recipe

Vegan Turnip Cake or Daikon Radish Cake

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Turnip cake or daikon radish cake (law bock gaw in Cantonese, called daikon mochi (大根餅)in Japanese) is a staple of dim sum. It’s also part of the Chinese New Year feast. It is dense, a bit sticky, and very filling.

Traditionally it’s made from shredded white turnip, or more commonly from shredded daikon radish, rice flour, various shredded or chopped vegetables, plus dried shrimp, Chinese ham or bacon and/or sausage and so on, and it’s fried in lard. Given that it’s pretty good to eat hot or at room temperature, I tried making a vegan version, which could be the main protein in a vegan bento, or a combination protein-carb. I am pretty happy with the results.

I’ll show you two ways to make this. The first is the traditional method of putting the batter into a heatproof dish or mold and to steam it for about an hour, let it cool, and then slice the cake and fry the pieces. The second method omits the steaming stage and is a lot faster. Both methods yield little cakes that are dense, filling and mochi-like on the inside with a sweetness that comes from the shredded daikon radish, and crispy-salty on the outside.

It’s not exactly a quick recipe, though the second method is a lot faster. But you can make a lot of them at once and freeze the extras. Weekend project perhaps? continue reading...

Bento Filler: Orange Juice Carrots

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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. continue reading...

Red Peppers With Maple Syrup and Chili

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This little side dish or filler is related to the Cooked To Death Peppers, but is a lot faster to make and less oily. It doesn’t keep as long as Cooked To Death, but will be ok for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. It’s a nice bright color and flavor accent in a bento. continue reading...

Sweet-Sour Red Wine Vinegar Chicken

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This is a variation on the Balsamic Vinegar and Sesame Chicken recipe. I came up with this when I ran out of balsamic vinegar and had to make do with plain red wine vinegar - which of course is much cheaper. It’s even simpler to make since you do not have to deal with the sesame. 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...

Poppy seed encrusted green pea mini-burgers

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Adding to an ever-increasing number of bento-appropriate mini-burgers recipes here on Just Bento, here is one that turns out little green burgers that are as visually striking as they are tasty. What’s more, they are vegan, gluten-free and inexpensive. I always try to have a bag of frozen green peas stocked in the freezer, and they really come in handy in the winter months when locally (or even reasonably locally) grown fresh vegetables are rather scarce. Green peas are great just cooked as-is, or mixed into stir-fries, but they’re also very nice mashed up. The most famous example of this are that British staple, mushy peas. Green peas are also packed with protein and various vitamins. 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...

Tips for using Thanksgiving leftovers in bento lunches

thanksgivingleftovers.jpg[From the archives: If you’re in the U.S., I hope your Thanksgiving was great! If you have a lot of leftover turkey, please give the shigureni a try. It works with dark or white meat. Originally published November 2007.]

Happy Thanksgiving to all U.S. readers! After today’s feast you’ll probably have quite a lot of leftovers. Here are some ideas for re-purposing those leftovers for future bento lunches, beyond just using them as-is, which is okay but not that exciting.

In general, you should try to get the leftovers wrapped and into the fridge as soon as possible for the sake of safety, though I know the urge to just flop down in a horizontal position is strong. You can divide it up for longer term storage if necessary later.

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