Bento no. 17: Potato oyaki bento with wakame sunomono


Bento contents:

  • 3 potato oyaki filled with beef soboro (300 cal)
  • Cucumber and wakame sunomono (20cal)
  • Lettuce garnish (negligible)

Total calories (approx): 320 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15-20 minutes in the morning, 20-30 previously

Type: Japanese, Potato based, gluten-free

An oyaki (お焼き)is a flat dumpling or bun that is grilled or pan-fried on both sides. It can be filled with a savory or sweet filling, or left plain. The dough part can be made of anything that can formed into a sort of dough - rice or rice flour, wheat or buckwheat. Quite often it's made with leftovers. It's a homey little snack that is made quite commonly in Japanese homes. It also appears in some regions as a roadside snack.

These particular oyaki are made with mashed potatoes. The dough part is rather similar to Italian gnocchi dough. They're filled with savory meat soboro, pan fried in a little sesame oil, and brushed with a bit of soy sauce. They taste great at room temperature or hot, and are very filling. Each oyaki only has 1/4 cup of plain mashed potatoes, less than a teaspoonful of corn or potato starch, and a teaspoonful of meat mixture, plus a scant amount of oil on the outside, coming out to around 100 calories or so. (If you make them bigger they'll be more of course, and vice versa.)

The perfect time to make this dough is when you are making mashed potatoes for dinner. Just cook a couple of extra potatoes, take out two cups of mash before you add the milk and butter and so on, and add the potato or corn starch. You can make the oyaki then and there, or make them in the morning with that dough.

Accompanying the oyaki is a classic cucumber and wakame sunomono, which is very low calorie since the 'dressing' has no oil. So this bento totals only 320 calories. It makes a nice alternative to rice or bread based bentos.

Here's the 'man-size' version, which has 5 oyaki and the same amount of sunomono. Still only 520 calories, and quite filling, as the eater attests to. (He actually just had 4, and ate the last one as an afternoon snack.)


(Note: I have tweaked the recipe a little and reposted it here. )

Ingredients - Potato Oyaki

This makes 8 oyaki.

  • 2 cups (approx. 440ml) plain mashed potatoes (no milk, butter, etc.) that have been cooked in salted water
  • 4 Tbs. potato starch or cornstarch (if you are gluten-intolerant choose a gluten-free version)
  • 8 heaping tsp. or so of meat soboro or other savory filling
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce

Ingredients - Cucumber and wakame sunomono

For two portions.

  • 1 seedless cucumber
  • About 4 Tbs. dried wakame seaweed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar


I find it works best to make the oyaki first, and then deal with the sunomono while the oyaki are cooking.


The night before or so you should have made the potato dough by mixing the potato starch or cornstarch in the hot mashed potatoes until smooth. In the morning, take out the cooled mass and knead it a bit, and divide it into 8 pieces. (If you make the potato dough in the morning, allow an additional 30 minutes including cooking, mashing and cooling time.)

Round and flatten each piece on your palm. Put 1 heaping teaspoonful of soboro in the middle. Gather the dough over the filling, then make a flat little cake. (The dough is very easy to manipulate so this doesn't take much time). In the meantime, heat up a large non-stick frying pan.

Drizzle a little bit of sesame oil in the pan, then put in the formed oyaki. Cook until browned underneath, then turn. Brush the cooked side with a little soy sauce using a brush or drizzle on a bit with a spoon. Turn once more and brush the other side with soy sauce.

Remove from pan and let cool before packing into bento box.


Before you start on the oyaki, soak the wakame in cold water.

Once the oyaki are cooking, slice the cucumber. A mandoline, plastic cutter, or food processor help a lot here.

Put the cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle on the salt. Massage the cucumber to soften and extract its juices.

Drain the wakame well and squeeze out. Do the same with the cucumber.

Mix both together. Add vinegar and sugar, and mix well.


This assumes that you have the soboro filling and the oyaki dough made ahead, which is really the most efficient way to go.


Oyaki filling alternatives

  • The miso, tahini and nut paste, with the amount of chopped nuts doubled, is a very nice filling. Use just one teaspoonful (not a heaping teaspoonful).
  • Any kind of chopped and well seasoned vegetables make a good filling.
  • Shredded cheese makes a nice filling too. Cook until the cheese has melted (it may ooze out a bit).
  • Whenever I make gyoza dumplings I always end up with leftover filling. That filling is good for oyaki too. Just cook the oyaki a few minutes longer to allow the filling to cook through.
  • For a less Japanese tasting oyaki, use chopped up leftover meatloaf, and brush the surface with ketchup or steak sauce.

Make-ahead oyaki

Completed oyaki can be frozen quite successfully.

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