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.

 

 

I now also share more (food) photos on Instagram

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!

I now also share more (food) photos on Instagram

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.

 

I now also share more (food) photos on Instagram

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.

 

I now also share more (food) photos on Instagram

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!

 

Yaki onigiri

Yaki Onigiri

Some left over rice turned into a simple but tasty snack: Yaki Onigiri!

Yaki means grilled, and Onigiri is a rice ball. Usually Onigiri are filled with all kinds of ingredients and/or wrapped in seaweed, but instead of filling, a Yaki Onigiri is grilled on a BBQ and brushed with soy sauce or miso.

Instead of a BBQ, I am using a heavy duty frying pan to obtain the same effect. First I shape the rice into triangles, making sure I really press the rice firmly together as otherwise it will fall apart later.

I then fry each side for a few minutes in a little oil on medium heat.  You can use vegetable oil or even butter but I like add some sesame oil to plain vegetable oil to enhance the flavour. After each side has crisped up – this usually takes a few minutes, avoiding to turn too often, I brush some soy sauce on each side before frying a further minute until done. Instead of soy sauce you could also use miso paste or even BBQ sauce!

I like eating Yaki Onigiri with some pickles.

 

Asian seafood soup

image

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.

wp-1468749996762.jpg

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 🙂

 

Sushi burger

sushi rice burger

This time a sushi burger!

After last week’s gigantic Hamburger cake I made this burger from sushi rice. A lot easier 🙂

I used some metal food rings and cling film and just added the rice and ingredients layer by layer. My favourite sushi fillings are salmon or crab, cucumber and avocado, and in this case I used smoked salmon. The cling film is very useful to avoid that the ingredients stick to the metal ring but more importantly to help press the ingredients down so that you get a nice and tidy layers in the “burger”.

The sushi burgers were served on some cucumber slices and added a simple decoration to make it look prettier. This could also work great as a starter, or you could wrap these in nori and turn them into Onigirazu for a (bento) lunch.

Temari sushi bento

temari sushi bento

Today I packed some temari sushi which is very easy to make. Basically they are little sushi rice balls with your favourite topping.

To create these, you first need to make some sushi rice. Cook short grain rice according to instructions on the pack and mix with sushi vinegar. If you want, you can use ready bought sushi vinegar/seasoning, but it is very simple to make yourself, for example Just One Cookbook has this step by step recipe.

For the toppings in my temari sushi, I used smoked salmon, cucumber, avocado and also made a thin omelet.  Any topping goes as long as it is sliced thinly and where needed cooked/blanched/prepped. Also, the temari sushi will look prettiest if you use contrasting colours (like salmon and cucumber) or bright coloured food so it stands out from the rice.

To form the temari sushi balls, you first place the topping of choice in the middle of a piece of clingfilm and then add about 1/4 -1/3 rice spoon  of cooked rice on top*. Now gather up the cling film around the rice, twist and shape the rice/topping into a ball. By twisting the cling film and tightening up the rice ball, you ensure that the topping “follows” the curve of the ball.

Keep the temari sushi wrapped until you have finished with all your ingredients. Remove the cling film and garnish with herbs, small food flowers or nori strips. These are great for serving as appetizers or on a buffet. Or in your bento 🙂

 

* Alternatively, if you want to make sure your Temari sushi are all even sized, you can pre-portion your rice balls either by weight, or by using an an onigiri mold. In either case keep the rice balls covered until you use them to avoid drying out.

 

Grumpy Onigiri

Grumpy-onigiri

I guess these Onigiri have the Monday Blues!

Last week I was chatting with a colleague about my blog and joking about doing an Onigiri funny faces workshop. It made me reflect that all my Onigiri faces made so far have always been a happy mix like in my Onigiri faces and Picnic bento or cute Boy loves girl. I have also turned Onigiri in Bunnies (I love bunnies, but I guess that doesn’t surprise anyone given my avatar, or another favourite of mine, these cute Piggies!

But I have never made grumpy Onigiri before so I thought it was time to do so!

These definitely have the Monday grumpiness… probably had a weekend full of partying and are now suffering from a hangover…

Hope you’re not suffering from the Monday Blues!

Any suggestions about what else I can create with Onigiri are welcome in the comments.