Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 calories, for the 'day after'


(click image to see larger version)

Bento contents:

  • Shirataki noodles, 1/2 to 1 pack (5-10 calories or so!)
  • Firm tofu, 1/2 block (about 90-100g) (100 calories)
  • Kochujang (Korean red bean paste) based marinade (10 calories)
  • Chopped up vegetables of your choice - green onions, garlic chives, ginger, garlic, peppers, cabbage, spinach, etc, with sesame oil (150 calories approx.)
  • A small apple (50 calories)

Total calories (approx.) for the noodles only: 270 calories; including the apple: 320 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20 minutes

Type: Asian-fusion with mainly Korean flavors

This bento has a lot of things going for it: it’s low in calories, meat free, low-carb (though not gluten-free since there is a little wheat in the sauce), high in fiber with lots of vegetables, and of course quick and easy to make. Best of all, it’s very spicy and tasty and doesn’t taste like ‘diet food’ in any way. I like to make this on days after I’ve overindulged. It’s great to have a bento like this occasionally to adjust your intake during the holiday season. It’s also a great “clean up the fridge” kind of recipe since you can add any vegetables that need to be used up.

bento_3_all_300.jpgThe magic ingredient as it were is the shirataki noodles, which I’ve written about in detail previously. It’s become quite popular apparently in the U.S. as a diet food, but it’s been around for hundreds of years in Japan. It is basically devoid of any nutritional value except for fiber. Here a lot of vegetables, a little oil, and tofu are added so the nutritional value of the dish overall is pretty good. (See notes at the end of this article about “Tofu Shirataki”.) Chew slowly for maximum ‘filling’ effect.

I’ve added an apple cut into usagi ringo (bunny apples) but if this is too much work, just pack a whole apple.


Per person (double the amount for two):

  • 1 small (200g or 8oz) pack of shirataki noodles (more if you like - it doesn’t really matter since it’s so low in calories!)
  • 1/2 block firm tofu (about 3 1/2 oz or 100g but just cut it in half and don’t worry about weighing)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger
  • Green onions
  • Garlic chives (nira) if available
  • Vegetables of your choice - here I used red and green peppers, a rather limp celery stalk, and a big handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 level tablespoon (more if you want it really spicy) kochujang (see notes below)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil


  • 1 pan big enough to hold the noodles
  • 1 large frying or sauté pan
  • A grater (a Microplane is recommended for easy cleanup)
  • A small bowl
  • A pair of kitchen scissors (optional)
  • Electric water kettle
  • Colander
  • As always, a sharp knife and cutting board


  1. Fill the kettle and switch on (this is the first step in most of my bentos).
  2. Open up the noodle pack with the scissors. Insert the scissors into the bag and hack away at the noodles a bit to make them shorter. (You can do this with a knife if you prefer, but the scissors are easier. Or just skip this and have long noodles.) Drain the noodles.
  3. Put the noodles in the pan, and cover with the boiled water Boil away for up to 5 minutes or so (at least 1 minute).
  4. In the meantime, drain the tofu and cut into cubes.
  5. Heat up the frying pan (important to do this especially if you have an electric range)
  6. Peel and grate about half of the ginger piece and about half of the garlic into a bowl. Add the kochujang, mirin and soy sauce and about a tablespoon of the boiling water. Mix well.
  7. Chop up the rest of the garlic and ginger. Prep (wash, chop) your other vegetables. Reserve a little bit of the green onion.
  8. Put sesame oil in the frying pan and add the ginger, garlic, green onions and garlic chives if you have them. Add the rest of the vegetables and sauté. (if it starts to stick, don’t add more oil, add a little of the always useful boiling water instead).
  9. Drain the noodles.
  10. When the vegetables are done , add the noodles and toss well. Add the tofu along with the marinade and toss until everything is coated with the sauce. Taste and add a bit of soy sauce or salt if needed.
  11. Put the noodles in the bento box. While they are cooling, make your bunny apples following these instructions (or just skip this step and bring along a whole apple).
  12. Sprinkle the reserved green onion on top. Close up the bento box and pack!


It’s a one-‘dish’ bento but takes some prep time, so allow at least 20 minutes.


(click on the timeline to see a bigger version)

If you can cut up the vegetables the night before, you will save yourself a lot of time and hassle. You can also marinate the tofu overnight too. Make the rabbit apples while the noodles are cooling.


  • Kochujang is a wonderful spicy bean paste from Korea. I am so addicted to it that I’ve added a tiny spoonful of extra paste to mix in with the noodles when eating (see upper right corner of the bento photo). It’s available at any Korean or general Asian grocery store. It’s not the same as tobanjan (or tohbanjan) which is commonly sold in Japanese grocery stores as Korean chili sauce - that is a lot spicier, and 1 tablespoonful will kill your tastebuds! Kochujang comes in big jars or tubs (the smallest I’ve seen is 500g, or around 1.1 lb). Online it’s available from KOA Mart in the U.S.
  • If the sauce is too spicy for you (and it is rather spicy) reduce the kochujang to about 1/2 tablespoon, and add more soy sauce or regular miso.
  • If you use “Tofu Shirataki”, a product sold by House Foods America, add about 20 calories to your count per half pack. Here I’m using plain shirataki, often sold as “Yam noodles”, which is made by several manufacturers.
  • Use seitan, tempeh, or your favorite vegetable protein instead of the tofu if you wish. Or, use chicken or ground pork.

Follow and Like our Facebook Page! And visit our sister site, Just Hungry


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

As a noodle addict, this

As a noodle addict, this meal is perfect for me. I’m getting ready to drive down to the Korean Mart to pick up some of these supplies and make this for tomorrows lunch. Thanks!


Hey, Maki, this sounds great. A suggestion, or question: Would it be possible to add a “print this page” feature, to make it easier to print out and put in my recipe holder at home?

Thanks, KimL


Hi Kim! At the moment it is possible to just use the Print dialog in the browser to get a printed version with just the article (no sidebars, etc.) I know it’s a bit long since I tend to be rather wordy…I’ll have to figure out how to efficiently do a more compact version…

another use of guchujang

thanks for this recipe. now I’v another way to use up my tub of guchujang sitting in my fridge.


Looks good!

Mmm, this bento looks really yummy. And what a great picture! :) I’m gonna have to make this. Thanks for the recipe. (Btw, love your Just Hungry site and this one, I’ve been looking for good japanese recipes and here they are!)

Is there anything you can

Is there anything you can use beside the Kochujang? I couldn’t find any at Oriental Square and it’d be a while before I make it to Oriental Mart, so I was wondering if there was anything I could use to replace it until I find some.

it won't be the same

It won’t be the same, but you can try using regular miso, plus some kind of hot chili paste - tobanjan, or Hungarian chili sauce, or harisa should all work I think. Try it out!

I tried it with the miso

I tried it with the miso (red) and some chili paste and I absolutely loved it. Thanks a lot!

Does the tofu go in the marinade

in step 6? or is the marinade just a sauce to add later?

either way

You can marinade the tofu in the sauce if you like, or just add it all together. Either way it will be tasty.

I tried this the other day,

I tried this the other day, and it was delicious! The level of spiciness was good for me as well, because I have a habit of wolfing my food down as fast as humanly possible, and it forced me to eat slowly.

I do now however have a huge tub of kochujang leftover, and I was wondering whether you had any suggestions for what to do with it? Thank you!

Making this gluten free & re-heating advice

I stumbled across this and there is absolutely no reason it can’t be made gluten free. All that needs to be done is swapping the soy sauce with Tamari. For the Kochujang, if you can’t get it gluten free (I can’t find it at all), you can use this ( recipe and again swap the soy sauce with the Tamari.

A question, is it possible that you could note which of your bento suggestions are good cold and which need to be re-heated (or if they’re good either way)? I’m hopelessly unsure about these things, which is rather silly but there you are.

Thank you for all the lovely recipes. Twist

Thanks for the gluten-free

Thanks for the gluten-free suggestions Twist!

Basically all of the bento recipes here are meant to be eaten cold (room temperature), with the exception of the soups, which are add-hot-water. To this point I haven’t posted any bentos that need to be reheated, and if I do I’ll specifically note that.

Re: Making this gluten free & re-heating advice

I appreciate the input but the recipezaar recipe is not gluten-free. The Korean chili paste has barley and sometimes wheat. I am still looking for a truly gluten-free alternative.

Re: Making this gluten free & re-heating advice

If you must avoid gluten you can't use kochujang I'm afraid, since it has wheat etc. in it. Just use another hot chili source - dried or fresh red chili peppers would work, or harisa, Hungarian chili sauce, etc and adjust the hotness.

Could you use Shichimi

Could you use Shichimi Tohgarashi instead of kochujang?

I have a Korean friend who warned me about the intensity of kochujang, and i’m not the best with spicy things, so I was wondering if i could make a marinade using shichimi tohgarashi instead :3

Thanks Maki!!

P.S. Sorry for so many questions by the way! D’: I feel like I’ve been asking too many D’:

Re: Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 ...

I think this looks delicious but I'm not sure if I have the right kind of noodle available to me. Is there another kind of noodle that would work too?

Re: Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 ...

You could use any other kind of noodles, but they won't be as low in calories...the big advantage of shirataki noodles is that they are virtually zero calories.

Re: Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 ...

I used some rice noodles and black bean paste with some red chile flakes. I had to compromise for the ingredients I could find. But I thought it was great. I did marinate the tofu while I chopped and sauted. I needed some new ideas for my husbands lunch. Sandwiches everyday was getting boring for me to make and him to eat. Let's see how a meat man likes tofu. lol I don't have an actual bento box yet. Asking him to take something like that is probably asking too much. Could you just see that with all the construction guys at lunch yeahhhh no. I used some plastic wear I already have. Apple bunnies would have been out of the question too. I sent a whole apple. I liked the idea of the little fresh veggies so I also sent a little plastic full of marinated cucumbers and onions and baby sweet plum tomatoes and cornichons. He certainly won't be bored with his lunch today. Thanx for the site and info

Other Noodles?

Any suggestions as to what kind of noodles I could use besides shirataki?


Maki i couldnt find the korean bean paste anywhere would it be ok to mix miso and some cayenne pepper in instead or would that destroy the recipe?

Re: ^.^

It won't destroy the recipe probably but it will just taste different. Could still be good!

Re: Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 ...

Thank you so much for this recipe! It was exactly what I was looking for. Please post more recipes on how to use the shirataki noodles! Much appreciated!

Re: Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 ...

hi! this is the first time that I've tried Shirataki noodles and your recipe is just perfect!!! I actually liked the texture of the noodles. I think I can eat it everyday... with the added bonus of loosing weight... thank you so much =)

Re: Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 ...

Tasty! I've used tofu shirataki before in Hungry Girl's recipes. This was the first time I've tried it with an authentic asian preparation. I doubled the recipe to make enough for the week, to pair with a few potstickers. I felt full and like I was on my diabetic diet.

I had a devil of a time trying to find kochujang at my local Lotte. But eventually I did find something that looked right. It sure did taste good, so I think I succeeded.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.