant version of sundubu jjigae (which is quite ok actually) – together with the soft dubu. I can’t read the instructions on the packet, but I just put it in a pan, add some water to it and some seafood and veggies.

This time I used mini corn, crab sticks and spring onion. Sometimes I also poach an egg in the stew just before serving, but that doesn’t really work for a packed lunch. This lunch was packed in my Ms Bento set, which is supposed to keep it warm until lunch time. Unfortunately, it had cooled down a bit though, but luckily only needed a quick minute in the microwave to become piping hot again. I always eat rice with this stew, and the other container had some spice garlic scape and cucumber.

Asian seafood soup

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Packed an Asian inspired sea food soup for my lunch.

I did not follow any recipe, just made a basic fish stock with some fish stock granules, dried anchovies and miso. Added some more flavour with fish sauce and soup soy sauce (Guk Ganjang) and wakame. Further filled it with carrot, leek and mini corn and of course sea food.  I used tiger prawns, crabsticks, mixed seafood (octopus, mussels, prawns) and some crab fish balls that I had cut up in smaller pieces.

Very easy and delicious.

The fruit is Korean melon. Never tried it before, but it was smelling so delicious so thought to give it a try.

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To be honest, it was a bit disappointing as the taste didn’t live up to the promising smell. Based on that, I was expecting it to taste like a cantaloupe, maybe even sweeter, but instead the flavour was very light, more like a pear than a melon.  It has a very thin rind, and the texture is very crisp, quite juicy, refreshing and nice but just not what I expected! Was good to try out though 🙂

 

Many sides make a main

bento sidedishesThis weekend I looked in my fridge/cupboard and there were quite a lot of ingredients that needed to be used within the next couple of days, so I decided to make lots of side dishes to pack for my lunches this week.

The side dishes I made are all Korean (banchan);

  • Some Gamja Jorim (potato side dish, which I have made before) sprinkled with sesame seeds
  • Crispy tofu cubes, marinated in soy sauce/sesame oil and oven baked. I accidentally over baked them and they are very very crispy! But still nice 🙂
  • Oi-muchim: spicy cucumber salad, I used this recipe from Maangchi, only omitted the onion and replaced that with more green onion instead
  • A few Jang Jorim: quail eggs simmer in soy sauce (I always use this recipe) which are resting on a pickled radish/carrot salad.

Jorim is a Korean name for a type of cooking which means, “food in a boiled-down soy sauce or other seasonings”, and it makes for very tasty food but unfortunately it does make everything look rather “brown”. Because of that (and also to avoid mixing the “wet dishes”), I packed my lunch in this box which has colourful compartments and a leak-proof lid. I also used lots of food picks and added a few melon balls, both for colour and for some refreshing sweetness.

I won’t need to prepare more food for this week’s lunches so I can focus on my bakes for class (see previous post) 😉

 

Song of the shrimp

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“I saw three shrimp in the water, two were old and gray
I swam a little bit closer and I heard the third one say

Goodbye mama shrimp, papa shake my hand
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’

He showed his mama and papa the shrimp newspaper he read
An invitation to all the shrimp and this is what it said
Free ride, New Orleans, stay in grand hotel
Big Creole gal who help you come out of your shell
Big Creole gal who help you come out of your shell

If I should live to be ninety, I will never forget
The little shrimp and the song he sang as he jumped into the net

Goodbye mama shrimp, papa shake my hand
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’

Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’
Here come the shrimper for to take me to Louisian’ “

– Elvis Presley –

I used to have this boyfriend, and every time -yes every single time- we ate shrimp or prawns, he would sing this song. He sang it with a proper “Lousiana” accent and the first few times it was pretty amusing, but after several repetitions the record got old. Anyway, long after we split up, this song still comes to mind every time I eat shrimps -and I guess it will if I should live to be ninety! 🙂

In my lunch today the shrimp have definitely come out of their shell, instead it has been replaced by a crumb coat. Not by a “big Creole gal” but by a -probably Korean- staff member at the supermarket I bought them.

To off-set the greasiness of the breaded shrimp, I added some pickled radish (danmuji), and some seasoned garlic stems. You don’t see garlic stems (also known as garlic scapes) in the British supermarkets but you might be able to find them -during Spring- at farmers markets or in Asian supermarkets. They are rather good, a bit like spring onion but chewier and with a hint of garlic. I found this farm on the Isle of Wright that grows them and apparently you can easily grow them yourself by planting a garlic bulb.

I also added some mini corn and edamame to make it healthier and packed it all in the bottom tier of my pretty pink lidded box. It was a bit of a squeeze, and I did put some foil on the garlic stems to avoid spilling as this box is not really suitable to be transported as single tier (it doesn’t have any inner lids), so I had to secure the lid with a bento band. I also made sure it had cooled down completely before I packed it to keep the breaded shrimps (which I had reheated in the oven for 10 minutes) crispy.

Now off to Louisian’…