Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple


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.

This is a fairly universal recipe that you can use for ground meat of any kind - beef, pork, veal, turkey. I would use another formula for chicken, which has a more delicate flavor. (But ground chicken isn’t available here, so I don’t make chicken soboro that often since I have to grind up the meat myself.)

If you use a very lean meat, such as turkey, you may want to add a bit more oil. My preference is to use lean ground beef (in the U.S. about 90% lean).

Meat soboro

  • 450g / 1lb ground beef, pork, veal, turkey or a combination of any
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion, green and white parts both (about 2 stalks)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, finely chopped to yield about 2 Tbs. of chopped ginger
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. sake
  • 3 Tbs. dark soy sauce
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. oyster sauce

Equipment: a large non-stick frying pan or a wok

Chop up all the vegetables as fine as you can.

Heat up 1 Tbs. of sesame oil in the pan. Add the vegetables and stir fry until softened. Add the meat and brown well.

Add the sugar, and stir around until it’s caramelized a bit.

Add the sake; stir around to evaporate.

Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce. Let simmer until the liquid is almost gone, but the meat is still moist. Taste for seasoning at this point and add a little soy sauce or salt if you think it needs it. (Keep in mind that it’s made to eat with something bland, like rice, so it should be quite strongly flavored.)

Note: if you keep cooking it until the meat is thoroughly dried out, it becomes a meat furikake with longer keeping qualities. I prefer to keep it at the soboro stage though.

About 40 calories per tablespoon

Ways to use soboro

I’ll show soboro in use in future bentos, but here are just some ideas to get you going:

  • The classic - soboro bento, which is a take on soboro don (or soboro donburi) - soboro on top of plain rice. It’s nice to top a soboro bento with some sansho powder. Example here.
  • As an onigiri filling. Make a little clump of cooled soboro for this. If your soboro is too oily, the grease may leak out and make the onigiri fall apart, so you may want to wrap it in nori or keep it wrapped in plastic wrap.
  • Mixed with egg for a soboro-tamagoyaki. Since the soboro is fairly salty, you’ll want to keep the egg mixture low in salt.
  • Stir fried with vegetables. The soboro acts as seasoning as well as protein.

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Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

I didn't have all the ingredients either... so I also did some freestyling:

- 1 pound ground turkey
- a dash of soy sauce
- a dash of mirin
- a tiny bit of salt
- a big spoon of spaghetti sauce (in a pound of turkey, it doesn't color red, so you taste it but you don't notice it)
- diced green peppers
- 1 clove garlic, chopped

Lovely with plain sushi rice and blanched broccoli/cauliflower!

Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

What is a good substitute for the oyester sauce? : (

Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

Try steak sauce, but maybe use a bit less, plus a pinch of sugar.

Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

OMG. I just made this at the end of my vacation to take along to work (in an effort to be more disciplined at work). I followed your proper rice technique from another article as closely as I could for a first-timer (I am notoriously BAD at making much so that my husband, who loathes cooking, insists on making rice so I don't screw it up) and made a simple bento with rice, soboro and some mixed vegetables. The flavors work PERFECTLY when cold....and I found myself wishing I had tons more. The rice was even great!

My daughter is a big fan now, too...and I made her a dish to eat after school.

I will make this FOREVER.

love your site! Just love it!

Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

I used your recipes to make beef/pork soboro and iri tamago tonight for my family. I didn't pack them in bento but served them bento style, with a line of steamed broccoli separating the soboro and tamago on top of a bed of rice. It was so good that even the four-year-old was scraping the plate. Thank you for such wonderful recipes!

Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

First, I understand a desire to experiment, but why do people keep posting substitutions that are not actually substitutions but entirely different recipes? Please, for the love of god, stop. Changing the ethnicity of a recipe does not equal substitution.

Second, I made this following the recipe and it was delicious. Definitely the most successful Asian dish I have ever made!

Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

I just made this, and I have to post here - AMAZING STUFF. I made up some rice afterwards, and like 3 meat crumbs + heaping spoonful of rice = Wonderfully flavorful mouth full of food! Honestly, I never imagined how little meat you could get away with using in a meal. OH MAN THANK YOU, MAKI! YOU'RE WONDERFUL! :D

Re: Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

This is a GREAT recipe and I make it frequently for myself and my girlfriend. The later purchased the Just Bento cookbook for me as a gift. For those that are considering said book, it's a great purchase! Just be aware that the meat soboro recipe it contains is not the same as this one, and not nearly as good.

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