Bento no. 5: Black bean burger and mushroom rice vegan bento

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Bento contents:

  • Vegan mushroom rice, with 1 cup white rice (190 calories)
  • Black bean mini burgers with tomato sauce, using about 3/4 cups black beans (250 calories)
  • Instant radish pickles (5 calories)
  • Blanched spinach (20 calories)

Total calories (approx.) 465 calories (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 30 minutes total (20 the night before, 10 in the morning)

Type: Japanese vegan

At first glance this traditional sho-jin ryo-ri (vegan cuisine created by Zen Buddhist monks) inspired bento may look a bit complicated. It does takes a little more time to prepare, but you can (and should) do most things the night before or earlier, so you just need a few minutes to assemble everything in the morning. You can make the bean burgers a couple of days in advance, and just heat them through in the morning. The mushroom rice should be made the day before at earliest, or frozen. 30 minutes is really the maximum time it should all take, presuming you make both the burgers and rice the night before.

Everything here is low-fat, vegan and gluten free (with some precautions - see the bean burger recipe), yet it's very filling and I think quite tasty.

I've given the complete recipes for the mushroom rice and the black bean burgers on Just Hungry, with instructions for the instant radish pickles and assembling the whole bento here.

Ingredients

Per person:

  • 4 to 6 black bean mini-burgers
  • 1 cup vegan mushroom rice
  • 2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 4-5 radishes, or equivalent amount of daikon radish, or a mix
  • 1 tsp. Anardana (pomegranate) powder
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. salt
  • A little red pickled ginger (beni sho-ga) for decoration, optional

Equipment

  • 1 small frying pan
  • rice cooker
  • bowl for the pickles
  • pan to blanch the spinach

Steps - the night before or earlier

  • Make the black bean burgers. You can form them into patties and finish cooking them in the morning, or cook them off and then re-heat them in the morning.
  • Make the mushroom rice, or make it ready to cook in the rice cooker, and set the timer so it's done in the morning.
  • Wash and blanch the spinach in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible, into a sort of log shape. Wrap well in plastic.
  • Make the pickles: slice the radishes very thinly (a mandoline helps here). Sprinkle with the anardana powder and the salt, and massage well with your hands until the radish slices are limp. Cover well.

Steps - in the morning

  • Put the hot rice in the bento box, and let cool.
  • Crisp up the patties in a hot pan with a little oil. Let cool a bit before putting into the bento box. (It is always a good idea to re-heat pre-cooked food before putting into the bento box.)
  • Drain the radish pickles, and put in a bento seperator cup or in a piece of plastic wrap. (I prefer the plastic wrap since I can twist it closed, and well, it's cheap.) Put in the bento box.
  • Cut the spinach log into bite-size pieces. Put in the bento box.
  • Put the patties in the bento box. Sprinkle a little red pickled ginger (beni sho-ga) if desired.

Timeline

I've given the timelines in two parts: one for the night before, and one for the morning. I've assumed in the Night Before timeline that you will be making both the rice and the bean burgers, but as I've described above you can do one or both further in advance. What I like to do is to have some of the mushroom rice for dinner, and the rest in the bento boxes.

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The larger view timelines are split into two: the night before, and in the morning.

Notes

Anardana powder is made from dried pomegranate seeds. It has a very interesting, slightly sour, almost salty flavor. You can get it at Indian or South Asian grocery stores.

You can also use an instant tsukemono (pickling) powder available from Japanese grocery stores, or use my homemade instant tsukemono powder. Or, just use salt (a nice sea salt would be good), and add a squeeze of lemon or lime.

Red pickled ginger or beni sho-ga is available at Japanese grocery stores. It's mainly added for the bright color here. That red is artificial coloring, so you can omit it if you want to keep this all-natural.

I used white rice for the mushroom rice instead of brown, since I think the recipe worked better with white. There's more than enough fiber in the bento as a whole.

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