Bento no. 22: Vegan bento with lotus root mini-cakes

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Bento contents:

  • Savory lotus root mini-cakes (approx. 150 cal)
  • Pan-roasted red pepper and leek with peanut sauce (approx: 200 cal)
  • Sweet chili jam (30 cal)
  • Cucumber wedges (5 cal)
  • Naval orange wedge (30 cal)

Total calories (approx): 415 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20-30 minutes total

Type: Asian-fusion, vegan, gluten-free

The return of Hello Kitty Head bento box! I like to use this box when I want to keep things totally separate. Ms. Kitty Head first appeared as Bento no. 6.

I do like my little cake-like things that I can grab with one hand to eat. (See Bentos no. 10 and no. 17 for past examples.) I think they add a nice option to the usual rice or bread based bento. This time the little cake things are made of grated lotus root. They have an interesting mochi-like texture to them, which could be bland and heavy on its own, but is livened up by the addition of a lot of chopped coriander and green onion. The spiciness of the chili jam used as a dipping sauce livens them up too. They're an interesting starch alternative for a bento, in any case.

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To keep this bento vegan, I slow-pan-cooked some sweet red pepper and leeks, then mixed them with some peanut sauce. If you can, try to find a chunky peanut butter with no sugar added, or make your own with roasted peanuts and a food processor. This is because the slow-cooked vegetables turn quite sweet on their own, so adding sweetened peanut butter makes them rather too sweet.

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The other ingredients are quite simple: cut-up and deseeded cucumber with a little salt sprinkled on, a wedge of an orange, and a spoonful of chili jam.

You can make both the lotus root cakes and the vegetable dish in advance. The cakes freeze very nicely, and you can defrost them over a medium-low heat in a dry pan with a lid on.

The recipe for the lotus root cakes is on Just Hungry. They take about 5 minutes to prepare, and 10 minutes or so to cook.

Recipe: Slowly pan roasted red pepper and leek with peanut sauce

This makes enough for two bentos.

  • About an 8-9 inch or 20-25 cm length of the white part of a leek, outer tough layer peeled off
  • 1 large red pepper
  • A little oil for the pan
  • 2 Tbs. chunky peanut butter
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. miso (white is prefered)
  • 1 Tbs. sake or sherry (you can use water instead)
  • Water if needed to thin it out

Cut the leek into slices about 1/2 inch / 1 cm thick. Cut the red pepper into chunks (after de-seeding etc.), and flatten out any very curvy ones by smooshing them lightly with your hands.

Heat up a large frying pan or griddle. Drizzle with a little oil. Put the vegetables in one layer in the pan. Let them cook slowly without moving them about, until they are just a bit charred on the bottom. Turn over and repeat with the other side. Cooking vegetables like this really brings out the sweetness in them. It takes about 10 minutes on one side and 5 on the other. The vegetables should be fairly limp when you're done.

In the meantime, make the peanut sauce by combining the other ingredients. Mix in with the vegetables. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To make the peanut sauce spicy, use Korean kochujang (described in this post) instead of miso.

You can optionally put this in a toaster oven to brown a bit on top, which will make it crunchy.

Since there are only two main items in this bento, I'm skipping the timeline. You may find it more convenient to make one or both in advance, but if you make them together, start the vegetables slow-roasting first and prep the lotus root cakes in the meantime.