The best Japanese bento books if you don't read Japanese

bentobooks.jpg

There are lots of bento-related books published every year in Japan. While most of them have plenty of colorful pictures, some are too wordy to be really useful for people who don’t read Japanese. Here is a list of books that I have in my collection that I think would be very useful even if you don’t read the text. Most of these books reflect my preference for books about healthy, vegetable-centric bento, mainly aimed at adults.

I’ll be updating this page from time to time, so please check back occasionally. You can also see other, less annotated book recommendations in the Amazon Japan aStore. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 3: Noritama

fukake3_noritama450.jpg

Noritama is one of the most popular flavors of furikake available commercially. Nori means the seaweed that’s used as a sushi roll or onigiri wrapper, and tama is short for tamago, or egg. The base, which gives the most flavor to the furikake, is bonito flakes or katsuobushi.

Surprisingly perhaps, noritama is one of the more fiddly furikake to make at home, though it’s by no means difficult. But I like to make it occasionally anyway becase I find commercial noritama to be a bit too salty. This version is lower on salt, so you can pile it on your rice if you want to. Naturally it’s free of any preservatives, MSG, or what have you. It’s also a lot cheaper than the commercial versions, even if you have to pay premium prices for the bonito flakes and nori as I do. continue reading...

2007 Holiday Gift Guide for the bento fan in your life

continue reading...xmas-onigiri.pngIt's that time of the year again. Here are some Christmas and holiday gift ideas for the bento maker in your life, or even someone who's just thinking about making bento in the new year. Perhaps that person is you, in which case you could use this as a list for Santa to refer to. I've made some suggestions in all price ranges, because you never know how generous Santa is feeling.

Bento no. 9: 10-minute vegan bento with fried tofu

bento_9b_450.jpg

Bento contents:

  • Brown rice mixed with assorted pickled vegetables (230 cal)
  • Dry-fried crispy fried tofu (220 cal)

Total calories (approx): 450 cal (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 5-10 minutes

Type: Japanese, vegan continue reading...

How to: Homemade shio kombu or kombu no tsukudani

kombu_tsukudani450.jpg

Kombu, the leathery seaweed that is used to make dashi stock, is packed full of umami. A traditional way to prepare it is as shiokombu (salty kombu) or kombu no tsukudani. Tsukudani is a method of cooking something with soy sauce, sake and/or mirin, and sugar until it’s very dark, quite salty and sweet too. It’s a preserving method, since the salt and sugar greatly increase the keeping qualities of the food.

Kombu no tsukudani can be tucked into the corner of a bento box to add a little variety. It’s also a good onigiri filling. Properly made and stored in the refrigerator, it keeps almost forever. continue reading...

Bento for your spirit as well as your body

A reader left a great comment on the last post. I’m quoting part of it here:

But, honestly, the thing I love about bentos is the zen-factor: it makes me excited about eating and I always spend time in the morning really thinking about what I’m putting into my body. It’s very calming. I feel like I spoil myself everyday.

I couldn’t agree more with that. Planning bento lunches for yourself makes you feel like you are really taking care of yourself - something we are apt to forget when we are running around conducting Life in general. It’s as important, or even more so, than planning and making bentos for your family. It’s a way of pampering yourself during the course of your day spiritually as well as physically. Nothing can beat that! continue reading...

Speed bento tip: Squeeze bottles!

squeeze_honey.jpgI’m always looking for ways to shave a few minutes off bento prep time. One way to do this is to look at the containers the condiments, sauces and other ingredients that you use frequently come in.

I use honey quite a lot as a sweetener. Measuring it out of a glass jar is a sticky, messy business, that more often than not requires washing of a spoon, wiping drips around the lid and jar, and other little things that add up in terms of wasted time. So, for morning preperations I rely on the neat runny honey in a squeeze bottle. It’s not rare gourmet honey gathered from bees who suckle on rare alpine flora (I save that kind for leisurely cups of lemon-honey-water), but it sure cuts down on bento making time in the morning. continue reading...

Bento no. 8: Leftovers bento with garlic chive blossom fried rice

bento_8_450.jpg

Bento contents:

  • Fried rice with ham, lentils and garlic chive blossoms (400cal, more or less depending on the fattiness of the ham)
  • Broccoli stem, celery, walnut, apple and carrot salad with lemon dressing (60 cal)

Total calories (approx): 460 cal (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15-20 minutes

Type: Japanese, leftovers yay continue reading...