japanese

Homemade furikake no. 9: Green tea

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We used to have a neighbor lady in Japan who came from Shizuoka, a major tea growing region. She used to say that at her parents’ house they used to eat tea leaves sprinkled with salt as a snack. At the time, the cynical kid that was me thought that sounded disgusting! But then I was recently surfing around some Japanese sites and stumbled upon the home page of a tea producer, who mentioned the same thing. They also said that they enjoyed tea as furikake.

The site didn’t have a recipe, but they mentioned putting in chirimenjako (tiny salted fish, which I used in the hijiki seaweed furikake) and sakuraebi (tiny dried shrimp), used in Furikake no. 1, radish leaves.) Both are dried or semi-dried products that are packed with umami, and are also high in calcium. You can get them at any Japanese grocery store, and very similar products are available at general Asian or Chinese stores too. In case you can’t get a hold of them though, I’ve given some variations below, including a vegan one.

The tea furikake definitely has the taste and fragrance of tea (with a hint of bitterness), enhanced by the umami of the other ingredients. It’s really very pleasant. Tea furikake is not available commercially as far as I know (at least not outside of Japan). And if drinking the extract of tea leaves is so healthy, surely eating tea leaves has to be as good, if not better! continue reading...

Bento no. 25: A shoujin ryouri type vegan bento

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Bento contents:

  • 1 1/4 cups zakkukumai (mixed-grain rice, see this article), 200 cal
  • ‘Vegan scallops’ made with komachibu and shiitake mushrooms (recipe), using 10 g of komachibu, 50 cal
  • Carrot kinpira (recipe), about 1/3 cup, 50 cal
  • Blanched spinach with soy sauce (recipe), 10 cal

Total calories (approx): 310 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20 minutes in the morning if you make everything in the morning

Type: Japanese, vegan (shoujin ryouri style) continue reading...

Panfried Komachibu - Vegan 'Scallops'

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Komachibu is a small round form of yakifu, grilled and dried fu. Fu is a traditional Japanese form of wheat gluten, that is a good vegan protein source. (Read more about fu.) If you like to use seitan, you’ll probably like fu as well. Komachibu is available at any reasonably stocked Japanese grocery store (in the dried food section).

Komachibu are about the size of a large coin. When they are reconstituted in water, they swell up to about the size of a small scallop (they do shrink back down a bit when cooked with this method). The texture is very soft, like very very tender scallops. I don’t pretend that they are as good as real, fresh scallops of course, but if you’ve given up shellfish for dietary reasons, these are not bad at all. And, they are terrific in a bento box, vegan or not. continue reading...

Bento filler: Easy sugarfree carrot kinpira

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This is probably my favorite way to eat carrots - cut into matchstick size, stir fried in sesame oil until crisp-tender with some red pepper flakes, and finished with a scatter of sesame seeds. It’s crunchy, salty and spicy. It’s really tasty at room temperature, which makes it a great bento filler. continue reading...

Bento filler: Blanched spinach with soy sauce or sesame sauce

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You may be used to eating spinach leaves in salads, or sautéed. In Japan spinach is rarely eaten raw. The most common way to eat spinach is to blanch it briefly. You may lose some nutrients when you do this, but it’s more than made up for I think by the fact that you can eat a whole lot more spinach than in a salad or so.

In the U.S. and Europe, it’s probably easier these days to buy ready-washed bags of the leaves only. This is a bit of a shame really, because spinach stalks and roots have a different texture which adds interest. In any case, the instructions here assume that you are dealing with the leaves only. continue reading...

Bento no. 23: Parsley lemon sushi with salmon

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Bento contents:

  • Parsley and shiso leaves in lemon-flavored sushi with 1 cup white rice cooked with white zakkoku mix (approx: 200cal)
  • Lotus root slices (approx. 20 cal)
  • Salted salmon, about 50 g / 1 3/4 oz (approx. 80 cal)
  • Usuyaki tamago (thin egg omelette) (approx. 80 cal)

Total calories (approx): 380 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20 minutes in the morning, 10-15 the night before

continue reading...

Bento no. 21: Chicken teriyaki bento

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Bento contents:

  • Bite size chicken kijiyaki (or teriyaki) made with 90g of thigh meat with the skin (210 cal)
  • Blanched bean sprouts with umeboshi (5 cal)
  • Blanched spinach (10 cal)
  • Haiga-mai, or germ rice 150g or about 1 cup (170 cal)
  • 1/2 of a tamagoyaki made from 1 egg (50 cal)

Total calories (approx): 445 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15 minutes in the morning, 20 the night before

Type: Japanese

This is the ‘skinny bento’ featured in Skinny Bento vs. Not So Skinny Bento. continue reading...

Bite-size chicken teriyaki for bento boxes

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Usually chicken teriyaki (or chikiteri as it’s abbreviated sometimes) is made from whole chicken thigh pieces, but I prefer to cut the meat up in advance for bento use - the smaller pieces cook faster, and I don’t have to deal with slicing hot cooked meat early in the morning.

The chicken can be marinated from the night before or just briefly in the morning. You can also make this in some quantity and freeze the cooked pieces - since you are using thigh meat, the pieces won’t dry out so easily after defrosting like white meat can. continue reading...