Bento boxes. Japan's answer to a packed lunch. But in true Japanese style, they're pretty, balanced, healthy and, of course, cute! They're a great mixture of craft and cooking, and I love them. I've only recently started making them, and this week I set myself a challenge of making one for my lunch everyday.
Almost all my recipes, and most of my ideas came from Just Bento, a fantastic website. Some of the recipes were more successful than others, but I'm pretty pleased with my overall effort this week! I've given brief descriptions, with links to the recipes where I used one (tragically every single one is on Just Bento, but I'll try my best to branch out next time!). Some of them have very Japanese-y sounding names, but everything is pretty easy and uses fairly straight forward ingredients. Mirin and miso are the two main random ones, but mirin is replaceable with sherry and sugar, and miso is only used in a few dishes.
A rather un-Japanese start. Home made sundried tomato bread, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), hot and sweet peppers, lettuce and tomatoes, with carrot decoration.
A good first try, and very easy, but not the most exciting! I love the hot and sweet peppers though, and they go really well with just about everything!
Green rice (cooked in broccoli water, with mashed peas added at end), spicy peanut furikake, white fish (marinated in soy sauce, mirin and sugar, then fried with a little of the sauce added), steamed brocolli, tomatoes and spinach and beansprout namul.
This was pretty good, and impressed everyone at the meeting we ate it in! The fish was yum, and we LOVE the peanuts. I think John would eat it by the spoonful if I hadn't made it quite so spicy! We weren't big fans of the namul, too garlic-y, even for out tastes.
Rice (with orange juice carrots decoration), spicy peanut furikake, tamagoyaki, steamed asparagus with mayonnaise, carrot and pepper confetti and aubergine (eggplant) boiled till soft, drained and miso and mirin mixed in.
This was our favourite bento of the week by far. I love everything in it. I will definitely be making everything in it, and probably the whole bento again.
Pizza, broccoli, mange tout, pumpkin and aubergine simmered in water, soy sauce, mirin and sugar.
Not my most inspiring! The pizza was tasty, but I overcooked the broccoli and didn't drain it very well, so it was a bit watery, and the pumpkin and aubergine wasn't strongly flavoured enough. Plus I meant to add mayonnaise, but I forgot, so it was a bit dry and bland.
Rice (with edamame beans and orange juice carrots decoration), beansprouts and mushrooms cooked in miso, soy sauce and sugar, home-made chicken nuggets, carrot and pepper confetti, Misoyaki tofu and edamame.
I loved all of this bento, except the chicken nuggets. John wasn't so sure, but felt it was saved by the tofu, which we both thought was delicious. The chicken nuggets were a disaster, because I didn't heat the pan up enough before frying them, so they were floury and soft. I'm sure they'd have gone well in this bento if they were better made though!
Broccoli stalk kinpira, orange juice carrots, spinach and beansprouts sauteed in mirin and soy sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, fried shrimp and misoyaki onigiri.
A complete mixed bag. Kinpira was too spicy (but I'll be trying the theory again), spinach and beansprouts were both past their best so had a rather weird flavour, but the onigiri and shrimps were both really yum!
All in all, I'm rather pleased with my first week of bento-ing! I'm focusing on flavours and healthiness, and once I get those down, I'll be working on my cuteness! For now, this onigiri will have to do!