What, yet another carrot recipe? Well I do like carrots, and they are so handy - available year-round, cheap, and long-lasting in the refrigerator. This one may not look like much, but it tastes very interesting - a little sweet, a little sour, just a little bitter, with an underlying heat. This was originally presented as a dessert in one of my Japanese cookbooks (but I can’t for the life of me remember which one); the original had I believe maple syrup and/or honey in it, which I have mostly omitted. Instead I’ve added salt and a little soy sauce. It makes a nice contrasting accent in a bento, like a salad. Cutting the carrot slices into odd shapes is strictly optional.
Cut the top half of the carrots. Reserve the thin ends for another dish. Peel the parts you will use, and cut into fairly thick rounds. Cut out shapes at this point if you like.
Put the carrots and chili pepper in a pan, and add enough orange juice to cover. Add the salt. Bring up to a boil, and cook until the carrot slices crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Add a little water if it looks like the pan will dry out before the carrots are cooked.
When the carrots are cooked, take out the whole chili pepper. Add the soy sauce and maple syrup, and rapidly boil until the juice is almost gone. Cool off before putting into your bento.
This will keep for about 3-4 days, well covered in the refrigerator.
Omit the salt and soy sauce, and add a vegetable stock cube or 1 teaspoon of vegetable stock powder (like Marigold) instead. Increase the maple syrup to 1 Tbs. and really boil down the liquid until it is syrupy, coating the carrots. This version is sweeter and more like glazed carrots.