japanese

Natto or Tempeh Fried Rice

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This week, I’m aiming to make all of my bentos vegan or vegetarian. One reason is simply to have more vegan/vegetarian bento recipes up here! But the other more personal reasons are that, first of all, vegan/vegetarian meals often cost less than meat-centric meals, especially here in Switzerland where even the inexpensive cuts of meat and poultry are not so. The other is just for health; I often feel so much better when I’ve had a vegan bento.

This fried rice is a meal unto itself. There are some finely chopped vegetables as well as hijiki seaweed, and high quality protein in the form of brown rice and natto, those infamous sticky fermented soy beans. I have been hesitant about featuring natto-based recipes here or on Just Hungry, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that quite a few people actually do like it. Natto is an excellent and easily digestible source of protein, and when it’s cooked like this all of the gooey stickiness of it disappears. If you prefer though, you can substitute crumbled tempeh or even shelled edamame. continue reading...

Root vegetables and tofu stewed in miso sauce (a vegan one-pot meal)

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(On the forum and elsewhere, I frequently hear vegans lamenting the lack of vegan protein-rich dishes. Such dishes do exist in traditional Japanese cooking, and I try to introduce them to you. Not all dishes are that simple to make, though if you read through the recipes they aren’t really that hard. Anyway, here’s one vegan one-pot dish that is good hot or cold, so is very suited to bentos.)

There are all kinds of stewed dishes in Japanese cooking, called something-ni (煮). Collectively these are called 煮物 - ninomo. This is sort of a vegan variation on a classic nimono called chikuzen-ni (筑前煮), which is a staple of the New Year period and the winter months.

Chikuzen-ni gets its umami from chicken pieces and a rich dashi made from konbu seaweed and lots of katsuobushi, dried bonito flakes. Here I’ve skipped the dashi (though you could use vegan dashi for even more flavor), but I’ve used one of my favorite vegan proteins, atsuage or thick fried tofu, and added a lot of umami by using shiitake mushrooms, leek, and miso to finish. There are three kinds of root vegetables in this: taro root (satoimo 里芋 in Japanese), lotus root (renkon 蓮根)and carrots, so it’s full of fiber and nutrition and is a fairly complete vegan meal. I used it for a bento last week, and found it very filling. (I meant to use the leftovers for another bento round at least, but it got eaten up by someone…)

If you can’t get a hold of taro roots or dislike the slightly slimy texture, substitute boiling potatoes (the kind you use for potato salad, not baking potatoes). If you can’t get lotus roots, just leave them out and use more carrots.

This is not a quick recipe, but you can make a potful of it and can last you for several days of bentos and other meals. continue reading...

Ham Negimayaki (Green Onions Wrapped in Ham and Panfried)

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Negimayaki (ネギマ焼き) or negima as it’s often abbreviated, is scallions or green onions wrapped in thinly sliced meat and pan fried. It’s usually made with thinly sliced beef or pork in Japan. The thing is though, while very thinly slice meat is a standard cut available at any supermarket in Japan, here in Europe it’s not. If I want that cut I have to ask the butcher to do it for me, or slice it myself.

However, ham and cured meat slices of all kinds is very easily available here, so that’s what I use for this version of negima. The advantage of using ham, besides its availibity and handiness, is that it’s already flavored, so you don’t have to add any more seasoning. The saltiness of it flavors the green onion inside too. These cook up very quickly. continue reading...

Bento Filler: The Easiest Ever Carrot-Sesame Salad

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This is yet another recipe that is so easy that I didn’t even think of posting it, though I make it all the time. But since a lot of you guys liked the soy sauce eggs, and carrot kinpira is one of the most popular recipes on Just Bento (not to mention the most, ahem, copied elsewhere)…I thought, why not?

It is a very simple carrot salad flavored with sesame oil. You can add toasted sesame seeds if you want, or chopped up parsley as I did here, or both. Or leave both out and keep it simple. The good thing about this salad for bentos is that it stays crunchy and fresh-tasting even the next day after making it. It’s a nice colorful filler. continue reading...

Sho-yu Tamago (Soy sauce eggs)

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Since many of you asked about the sho-yu tamago (soy sauce eggs) that my mother used to pack for me in my school outings bentos, here’s the recipe for them. Well, I hesitate to even call it a recipe - it’s so easy. continue reading...

Bento filler: Classic Kinpira Gobo (burdock and carrot kinpira)

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Spicy-salty-sweet kinpira, crunchy vegetables that are quicky stir-fried and optionally simmered, are perfect for bento. So far I have given you carrot kinpira and forgotten vegetable kinpira, but Japanese food purists might have noticed that I haven’t posted a recipe for classic kinpira gobo (or goboh). There’s a simple reason for this: here in Switzerland, the only gobo or burdock root that I can get in the stores is an exorbitantly priced frozen version. But recently I was able to get my hands on some fresh gobo (no I didn’t smuggle it from Hawaii!) - so here, finally, is kinpira gobo. continue reading...

Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

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Easy sugarfree carrot kinpira is one of the most popular recipes here on Just Bento. And no wonder - it’s a snap to make, healthy, and spicy.

While kinpira is traditionally made with carrots and burdock (gobo) in Japan, you can use the kinpira method for any crunchy vegetable. What’s more, it’s a great way of using up parts of vegetables that you might normally throw away. Not only will your tastebuds and tummy be happy, your wallet will be too. continue reading...

Bento no. 54: Hallowe'en Zombie Kitty Bento

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Bento contents:

Total calories (approx): 480 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: Way too long! (About 2 hours)

Type: Japanese, kyaraben/charaban, special occasion, Homage to The Kitty continue reading...