Monday, June 09, 2008

June 9th Bento

I found all kinds of new things at the grocery store this week, so I got to try some new foods in today's bento. And I learned a new way to cook - with banana leaves! They only had about six at the store. They're about two and a half feet long and about a foot wide, dark green and shiny. So today we had lemper!
Lemper is an Indonesian food that consists of coconut rice in banana leaves. Here's how I made it:

The night before, cook up some short grain white rice using two thirds coconut milk and one third water. Fried up some ground chicken with a pinch or two of curry powder and some chives, and when it's cooked, splash on a little lemon juice. Cut 5 inch squares of banana leaf and put 1 Tbsp rice in a rough sort of rectangle in the middle of the banana leaf and 1 Tbsp of the chicken mixture on top of that. Fold up the sides and tie with a small strip of banana leaf, and they're ready to go in the fridge. In the morning when making the bento, steam the lemper packets for 15 minutes (this is the longest time I've ever spent cooking anything for a bento by a long shot, but it was so worth it), remove from the steamer and let them cool for a bit before placing them in the bento. I stacked up two in mine.

This was without a doubt the best rice I've ever had in a bento. It was so moist and flavorful, just heavenly. And making them was fun. There's something about wrapping rice in leaves that feels really simple and wholesome. I have more banana leaf cooked foods planned for this week (we went back today and bought two more), so stay tuned!

Because of the small amount of rice, I packed in a whole bunch of sweet potato flowers (boiled with a little butter and cinnamon on them) for additional carbs. And because of the small amount of chicken, I packed two of the mini quiches BF made yesterday, and a couple of bites of cheddar for additional protein. There was some empty space so I threw in a couple leek dumplings.

For vegetables we have the usual broccoli, asparagus, sugar snaps and yellow zucchini. I found some new fruits though! In the bottom corner there is a fresh lychee. I had never tried these before. They have delicious flavour with a bizarre juicy-membrane like consistency. Sorry, that's best way I can think to describe it. Appetizing, right?

There are a couple of cherries next to that (they're down to $4.99 a pound so I've been eating a lot of these), and above that there red and white raspberries. I didn't even know white raspberries existed. Turns out they taste just like red ones, but I like the colour that they add to the bento. There are some blueberries and strawberries, and to finish it off, a cupcake from the batch this weekend.

Here's a diagonal shot too because I liked how the banana leaf looked in this one:


domifc said...

Hi jacki! It's domifc. I am so, so jealous of your bento today! Banana leaves with lemper? White raspberries? Fresh lychees? Where do you live, because that's where I'm moving! I'm still stuck with lychees from a can and I've never seen a banana leaf for sale in any supermarkets I've been in. I never even knew white raspberries existed either.

And now my mouth and drooling. Your cupcakes are amazing too. How do you make the matcha green tea icing?

Jacki said...

Hi domifc! I'm glad you like it :)

I actually don't live anywhere you'd expect to have exotic foods, I'm in Nova Scotia, Canada. I'm fortunate though, in that the nearest grocery store is actually a boutique-style place specializing in exotic, fresh produce. The stuff they carry changes all the time so I just grab whatever they have, whether I've tried it or not. This week I lucked out :)

The matcha frosting is a breeze! It's just buttercream icing that I've added some matcha green tea powder to (I think I ordered it from J-List). I'm thinking next I'll try adding matcha to the cupcakes themselves to see how that tastes.

Oh, I saw your cupcakes on the other forum, by the way. You are an amazing decorator! The robin's egg nests were just too cute.

domifc said...

Nova Scotia?! *jaw drop* I can't believe that you've got such a fancy supermarket over there. I live in an area with way too many asian grocery stores and while I do appreciate it sometimes (fresh lychees, yum!), I find it hard to find other items like fennel, fiddleheads, etc.

Oooh, I think I'm going to try your matcha frosting recipe this evening since my other plans were foiled. I'm gonna try them with devil's food cupcakes because that's what I've got hanging around. For your cupcakes, do you make them from scratch?

Jacki said...

mmmm, matcha and devil's food is soooo yummy. I recommend adding a little ball of red bean paste to each cupcake before baking them if you have some. I've tried it and it was awesome!

Most of the time I use a mix, but I'm trying to make them scratch more often. Do you make yours from scratch?

domifc said... bean paste sounds yummy! I'll have to find that somewhere. I think it's kind of funny that you can find all this Asian ingredients around town while I can't and 1/3 of the population in the town I live in is Asian!

For now I'm making cupcakes from a mix. It's good because if I have a couple of hours to kill I can whip up a batch of cupcakes, like tonight, before going out somewhere. I did try the matcha frosting...does your icing taste a lot like the green tea? Because mine does not...maybe I didn't use enough matcha powder? It sort of had a faint green tea taste but it was mostly the buttercream icing.

There was a website I stumbled upon that had recipes for the most amazing cupcakes flavours and now it just escapes me. There was a recipe for a plum sake-filled cupcake, or something like that. I will definitely have to try and remember the URL.

Jacki said...

I use about two heaping teaspoons of matcha for about 1lb of icing sugar (half of a bag) and it turns out to be a pretty strong green tea taste.

I think I know the blog you are talking about! Is it Cupcake Bake Shop? There are some amazing cupcake ideas there!