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

Sometimes you haven’t prepared anything the night before, and you have little time to make a bento in the morning. What to do? Improvise!

This bento is done and packed in under 10 minutes. You do need pre-made frozen rice, and some homemade or storebought pickled vegetables. And some sort of protein - here I’ve used my favorite again, fried tofu (atsuage). Basically the pickled vegetables are chopped up and mixed into the rice, the whole is optionally seasoned with a little sushi vinegar, and then topped with dry-fried crispy fried tofu. It’s filling and delicious even if it’s so quick to make.

For the pickled vegetables I used some last bits of homemade spicy Chinese cabbage pickles and a couple of slices of cucumber from a storebought pickle pack. You can find all kinds of pickled vegetables at a Japanese grocery store, in the refrigerated and packaged food sections. It’s fun to have an assortment on hand. The key to this pickles-and-rice is to choose pickles that are not too salty, or the rice will be too salty. (This is easier to control if you make your own pickles. See the Instant Tsukemono series on Just Hungry.) If you don’t have any pickles, this method works with leftover cooked and chopped up vegetables too, provided they are still crispy and not mushy.

The fried tofu is stir-fried in a dry pan (no oil added) to give it a crispy texture. I did burn it a bit here, but I do like it rather charred. You may want to stop at the dark-brown crispy stage. I like to cut it into chunky chunks rather than small delicate pieces, because it gives me a feeling that I’ve Eaten.

Here’s the same bento from above to show the whole thing:

bento_9a_450.jpg

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of assorted chopped pickles that are not too salty (I prefer to use Japanese, Chinese or Korean pickles, since they seem to fit with rice better. But use what you like!)
  • Sushi vinegar (optional)
  • 1/2 half of a large (300g) fried tofu block (atsuage dofu)
  • Soy sauce
  • Red pickled ginger (beni sho-ga)

Steps

  1. Defrost rice.
  2. Boil water in electric kettle.
  3. Cup up the tofu and blanch in boiling water.
  4. Drain and chop up the pickles.
  5. Heat up frying pan. Drain and dry-fry the tofu.
  6. Mix pickles with rice. Taste the rice - it should be a bit salty but not too much. If needed, add a little pickling liquid or sushi vinegar and mix very well.
  7. When the tofu is crispy, add a little soy sauce and toss rapidly. (Don’t add too much soy sauce - remember the rice is also salty).
  8. Pack the rice into your bento box. Top with a little red pickled ginger. Top with the tofu. Optionally sprinkle with shichimi (or nanami) tohgarashi

Timeline

A very simple timeline! Challenge yourself and see how fast you can assemble this.

bento_9_450_timeline.png

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4 comments

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Substituting tofu.

Just curious, since getting fried tofu is definitely out of the way for me, would it be possible to substitute regular, drained tofu? Or does this mainly work because the fried tofu has a crust (probably not the right word) already built up?

yes it's the crust

It’s the crust that does make this work…but you can try regular firm tofu, pressed a bit to take out excess moisture, then lightly floured and fried in a bit of oil. It ‘s not as fast and easy to prepare but should be good!

Fried tofu is available at Thai or Chinese groceries too btw.

tofu options?

I live in a college dorm, and I only have a microwave, water kettle and George Foreman-style grill (we aren’t allowed to have hotplates in here). Is it an option to grill tofu? And do you have any other suggestions for cooking with my limited resources?

That is such a great

That is such a great question, I’ve tried to answer it in a full post!

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