A very Japanese spring vegetable bento
I'm catching up on posting bentos gradually! I was all set to feature this one as a Featured Complete Bento, with a calorie breakdown and so on, but realized I really couldn't since many of the ingredients are hard to obtain outside of Japan. (Newcomers to the site, take note: most of my full-featured bentos are mostly put together with everyday ingredients that you can get in most Western supermarkets, plus a few key Japanese ingredients on occasion.) So here it is as an also-ran bento. Note that while it is vegetable based except for the small piece of fish, classic dashi stock using bonito flakes (katsubushi) is used extensively. To make this a vegan bento you can leave out the fish and substitute a vegan dashi stock using only konbu seaweed with optional shiitake mushrooms if you prefer (go easy on the shiitake, otherwise it will overwhelm the delicate flavors of things like takenoko (bamboo shoot).
Starting with the rice and going clockwise, this bento has:
- Takenoko gohan - Rice cooked with steamed bamboo, with some store-bought nasu no shibazuke (eggplant pickled with red umeboshi vinegar)
- Some Tofu and vegetable piccata, which has quickly become a household favorite
- Below that, some blanched zenmai, or fiddlehead fern, and the tender tip of a bamboo shoot
- Blanched komatsuna greens with some chiremenjako (semi-dried tiny whitefish)
- Classic kinpira gobo, spicy sauteed bordock root
- A small piece of salt grilled fish (tai or sea bream)
There are lot of diffferent textures in this bento: crunchiness from the bamboo shoot and burdock, the slightly chewy (and bitter) fiddlehead fern, and so on. This adds a lot of interest to the bento, and makes you feel fuller too.
Again, this the kind of bento that is fairly simple to assemble in Japan, but pretty hard elsewhere - even with a well stocked Japanese market, but I hope it gives you some ideas for combining colors, textures, colors and flavors. (And I promise I'll post a much more universally doable bento next time!)
Just for eye candy, here is a purchased spring bento that I had in Kyoto back in April, also featuring takenoko gohan (bamboo shoot rice). Isn't it beautiful? Note that this has even more color, texture and taste variety in it. (Yep you can still get delicious and gorgeous food like this in Japan, just like always!)
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