recipe

Travelling the world from your kitchen with bentos

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This is a guest post by Iliana (aka Mosaica), who blogs about her daily life at The Daily Mosaica.

In life I often find myself embracing contradictions, and with regard to planning and preparing bento lunches, it appears that I am, at least, consistent. At times I am purely focused on taking a given recipe, often a Japanese recipe, and rendering it as authentically as possible given the constraints of my semi-rural existence in Vermont, a small state in the northeast of the US.  For instance the bento from last week where I made inarizushi — this meal nourished me on a number of levels: it was completely delicious,  it tied into a fascinating bit of cultural history, and it expanded my culinary repertoire. While I do miss the days when I was more of a globe-trotter, I’ve come to really appreciate how traveling via recipes from far, far away can give real pleasure —to my nose and eyes and tastebuds, as well as to my intellectual bits.

On the other hand, I’m also a bit of a fiesty girl, and I like to kick up my heels, as it were, in the kitchen, and for me this manifests itself as a willingness to play with food, to be led by my nose, or intuition, or a gut feeling that mixing this with that might just be yummy. That’s what this post is about: Taking ingredients which are traditional in Japanese cuisine and dressing them up in flavors from around the globe: Tibet, Denmark, Africa, India, and beyond. In addition, if you start from a perspective of your own preferred ratio of carb to protein to veggies and fruit, I encourage you to include entirely new ingredients to add fresh flavor and interest to your bento meal. During the five weeks of the Bento Challenge, I was inspired to see how many of us were using foods and flavors from our own backyards to create delicious new twists on the bento theme. continue reading...

Bento Sized Mini Quiches

This is a guest post by jokergirl, who blogs about vegetarian and pescetarian bentos at WereRabbits.

“Go ahead, bake my quiche.”
Queen Magrat, Lords and Ladies

As a pescetarian leaning heavily towards full-time vegetarianism, finding the right protein for my bento is often a strain. I’m not a fan of soy meat replacements to boot, so often I look to eggs as a handy protein packet to put in my bento. Luckily, scientists now say that eggs are good for you again, so I’m not worried about cholesterol.

These mini-quiches are a tasty and healthy freezer staple for those times when boiling an egg or making tamagoyaki seems like too much effort. Each one of them contains about 1-2 tablespoons of egg-vegetable mixture, equivalent to about half an egg (plus a bit of milk).

Here are a few bentos I have used them in:

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Buchimgae or Chijimi (Jijimi) with Kimchi

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Buchimgae or jijimi or chijimi is a thin, savory pancake from Korea. It’s similar to a Japanese okonomiyaki, but is a bit less complicated to make. (Also closely related is pajon, a pancake with lots of green onions.) It’s basically a pancake-like batter holding together a lot of vegetables and other ingredients. It’s a great way of using up leftovers, and holds up a lot better than okonomiyaki as a bento item I think. It makes a nice change from rice or bread based bentos.

Here are two batter recipes. One is a traditional one using wheat flour and beaten egg, the other one is a vegan and gluten-free variation. Use the one that suits your needs. The traditional one is a bit lighter and crispier, and the vegan one is denser. continue reading...

Shrimp Tatsutaage: Japanese Crispy Fried Shrimp

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These light and crispy shrimp are fairly low in calories, even though they are fried. You only need about 1 cm / 1/2 an inch of oil to fry these in a regular frying pan, so don’t be afraid to try them even if you don’t do much deep-frying. They are very easy to make with frozen shrimp, and just a bit more work with fresh shrimp. continue reading...

Vegan Mochi Tofu Nuggets

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I was inspired to make these little nuggets of vegan goodness by a recipe for mochi chicken that was posted in the forums by member SojoMojo. He says that mochi chicken is a common dish in Hawaii; he grew up eating them and now loves to use them in his bentos. (As I learn more about Hawaiian cuisine, I realize that it departs from Japanese cuisine in many interesting ways, even if many of its roots are in Japan.) The mochi flour, cornstarch and egg batter produces a coating that is hard and crispy on the outside, and soft and mochi-like on the inside. Chicken lovers should try his recipe for sure!

For this vegan variation, I’ve used kouya dofu, or free-dried tofu. See an indepth description of kouya dofu. You can find it in the dried goods section of a Japanese grocery store, and it should be pretty inexpensive. It keeps indefinitely in the pantry, making it a great item to stock. If you can’t get hold of kouya dofu, see the notes below about how to use regular tofu you’ve frozen yourself. I’ve also eliminated the egg from the coating, but the flavor-filled liquid in the pre-cooked tofu still produces a nice soft mochi-like interior.

As with all the vegan-protein recipes I post here, this tastes delicious to omnivores like myself too. As a matter of fact, when I packed a bento recently for the self-professed “bovo-vegetarian” in the house recently with these nuggets together with something meaty, he said he preferred these a lot more! continue reading...

Miso Tamago (Miso Marinated Eggs)

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Joining the list of delicious things to do with the humble hardboiled egg alongside soy sauce eggs and lazy easy tea eggs, are these delicately beige, utterly delicious eggs marinated in miso. They don’t have the burnished brown color of soy sauce eggs, but are just as, if not more, delicious. And they get tastier the longer you let them marinate.

They are very easy to make, if a bit messy. They last in the refrigerator for up to a week, so are a nice staple to have and eat over the course of a few days.

Good miso is expensive, so this recipe uses as little miso as possible while still doing the job. continue reading...

Very Easy Marinated Chicken Skewers

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The chicken recipes here on Just Bento are always very popular. And why not? Chicken is relatively inexpensive, cooks fast, and is fairly low-fat if you trim it judiciously.

This very simple Asian-fusionesque flavored marinated chicken breast recipe can be made without the skewers, but it’s just that much more fun, and somehow seems to taste better, if you put it on a stick. continue reading...