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. ย And after the war, when most rice was imported, being able to afford a hinomaru bento ย with “real Japonica rice” was a luxury ย (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. ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ If you look up bento in the emoji list on your phone, it will show a bento emojiย with an umeboshi in itย ๐Ÿฑ

 

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). ย 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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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 (์˜ฅํƒ‘๋ฐฉ ์™•์„ธ์ž). 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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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. ย 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 differentย 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 andย how she makes her recipes accessible for the not Japan-based cook!