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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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!

 

Bread Blunch

Lunch bread bentoAnother Blunch (boxed lunch), this time with bread.

I never liked packing prepared sandwiches for lunch because they would get soggy and I have a dislike for bread that is not super fresh. When I eat bread for lunch, I tend to buy it on the day itself, or I make toast.

Packing toast for lunch works, just cool it down properly before stacking it & closing the lid, plus if you pack anything with moisture, use some “seperatators” or make sure it is completely dry on the outside. The toast will loose some of its crispness but I prefer the taste of toasted – but slightly limp – bread to the taste of 1 day old non toasted bread if that makes sense….

My Bread Blunch today has 3 pieces of toast, which I quickly cut with a cookie cutter to fit in the lunch box (cut offs for breakfast). There is some babybel cheese, hardboiled quail eggs, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks and a clementine. The little container has some mayo/mustard mix so that I can create egg-cheese-toast-sandwiches when I want to eat. Oh and there is a tiny sachet of salt.

 

Boy loves girl bento

First, welcome to new readers and followers! Thank you for finding my blog & I hope you will enjoy reading about my lunches 🙂

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This morning I had a little bit more time than usual as I was leaving for the office slightly later (will be staying longer as I have an appointment after work), so I spent a bit more time on creating this ‘boy loves girl’ bento.

What do you think, does she love him back?

The boy and girl are made of onigiri, decorated with nori (eyes, mouth, hair boy), black sesame seeds (eye lashes girl), egg sheet (hair girl) and carrot (cheeks girl). Some of the inspiration for this bento came from the Yum Yum bento book I won.

I had boiled the egg yesterday and put it into a heart shaped egg mold overnight, but I think I needed a larger egg…oh well, it sort of vaguely has a heart shape and I added the nori details and carrot heart as a sort of ‘love declaration’ (the boy gives his heart to the girl). These two nori punchers are actually paper punches, I bought them some time ago at Tiger, for £1 each!

The rest of the bento is filled with various veggies (broccoli, cucumber, carrot and tomato) and a sweet potato falafel (the dark round shape in the bottom of the container).

Oh, and I added one heart shaped pasta shape….maybe the girl is giving her heart to the boy???

Mouse or cat or ?

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Hello, I’m back, but this is what happens when I don’t “prepare/think” about what to pack in my lunch….a case of “identity confusion” 🙂

Whilst I had all the ingredients for my lunch ready to pack, I only decided when packing it that I wanted to turn the onigiri into some cats. I thought cats would be funny as there is some fish in my lunch (in case you are wondering…the fish is the stuff that is in the blue silicone mold, it looks a bit messy, which I tried to hide by sprinkling some salmon furikake on top of it..).

But well…as you can see, they don’t really look like cats…I forgot to shape the ears, and than tried to add some ears with food picks, which somehow made them look more like mice? Or a cross between…cause? mats? strange rice thingie with eyes?

What do you think they are?

Oh, and did you notice that I did punch some cat nori on the tamago in the right hand bento container 🙂 ? Sort of final attempt to go for a cat theme….

 

Lunchbox preparation, building up a freezer stash

As most of my readers will know, I pack my lunch in the morning before going to work. I don’t want to spend more than 20 minutes on a “standard” lunch, so this means that I have to be quite organised in the morning.

To be so, I rely a lot on my freezer stash of food. One drawer in our freezer is dedicated to lunch, and holds lunch ingredients such as leftovers from dinner, cooked rice, tamago, salted salmon and various portions of (marinated) meat.

But of course that freezer doesn’t fill itself, so quite often I prepare lunch ingredients during the weekend, especially after a visit to the Korean supermarket.

Pork Bulgogi

I don’t make my own marinade but buy the beef bulgogi marinade, and I always use this for both beef and pork. Beef bulgogi marinade is quite sweet and pork bulgogi marinade is spicier but I find that the beef one works quite well with pork (but not the other way around), plus it saves me having to buy two different bottles 🙂

The pork belly is already sliced in strips, about 4mm thick, and I cut these into 1 inch pieces. The pork is marinated for about 30 minutes before dividing it into lunch portions, about 5 pieces per portion. Label it and ready for the freezer!

I am a big fan of the lock & lock divider boxes, they are great for freezing, micro and dishwasher safe, leak proof and come in all kind of sizes. These little boxes have 2 inserts, so the evening before I will just take out one portion and defrost that overnight in the fridge. In the morning I only need to quickly pan-fry the pork (I use a non stick pan, no oil needed) for about 3-5 minutes.

Beef mince

The other “dish” I made was beef mince, which has been marinated in the same way as the beef for my gimbap, it’s a lovely marinade and very easy to prepare. For about a pound of minced beef, I used 3 tbls soy sauce, 2 tbl sesame oil, 1 tbl spoon of sugar, 2 minced garlic gloves and some pepper.

Because I want to use the marinade/meat juices to help flavour the rice in my lunch box, I cook the mince before freezing.I heat up another table spoon of sesame oil in a non stick pan, add the meat and stir until brown. I also add another tablespoon of soy sauce to make sure that it won’t get too dry. After it has all cooked through and cooled down a bit, I pack up again in portions, cool down and label ready for freezer.

It’s not necessary to defrost this overnight, I reheat from frozen in the morning* before packing it into my lunchbox.

So, 2 very easy meat dishes to prepare in advance for lunch. It only takes about 30 minutes in the weekend, and saves lots of time in the morning!

Plus of course the other benefit of going to the Korean supermarket is that I can buy some ready made food from the deli-counter like Japchae! 😛

(yes, that is bell pepper in the Japchae, and no, I didn’t eat that as I still don’t like it, but the rest was yummie)

japchae

*It is worth mentioning that I always reheat food prior to packing, and let it cool down before putting the lid on, unless it are raw ingredients such as tomatoes, fruit, pickles etc. Just Bento has written a very informative post about bento & food safety, you can find it here.