Bento no. 43: A low calorie, high fiber, tons of vegetables adjustment bento

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Bento contents:

Stir-fried noodles consisting of:

Total calories (approx): 245 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 10 minutes in the morning (can also be made ahead)

Type: Spicy Asian, vegan

I call this an adjustment bento - one I use to balance out some not-so-healthy eating. Perhaps you've splurged at restaurant the night before, or polished off a whole carton of ice cream while watching a weepy movie. This bento is for days when you want to really want to watch your calories as well as eat a lot of vegetables. Call it dieting, detox, or what you will. It's more interesting than a plain salad, and you won't feel like you are depriving yourself.

The key to this bento is to use as big a variety as you can of colorful vegetables for the noodles. Try to go for at least one from the deep green family, one from the light green family, and one from the bright red, yellow and orange family, and aim for at least 2 cups worth or more. It's a good chance to clear out your vegetable bin too.

The noodles are almost-zero-calorie shirataki or konnyaku noodles, which are described in depth here. They are basically all water and fiber, and help to make you feel full. You can use a whole packet if you like, which will make you feel very, very full, or half a pack. The straw or enoki mushrooms also add fiber and texture while contributing almost no calories.

For the protein part of the bento and for textural variety, I just microwaved some frozen shuumai dumplings. I used the vegan variety to keep this bento all-vegetable. If you use commercial frozen shuumai, calculate pork shuumai at around 60 calories per piece and shrimp shuumai at around 50 calories p.p.

Recipe: Stir-fried shirataki noodles with lots of vegetables

This is a variation on the Spicy Korean flavor noodles in Bento no. 3.

  • 2 cups or more of various colorful vegetables, cut into julienne or thin slivers
  • 1/2 to 1 packet shirataki noodles
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, finely julienned
  • 1 red chili pepper, finely julienned
  • 3-4 green onions, cut up
  • 1 packet enoki (straw) mushrooms
  • 1/2 Tbs. sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. ketchup

Boil up some water in an electric kettle (the fastest way to boil water - see Equipment.) Put the boiling water in a pan and add the drained shirataki noodles. Boil for 2 minutes and drain well. Optionally cut into shorter lengths. (Note: I've found a shirataki noodle brand that needs less boiling than the one I used previously to get rid of the slightly odd smell. You may need to boil yours a couple of minutes more or less.)

Heat up a wok or sauté pan. Add the sesame oil, ginger and half the green onions (the white and thicker parts). Add the vegetables and stir-fry. If the vegetables start sticking to the pan, add a tiny bit of water to loosen. Season with a little salt and pepper. With a very hot pan this should only take a few minutes.

Add the noodles to the vegetables. Add the soy sauce and ketchup, and toss well. Turn out onto a plate and let cool before packing into bento box.

I used a pretty deep bento box (more then 2 inches or 5 cm) for this. I felt very full after eating this bento, but very virtuous.

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Timeline

If you can cut up the vegetables the night before, you can really cut down on the morning prep time. You can also make the noodle dish the night before.

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