Friday, September 05, 2008

September 5th Bento Lunch

It's funny because today's bento looks like I was being lazy, but really I put more effort into this one than I usually do.

I like to make yakiudon on Fridays because by Friday I'm starting to run short on bento ideas and produce, and it's kind of junky so I think it adds a bit of fun to BF's day too.
Last time I made fried noodles, I wasn't happy about how the lunch turned out as a whole. Two many of the foods were soy sauce based or fried, so overall, the lunch was too salty and one dimensional. This time I tried to correct that, and I think I did a good job. I spent quite a bit of time this morning mixing sauces and measuring out ingredients though.

For a salty, soy flavored dish, I made stewed konbu seaweed, on the right hand side of the bottom tier. This was one of those dishes that I thought I wouldn't enjoy since I don't care for fish flavours but I was proven wrong. It has a really mild flavour and the texture is really nice.

To prepare stewed konbu, you first rinse it off and let it soak in cold water until it softens up a little. I used 15 grams of seaweed and 3/4 cup of water and that made enough for three bento lunches. Once it's soft, add 2 tsp vinegar, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp mirin, 1 Tbsp sake and 1 Tbsp sugar and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the seaweed from the pot and cut into thin strips. Return it to the pot and boil for 3 more minutes. Drain.

Next, for the yakiudon, I made a light tasting sauce with ginger and lemon flavors. I mixed the following ingredients for the sauce:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sake

I sauteed some shredded cabbage, grated carrot and chopped green onion in canola oil for about 3 minutes, and then threw in some shredded cooked chicken thigh meat and the sauce and sauteed a little more. Lastly, I added the cooked noodles and sauteed until the noodles were coated in sauce.

It turned out delicious. One pack of udon noodles completely filled the top tier of the bento.

For a little more protein, I fried two pork shu mai in a nonstick pan. I omitted the oil since there was already a fried dish.

For some bite, I made a dressing for the asparagus by mixing white miso, mustard, a little white vinegar, sugar, nanami togarashi (Japanese chili powder) and salt. I adapted a recipe from the book Bento Boxes, Japanese Meals on the Go to come up with this combination. After the asparagus was steamed, I put the dressing on it (sparingly). The sauce has some serious bite to it! It worked really well, a bland but flavorful piece of asaparagus with a really sharp sauce.

There are, of course, some steamed broccoli and sugar snaps. And for fruit there are strawberries, blueberries and honey tangerine.

I really feel that with this one, I did an excellent job of coming up with lots of different flavours that compliment each other and create a balanced meal. It's balanced in terms of flavour, in terms of ratio of simple carbs to complex carbs to protein, in terms of fried foods to fresh/stewed foods and in terms of getting all the necessary nutrients/food groups in a single meal. Despite it's modest appearance, I think this is one of my best bento lunches yet.

And next time that I use these recipes, I'll be sure to make the sauces in advance in order to save time!


nobu said...

I think it is a very healthy bento.
I like Yaki-udon. your Yaki-udon looks delicious!!!!

Jacki said...

Thanks Nobu!

Ms. _____ 2 be ! said...

Blue berries is like your signature...heheh

Jacki said...

I love them! Delcious and full of antioxidants!

Ashley said...

You're awesome! I got the short end of the cooking talent stick in my family but I've been trying to make bento for my fiance for over a year now. How do you manage to find the time to make bento? Do you get up early? I usually make something simple that can cook itself while I'm taking a shower XD
Do you have any tips for a novice bento lover?

Jacki said...

Hi Ashley!

I think the two best tips I can give you are to be organized and to freeze all kinds of stuff.

I get up about half an hour earlier in the morning to make bento,and even if I have no idea what I'm going to make, I have onigiri, dumplings and cuts of fast fry meat in the freezer, and fresh fruit an veggies in the fridge, so I can always throw something together in a hurry.

I can just wake up, heat three frying pans (two with oil, one with water), defrost some meat in the microwave and fry it up (7 to 9 minutes), fry the dumplings from frozen in the second pan (7 to 9 minutes), steam vegetables in the third pan with water (4 to 5 minutes), microwave the onigiri to warm it back up (1 to 2 minutes) and cut the fruit while everything is cooking.

Filling the bento box just takes a couple of minutes on top of that.

On the weekend I'll usually give myself one task to do to replenish my freezer stash (like make a batch of onigiri or some mini squares for dessert).

If I feel like doing something fancy, like making sushi, I generally do that the night before. I also generally cook up any meat or mixed dishes (like noodles and curries) the night before so that in the morning, I only have to do a bare minimum of cooking and assembly.

For me, it's all about staying organized and making good use of your freezer. I hope that helps!