New bento-boxer here! What do i need to get for my stock cupboard to get me started?

VickyUK
Bento-ing from: Newcastle-upon-Tyne › UK
Joined: 19 Dec 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 38 weeks ago.

Hi all,

Ive ordered myself a bento box and am determined to start making bento-lunches in the new year. I love this site and all of the recipes and ideas, so i need a 'shopping list' to get myself started. What would you suggest? I have sushi rice, nori and rice wine vinegar, but thats pretty much it so far!!

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Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 7 weeks ago.
Re: New bento-boxer here! What do i need to get for my ...

Hello Vicky
There's a post by Maki here that might help you:
http://justbento.com/what-are-your-favorite-bento-staples
I added a comment at the time, but I'll simplify it to give my suggestions for starting cooking Japanese style bento
rice & vinegar you have
soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, ginger and miso, mirin and sake
spring onions and dried wakame seaweed are also very useful
Shaved bonito flakes if you're feeling adventurous as well as kombu if you're serious about learning to make Japanese food. You'll need to decide for yourself if you want to make dashi from scratch or cheat (like I mostly do) with dashi concentrate or powder - another useful staple.
I'd also recommend looking at Maki's furikake recipes and seeing if there are any that appeal to you. These make excellent staples for regular bento makers.

As you like 'oriental' cooking (a HUGE range of foods with Japanese only making up a fraction) you may also like Korean cuisine.
Although the tastes can be enormously different, there is quite a lot of common ground between Korean and Japanese cuisine - this means that your store cupboard staples for Japanese food (namely vinegar, soy sauce, sesame, miso, garlic and ginger - even the mirin/mirim) can also be used for Korean dishes. Teamed with rice, banchan side dishes (the Korean equivalent of okazu on which many bento are based) are often perfect alternatives for bento. Get some inexpensive Korean red pepper paste (Gochujang - spelling varies) and chilli powder and you instantly have many more potential bento dishes to try.
I recommend this website (particularly the side dish section)
http://aeriskitchen.com/category/korean_food/side_dish/

Lexi Leven
Bento-ing from: Hitchin › UK
Joined: 2 Jan 2010
User offline. Last seen 1 year 32 weeks ago.
Re: New bento-boxer here! What do i need to get for my ...

Hi Vicky, if you don't have a local speciality store my local Waitrose carries a lot of Japanese ingredients like mirin, togarishi seasoning, umeboshi puree & sushi rice. It's not as cheap as an online vendor for buying lots of different ingredients but it's much more convenient for me as I work and parcel delivery can be tricky!
Enjoy your bentos!

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 13 weeks ago.
Re: New bento-boxer here! What do i need to get for my ...

I would say that garlic and soy sauce are usually the handiest when it comes to bentos. The other ingredients that Loretta mentioned are things that I always try to keep stocked, but I fail when I attempt to juggle working full time and going to school, so it is possible to do without.

Honestly I have found that the best bentos are usually ones that I improvise with whatever vegetables I thought looked best at the store that week, instead of focusing on Japanese ingredients. Not to mention you can slowly start incorporating these item, instead of taking the plunge and buying a bunch of ingredients that may be unfamiliar to you.

another_amanda
Bento-ing from: › USA
Joined: 12 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 51 weeks ago.
Re: New bento-boxer here! What do i need to get for my ...

Hi VickyUK! Welcome to bento-ing! Here's a list of the things I find myself using daily:

rice
soy sauce
pre-chopped garlic
sesame oil
olive oil
chili pepper (either cayenne, Korean, or nanami togarashi)
sugar

These are also all things that I use for non-bento cooking. I use rice vinegar, mirin, miso, dashi, ginger, and seseme seeds fairly often, but it's no problem making recipes that use none of these. I've found that my proteins and fresh veg take far more planning than my other ingredients.

I also highly recommend Loretta's link to Aeri's Kitchen. Her recipe for spicy chicken stew (Dak BokkEum Tang) is superb in a bento with plain rice, and it's great left over.

Mon1
Bento-ing from: Nottingham › UK
Joined: 20 Dec 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 1 week ago.
Re: New bento-boxer here! What do i need to get for my ...

I second what everyone else has said. Maki's bento staples is a good link.
Tescos, Sainsbury, Asda etc all stock most of the things you'll need and they'd be cheaper than Waitrose. Local asian stores or nline stores like Japan Centre, Wing Yip etc will also be good as they'll tend to have more variety,stock and will be cheaper than places like Tesco.
I personally also find that pre-cut veg e.g. brocolli, green beans, onions, mixed peppers, diced spiced potatoes etc. and other frozen stuff help a lot as they cut down on prep and cooking time. I normally have a stocked freezer with all kinds of meat/fish,veg and frozen fruit and if a recipe calls for something and I don't have it, it's easy to substitute.
Finally if you can, buy a big bag of rice. You'll find small bags of pudding rice (similar to japanese rice) and it'll be annoying having to keep buying them every other week, but a 1kg or more bag of Nishiki rice for instance, will last ages an ages!

Have fun!

anon.
Re: New bento-boxer here! What do i need to get for my ...

We make sure the follwoing is in stock just about every week:
Soy sauce
Sake
Mirin
Chicken thighs
Frozen chicken breasts
garlic

We do a lot of Maki's chicken recipes, and that seems to be the basis for most of them; a few common things like lemon juice, olive oil, etc tend to make up the rest of our week's ingredients.

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