Bento no. 25: A shoujin ryouri type vegan bento
- 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)
Shoujin ryouri （精進料理) is a type of vegan cuisine that was developed by Japanese Buddhist monks. It is based on a foundation of vegetables and rice, and various vegetable proteins. At its best it is a form of Japanese haute cuisine. I'm not a Buddhist monk or any kind of expert on shoujin ryouri, but the principles of shoujin ryouri have trickled down to home cooks in Japan. So, this is a shoujin ryouri type of vegan bento. As you can see, even with a little extra rice it's quite low calorie - only 310 calories for all you see. And it was quite filling.
Here's the Guy sized bento, which has 1 1/2 cups of rice and more of the 'vegan scallops' and the carrot kinpira. The total calorie count is around 420. The dedicated omnivore liked it a lot and found it quite filling.
In many shoujin ryouri meals, the protein comes from more than one item, and that's the case here. It's in the wheat gluten of the komachibu, the sesame seeds in the carrot kinpira, and in the mixed grain zakkokumai. You could use plain brown rice here instead of zakkokumai too.
The recipes for each component are in previous articles: carrot kinpira, blanched spinach, and panfried komachibu_ or dried wheat gluten (use the Japanese recipe, and cook the shiitake mushrooms with it too, even though I say it's better on its own! It's fine together too, and the shiitake is another texture to enjoy.) The last one is probably the most unfamiliar to most readers, but if you can get to a Japanese grocery please do give _fu a try as a vegan protein option (more about _fu_). It's not that expensive at all and keeps in the pantry forever since it's a dried food, and is pretty fun to use too.
Since the recipes are already given, here's the timeline, which assumes you'll be making everything in the morning. You can make everything it ahead if you prefer too. The carrot kinpira will keep for a couple of days, so you can make it in some quantity.
Shoujin ryouri and the bento box song
There's a song about putting together a bento box that children sing in Japan - Biggie at Lunch in a Box has written about it, complete with the motions you make while singing it! (When I was a kid we used to make gestures as though we had a HUGE bento box, and then stretch out our arms wide and make a patting motion with our hands as though we were making onigiri bigger than we were. We were greedy kids. :)) The contents of the bento box in the song are pretty much shoujin ryouri : rice, chopped up ginger, _gomashio_ or sesame salt, carrots, gobo (burdock root), renkon (lotus root), and stringy fuki (the stems of the butterbur plant, which are rather fibrous and bitter). The version I grew up with omitted the shiitake and sansho that's in the version Biggie wrote down, but both would fit into shoujin ryouri too. Though as kids, we found the austere menu presented in the song a bit too plain! Besides making huge onigiri, we'd dream up things we really wanted in the bento and change the song up. (karaage san, korokke san, ookina tamagoyakisan (chicken karaage, fried croquettes, a biiig tamagoyaki...)