Bento no. 72: Sakura Love Kyoto-style Barazushi Bento

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Bento contents:

Total calories (approx): 635 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15 minutes the night before; 15 minutes in the morning

Type: Traditional Japanese with a twist

In the Kanto (Tokyo metropolitan) area where I’m from, barazushi usually means a sort of chirashizushi, with chopped up raw maguro (tuna) or sometimes other fish on top of a bed of sushi rice. (Incidentally, the type of sushi that is popular around the world is based on Edo-mae, or old Tokyo style, sushi.) This is a set lunch I had at a small sushi restaurant in Yokohama, which included a small bowl of barazushi, Tokyo style, with maguro, ika (squid) and other things:

Barazushi lunch set for 600 yen

Raw fish is obviously not a good choice for a bento you’re going to eat some hours after it’s been made. Enter Kyoto-style barazushi. Kyoto does not have direct access to the sea, so traditional Kyoto cuisine does not use raw fish that often. Kyoto style sushi usually just uses cooked or preserved ingredients. For example, a famous type of Kyoto sushi is mushizushi, or steamed sushi. Here’s a mushizushi steamer going at full blast.

Mushi zushi (steamed sushi) steamer

Here is a simple Kyoto style barazushi that I had in a department store restaurant in Kyoto. It’s made up of sushi rice layered with a gingery fish soboro, topped with kinshi tamago or finely shredded Usuyaki Tamago (very thin omelette or egg crêpe), with green peas and sliced kamaboko on top for added color. There were chunks of stewed dried shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoot in the rice too. Simple yet complicated, and really good!

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This Kyoto-style barazushi was my inspiration for the main part of the bento. I used brown rice instead of white, with a little rice vinegar mixed in (I didn’t add sugar or salt to the rice, since there’s enough of both in the other components of this bento). It’s layered on top with Tuna Soboro with Ginger - much easier to make than the original fish soboro - and then decorated the top with Homemade Sakura Denbu and kinshi tamago, or shredded Usuyaki Tamago. My greenery is blanched and cut up snowpeas. I started out just sprinkling the sakura denbu on top of the tuna randomly, but it sort of turned into an abstract expression of cherry trees along a river bed or something like that. (One of my favorite entries in the Spring Bento Contest was this simple yet lovely depiction of the cherry trees in Washington DC, which was on my mind when I made this bento.

The other container has some 3 Color Spring Vegetable Namul with Crabstick, topped with a few slices of “Instant” radish pickles made with some really large and colorful radishes with that amazing rose-pink interior.

Timeline

I have not posted a bento timeline in ages - but it’s back! Almost all the components are made in advance, except the snowpeas (since they lose color if you blanch them too far in advance) and maybe the egg. Then all you do is assemble everything in the morning. To save time, just throw the toppings on the rice - or be very meticulous and decorative. It’s up to you! The namul is just tossed into the other container. Incidentally, I added the leftover shredded egg to the namul. (Click on the timeline image for a bigger view.)

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Before and after

I thought it might be fun to show how this bento looks after it’s been packed, carried around for some hours, then opened up to eat. (It would be interesting to see how some charaben look after some hours in a backpack…) Here’s how the barazushi part looked like before the lid went on…

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…and this is how it looks, some time after - smooshed! I think it still looks quite okay though, and the flavor certainly wasn’t affected.

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Here’s the barazushi with a bite taken out, so you can see the layers:

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The box I used

Since this is a cherry-blossom bento, I used a cherry-blossom themed bento box that I bought in Japan. This is a fairly large 2-tier box, with 900 ml in total or 450ml per tier. I kept the calorie count down by filling one compartment with the fairly low-calorie vegetable namul. Still, this bento was really very filling!

Sakura bento box and matching chopsticks case

The box is made in Japan, by a company called Sabu Hiromori, and is part of their “Sakura Saku” series which includes two sizes of bento boxes, single onigiri boxes and drawstring bags (kinchaku) in three colors. I bought this box and the chopsticks box set at Tokyu Hands. It’s microwave and dishwasher safe except for the inner plastic lids, as is the case with most bento boxes of this quality and type.I’ve not seen this series carried by any of the usual international online stores yet, but I’m sure someone will sooner or later. :P

(And by the way, since I get so many questions about what box I used for a particular bento, I will post a picture of the box with every featured bento from now on, with as many details as I can provide.)

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3 comments

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Re: Bento no. 72: Sakura Love Kyoto-style Barazushi Bento

This bento looks so pretty! (Smooshed or not!) I also love the box you used, because I think my bento box is too small for my appetite. I probably couldn't eat both tiers, but it would be better than by current bento box which is pretty small. I think the vegetable namul looks really tasty, as does everything else, except I don't like cooked fish. Do you have any ideas what I could make for the barazushi other than fish that might provide the same texture? Vegetarian would be nice. If not, it's okay, I can just center my bento around the namul.
Very pretty and tasty looking!

Re: Bento no. 72: Sakura Love Kyoto-style Barazushi Bento

Just as I thought that I don't have time to try the fluffy fish recipe this weekend you come up with a quick alternative one, thanks! :)
I didn't realise how much I missed the bento recipes until now! You've been posting so much other great stuff from Japan.
I wonder if one could use beetroot juice (you'd probably just need a tiny drop so it might not affect the flavor) to color sakura denbu?
Tab

Re: Bento no. 72: Sakura Love Kyoto-style Barazushi Bento

I did try beetroot juice, but for some reason the color wasn't taken in by the fish at all without making a wet mess. Now, if I had some concentrated beetroot powder or something it may have worked...but I didn't, so I resorted to using food coloring. The fish almost seem to suck up color like a sponge!

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