Bento no. 7: A mostly make-ahead bento with fall vegetables and tamagoyaki

bento_7_450.jpg

Bento contents:

  • 1 1/2 cups (370ml) sweet potato rice (300 cal)
  • Braised spicy daikon radish and carrot (50 cal)
  • Japanese-style omelette (tamagoyaki) with green onions (120 cal)
  • Stewed dried shiitake mushrooms (5 cal)
  • Broccoli florets with wasabi sauce (5 cal)

Total calories (approx): 480 cal (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 30 minutes total (20 the night before, 10 in the morning)

Type: Japanese, no meat (egg)

This bento is filled with a variety of in-season fall vegetables, features rice cooked with sweet potatoes, and an onion-y tamagoyaki. It may look a bit complicated, but can actually be mostly made in advance, with only quick assembly in the morning.

The spicy daikon radish and carrot, the broccoli with wasabi sauce, and the stewed dried shiitake mushrooms can even be made a few days in advance and drawn from when needed - all are good keepers. The sweet potato rice should be set ready to cook the night before. The takagoyaki (Japanese style omelette) ideally should be made in the morning, but can be made the night before in a pinch. Unlike a ‘plain’ basic tamagoyaki, this green-onion filled one is not sweetened. It’s sort of a rough-and-ready tamagoyaki but still very delicious. My mother used to make this for us a lot, for bento or for dinner.

You can swap out the tamagoyaki for a vegan protein if you wish. Everything else is vegan.

I have given instructions and the timelines assuming you’ll be doing the pre-cooking the night before. Even if you have to do this, it goes very quickly (yes, 20 minutes or so again).

Ingredients

For the rice (makes about 6 cups of rice in total):

  • 2 rice-cooker cups plain rice or brown rice
  • 1 small Japanese style sweet potato, washed and cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Water

The tamagoyaki - somewhat easier to make a 2-egg one and divide between two bentos, though 1 egg is fine too (or have the whole 2-egg one for yourself.)

  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped green onion
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp. soy sauce

The shiitake mushrooms - as easy to make in larger quanties, so it makes sense to make this from abot 5-6 shiitake and use throughout the week. Amounts are for 1 portion:

  • 1-2 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water
  • Soaking liquid for the mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. mirin (or use kaeshi or a commercial pre-made mentsuyu (soba sauce))

The daikon radish and carrots:

  • Small piece of daikon
  • 1/2 large carrot
  • Water
  • 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Nanami tohgarashi red pepper powder, or use red chili pepper flakes

The broccoli with wasabi sauce: Amounts given for one portion, but it’s easier to make larger quantities of this and use it within the next few days. Full recipe here.

  • 1 broccoli spear, florets only
  • Water to boil
  • 1/2 tsp. wasabi powder, prepared with drops of water
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • A few drops of sake
  • Pinch sugar

Equipment

  • Rice cooker (or your favorite rice cooking method)
  • 2 small nonstick frying pans (1 is used for just one items, the other is re-used to cook the rest)
  • Electric water kettle
  • Cutting board, knives, etc.
  • A couple of small bowls

Steps - preferably the night before, about 20 minutes

  1. Boil a kettleful of water.
  2. Wash rice if you’re using white rice.
  3. Wash and cut up the sweet potato.
  4. Put rice, salt and potato bits into a rice cooker with the appropriate amount of water (add just a tad more to compensate for the sweet potato). Set the timer so the rice is done cooking in the morning when you intend to make the bento.
  5. Wash and cut up the broccoli.
  6. Peel and cut the daikon and carrots into rounds. Arrange in one layer in frying pan no. 1; add boiling water to barely cover. Cook until tender.
  7. Put the broccoli spears in small frying pan no. 2 with enough boiling water to come up at least halfway. Boil/steam until still bright green but tender.
  8. In the meantime, when the water in the daikon radish/carrot pan is almost gone, add sesame oil, salt and red pepper flakes or powder. Take off heat, leave to cool.
  9. Drain broccoli, leave in a bowl to cool.
  10. Fish the shiitake mushrooms out of the soaking liquid and squeeze out excess moisture. Cut off the stem, and cut into fairly thick slices. Add to frying pan no. 2 (the one you used for the broccoli) with a little of the soaking liquid, the soy sauce and mirin. Cook down rapidly until the liquid is almost gone.
  11. Mix together the wasabi sauce ingredients. Toss together with broccoli.
  12. When things are cooled, pack everything up and store in refrigerator.
  13. Optional: chop up the green onions for the tamagoyaki.

Steps - in the morning, 10 minutes or so

  1. Stir the cooked rice with a paddle. Put into bento box and let cool. (The leftover rice can be saved for another bento, or eaten for dinner.)
  2. Chop up the green onions if you didn’t do so last night.
  3. Heat up frying pan no. 1 with a little oil. In a small bowl beat together the egg, pinch salt, soy sauce and the green onions. Make the omelette - to finish, fold it in towards the center of the pan to form a small log. Let cool on a cutting board, wrapped in kitchen paper (to squeeze into shape if necesssary), until cool enough to handle. Cut into portions and let cool a bit.
  4. Put in the cut up tamagoyaki.
  5. Arrange the other ingredients in the bento box. (You don’t necessarily need to heat things through here, since each item is cooked in a way that helps to preserve it; e.g. the wasabi, the red chili pepper and oil, the soy sauce, etc.) If you want to keep the wasabi sauce away from the other items in the box, wrap the broccoli in a little bit of plastic.
  6. Close up and pack!

Timeline

Once again there are two timelines, one for the night before and one for the morning. Again, I’ve assumed you’ll be doing all the pre-cooking the night before but you can do most parts further in advance.

bento_7_450_timeline.png

The larger view timelines are split into two: the night before, and in the morning.

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3 comments

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Re: Bento no. 7: A mostly make-ahead bento with fall ...

This was a wonderful bento. Perhaps one of my favorites! I didn't have yams, so I used red potatoes instead and mixed it with the rice...it didn't do anything special though...

Re: Bento no. 7: A mostly make-ahead bento with fall ...

I don't see any sweet potato chunks in the picture. I love sweet potatoes. Do they soften and then get mixed into the rice?

Re: Bento no. 7: A mostly make-ahead bento with fall ...

The regular-potato-y looking chunks are white sweet potato.

I haven't found any Japanese sweet potatoes yet so I'm not sure whether standard orange or purple Western sweet potatoes would be a good substitute. My main concern would be that after a round in a rice cooker, the potato chunks would be pretty mushy. (Maybe the Japanese ones are waxier?) But it's hard for me to imagine sweet potatoes and rice turning out tasting bad!

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