johbisai

Make your own instant vegetable soup concentrate

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Previously I showed you how to make instant miso soup balls to which you just add boiling water to make a hot cup or bowl of soup. But even I don’t want miso soup all the time. Instant soup mixes are an option, but they are usually rather salty, and don’t contain a lot in terms of nutrients. So I set about experimenting with making my own instant soup concentrate. After some trial and error, here’s a formula for a Mediterranean tasting vegetable soup concentrate that works pretty well. It does take some mostly unattended time to cook down, so it’s a good project to do over the weekend to stock up for upcoming bento lunches. continue reading...

Shiso is the best herb to grow for bento making

I don’t know where the days are going. It’s already February 15th, and time to decide which vegetable and herb seeds to get for spring. (For me, flowers come in a distinct second after edible gardening.) This weekend I’m going to try to be a bit more organized than most years and sort through the seeds I’ve kept from last year, and figure out what I need to order.

If you are a gardener, even if your garden is limited to some pots on a sunny windowsill, if there’s one herb you should try to grow it’s shiso. Shiso, or perilla to give its botanical name, is a very refreshing herb that can be used in all manner of ways. For bentos though one interesting aspect of shiso is that it has some antibacterial qualities. That’s one reason why you see green shiso leaves being used as a garnish with sashimi. You can use the fully grown leaves as edible dividers, to wrap rice or meat or other things, and a lot more. See this bento from last summer where I used salted shiso leaves as onigiri wrappers. I love shiso-wrapped onigiri, they taste so fresh! I think that shiso is used quite a lot in the winning Hello Kitty bento too (for the head wrapper and the paws). continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 8: Hijiki and chirimenjako (tiny tiny fish)

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I’m cheating a bit here since this recipe has been featured already on Just Hungry. But it did get rather buried in a general article about seaweed, so here it is again in the Homemade Furikake series.

This combines hijiki, which is full of fiber and minerals, with chirimenjako, tiny little whole salted fish. You can find both at Japanese grocery stores, and Chinese grocery stores carry something similar. Since they are whole fish, they are full of calcium, and also pack a lot of umami. Many Japanese people are lactose intolerant, so they get their calcium by eating things like chirimenjako. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 7: Salmon furikake (or Sake flakes)

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Is this salmon (sake) furikake? Or is it salmon (sake) flakes? Or maybe it’s even salmon soboro. Whatever you call it, it’s finely flaked salmon that you can sprinkle onto plain rice, use as an onigiri filling, or on ochazuke. You could fold it into egg for a salmon omelette, on boiled vegetables…whatever your imagination can come up with.

Salmon flakes are often sold in jars that cost around $8 for about 150g. You can make it yourself for less than $3, depending on how expensive the salmon is. You can be even more frugal and use the little bits that are stuck on the bones when you filet a whole salmon. This is probably how fish soboro or flakes or furikake was invented in the first place. continue reading...

Iri tamago or tamago soboro, another standard Japanese egg recipe

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There are three very commonly used Japanese egg recipes. One is tamagoyaki or atsuyaki tamago (and its variant, dashimaki tamago), a rolled omelette. Another is usuyaki tamago, a very thin omelette which is used as a wrapper or shredded and used as a topping. Ther third is iri tamago, finely scrambled eggs that are used quite a lot as a topping. It’s here because it’s such a handy ingredient for bento. If you think you need a bit of color and protein, there’s no faster egg dish you can make. continue reading...

Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

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A soboro is rather like furikake, except that it’s moister. It’s used like furikake in many situations - sprinkled onto rice, folded into other things like eggs, and more. Soboro can be made of ground meat, flaked fish (though fish soboro is often called oboro instead), or egg (egg soboro is often called iri tamago, just to keep you confused!) Meat soboro (niku soboro) keeps for about a week in the refrigerator, and freezes beautifully, making it a great bento johbisai or staple for the omnivore. continue reading...

Stewed hijiki seaweed with carrots and fried tofu

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This is a very classic Japanese staple dish. More often than not, I have some variation of it in my refrigerator. The base is hijiki seaweed, which is soaked and reconstituted then cooked in dashi with various other ingredients that give it flavor. It’s great to add to a bento box.

This version has carrots and fried tofu in it. Cutting them into fancy shapes is totally optional, but it does make your bentos a bit more fun.

I’ve used me-hijiki for this but you can use the regular long branch hijiki too. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 5: Sweet bacon

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I’ve neglected the furikake series for a while, but it’s back!

And what better way to return, than with bacon.

I have bacon on the mind recently for some reason. I’m not overindulging in it, but it’s fun trying to figure out different ways of incorporating bacon in one’s life.

Bacon goes with everything, including rice. It’s salty and bacon-y. I’ve souped it up by adding some Japanese flavors sweet-salty flavors. The result is almost like bacon candy. A little goes a long way.

It’s great sprinkled on just about everything. Besides rice, you could sprinkle it on eggs, vegetables, your tongue… continue reading...