Friday, September 26, 2008

September 26th Bento Lunch

I've had a bunch of early morning dentist appointments this week, so I haven't been around to make bento lunches. Poor BF has been eating food court food. Today I was home though so he got a home packed lunch.

On my trip to the grocery store yesterday, it seemed that the store had transitioned overnight from light summer foods to autumn foods. What immediately caught my eye was a bin of fresh chestnuts. When I got home, I went through my Japanese cookbooks for a chestnut recipe. In Japanese Cooking - A Simple Art, I found a recipe for chestnut rice (kuri gohan) that was described as "as autumnal in Japan as pumpkin pie is in America". BF is allergic to pumpkin pie, so I immediately wanted to make this in the hopes that it it would be a nice fall food for him although I made it in onigiri form rather than served hot.

To prepare the chestnuts, they should be soaked for two hours to soften the shell. The shell can then be cut off and the inner layer of skin can then be removed from the nut. It's a painstaking process to peel off the inner layer, but it removes any bitterness.

I made the rice by combining 3/4 cup rice, 5 chestnuts cut into sixths and 1/4 tsp salt in the rice cooker. The onigiri is filled with a little lotus seed white bean paste.

For protein there are some breaded pork strips that have been fried in a little oil as well as two gyoza.

The vegetables include steamed broccoli, asparagus and sugar snaps, as well as julienned carrot that has been fried in a little sesame oil and wrapped into bundles with chives.

For the first time in months, I couldn't get my hands on any blueberries. I think this may be the very first bento lunch I've ever made without them. I lucked out though because they had miniature kiwis instead which are about the same size. They're called grape kiwis and they don't have furry skin so you don't have to peel them. I like to cut them in half so that you can see the seeds inside.

I also included a few raspberries and slices of a pepino melon, which is a small melon (about the size of pear) with a thin rind that can either be peeled or eaten. In this case I left it on to protect the dumplings from the moisture of the fruit.

For dessert I included half of a dorayaki pancake sandwich (recipe is here) although it was probably overkill given that I also packed a dozen cupcakes up to take with him. I'll post pictures of them as soon as I get the recipe typed up.


nobu said...

I like kuri-gohan too.
It is also good to gril surface of chestnuts befor cook them, If you like aroma.

Jacki said...

Thanks for the suggestions Nobu! I will try that next time

Anonymous said...

I've never made a bento box before but you have inspired me to try. My boyfriend loves all things Japanese and is overseas with the army at the moment, so I'd love to surprise him with my new found bento skills when he gets back. Do you have suggestions for starting out?

Jacki said...

Hi Delicieux!

That's great! There's not a whole lot you need to do to get started with the basics. First find a bento box or even a tupperware container that's the right size (around 750ml for an average grown man). If you can pick up the book "Bento Boxes, Japanese Meals on the Go" there are some great recipes in there that are delcious and fast to make.

You can form onigiri rice balls using plastic wrap, just by putting a pile of hot rice in the middle of the plastic wrap, bring the sides of the wrap up and twisting it tightly.

Other than that, it's just a matter of cooking up a source of protein (I usually do this the night before) and a couple of other dishes (maybe some dumplings and a small salad for example). Fill any gaps with whatever produce you have on hand!

There are some great resources online as well. I would suggest checking out or for some tutorials.

I hope this helps!