asian-general

Travelling the world from your kitchen with bentos

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This is a guest post by Iliana (aka Mosaica), who blogs about her daily life at The Daily Mosaica.

In life I often find myself embracing contradictions, and with regard to planning and preparing bento lunches, it appears that I am, at least, consistent. At times I am purely focused on taking a given recipe, often a Japanese recipe, and rendering it as authentically as possible given the constraints of my semi-rural existence in Vermont, a small state in the northeast of the US.  For instance the bento from last week where I made inarizushi — this meal nourished me on a number of levels: it was completely delicious,  it tied into a fascinating bit of cultural history, and it expanded my culinary repertoire. While I do miss the days when I was more of a globe-trotter, I’ve come to really appreciate how traveling via recipes from far, far away can give real pleasure —to my nose and eyes and tastebuds, as well as to my intellectual bits.

On the other hand, I’m also a bit of a fiesty girl, and I like to kick up my heels, as it were, in the kitchen, and for me this manifests itself as a willingness to play with food, to be led by my nose, or intuition, or a gut feeling that mixing this with that might just be yummy. That’s what this post is about: Taking ingredients which are traditional in Japanese cuisine and dressing them up in flavors from around the globe: Tibet, Denmark, Africa, India, and beyond. In addition, if you start from a perspective of your own preferred ratio of carb to protein to veggies and fruit, I encourage you to include entirely new ingredients to add fresh flavor and interest to your bento meal. During the five weeks of the Bento Challenge, I was inspired to see how many of us were using foods and flavors from our own backyards to create delicious new twists on the bento theme. continue reading...

Buchimgae or Chijimi (Jijimi) with Kimchi

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Buchimgae or jijimi or chijimi is a thin, savory pancake from Korea. It’s similar to a Japanese okonomiyaki, but is a bit less complicated to make. (Also closely related is pajon, a pancake with lots of green onions.) It’s basically a pancake-like batter holding together a lot of vegetables and other ingredients. It’s a great way of using up leftovers, and holds up a lot better than okonomiyaki as a bento item I think. It makes a nice change from rice or bread based bentos.

Here are two batter recipes. One is a traditional one using wheat flour and beaten egg, the other one is a vegan and gluten-free variation. Use the one that suits your needs. The traditional one is a bit lighter and crispier, and the vegan one is denser. continue reading...

Bento no. 63: Chicken Skewer Back To Basics Bento

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Bento Contents:

  • 2 marinated chicken skewers using 60g / about 2 oz. chicken breast, 120 cal
  • About 1 cup/ 240ml zakkokumai (mixed-grain rice), 220 cal
  • One half of a large sweet bell pepper, sautéed, 50 cal
  • Asparagus spear tips, 10 cal

Total calories (approx): 400 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 10-15 minutes in the morning

Type: Simple ‘back to basics’ bento continue reading...

Very Easy Marinated Chicken Skewers

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The chicken recipes here on Just Bento are always very popular. And why not? Chicken is relatively inexpensive, cooks fast, and is fairly low-fat if you trim it judiciously.

This very simple Asian-fusionesque flavored marinated chicken breast recipe can be made without the skewers, but it’s just that much more fun, and somehow seems to taste better, if you put it on a stick. continue reading...

Vegan Turnip Cake or Daikon Radish Cake

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Turnip cake or daikon radish cake (law bock gaw in Cantonese, called daikon mochi (大根餅)in Japanese) is a staple of dim sum. It’s also part of the Chinese New Year feast. It is dense, a bit sticky, and very filling.

Traditionally it’s made from shredded white turnip, or more commonly from shredded daikon radish, rice flour, various shredded or chopped vegetables, plus dried shrimp, Chinese ham or bacon and/or sausage and so on, and it’s fried in lard. Given that it’s pretty good to eat hot or at room temperature, I tried making a vegan version, which could be the main protein in a vegan bento, or a combination protein-carb. I am pretty happy with the results.

I’ll show you two ways to make this. The first is the traditional method of putting the batter into a heatproof dish or mold and to steam it for about an hour, let it cool, and then slice the cake and fry the pieces. The second method omits the steaming stage and is a lot faster. Both methods yield little cakes that are dense, filling and mochi-like on the inside with a sweetness that comes from the shredded daikon radish, and crispy-salty on the outside.

It’s not exactly a quick recipe, though the second method is a lot faster. But you can make a lot of them at once and freeze the extras. Weekend project perhaps? continue reading...

Bento no. 43: A low calorie, high fiber, tons of vegetables adjustment bento

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Bento contents:

Stir-fried noodles consisting of:

Total calories (approx): 245 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 10 minutes in the morning (can also be made ahead)

Type: Spicy Asian, vegan continue reading...

Bento no. 22: Vegan bento with lotus root mini-cakes

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Bento contents:

  • Savory lotus root mini-cakes (approx. 150 cal)
  • Pan-roasted red pepper and leek with peanut sauce (approx: 200 cal)
  • Sweet chili jam (30 cal)
  • Cucumber wedges (5 cal)
  • Naval orange wedge (30 cal)

Total calories (approx): 415 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20-30 minutes total

Type: Asian-fusion, vegan, gluten-free continue reading...

Bento no. 3: Spicy Korean-flavor noodles under 300 calories, for the 'day after'

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(click image to see larger version)

Bento contents:

  • Shirataki noodles, 1/2 to 1 pack (5-10 calories or so!)
  • Firm tofu, 1/2 block (about 90-100g) (100 calories)
  • Kochujang (Korean red bean paste) based marinade (10 calories)
  • Vegetables of your choice - green onions, garlic chives, ginger, garlic, peppers, cabbage, spinach, etc, with sesame oil (150 calories approx.)
  • A small apple (50 calories)

Total calories (approx.) for the noodles only: 270 calories; including the apple: 320 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20 minutes

Type: Asian-fusion with mainly Korean flavors continue reading...