sides

Yuzu scented winter vegetable tsukemono (pickles)

winter-ichiyazuke.jpg

Here’s a super-easy tsukemono or Japanese style pickle that only takes about 10 minutes to prep. It makes a great bento vegetable or salad substitute. continue reading...

Bento filler: Parsnip kinpira

parsnip_kinpira_0.jpg

A classic Japanese vegetable side dish made with a very European vegetable. continue reading...

Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked vegetables

kurumimiso-veg.jpg

A delicious fall-like walnut-miso paste that makes any bland cooked vegetables taste great. It’s easy to make and stash in your refrigerator. continue reading...

Okara and crab salad

okarasalad-1.jpg

Here’s a super-easy recipe for a pretty healthy and versatile salad, using one of my favorite should-be-more-popular ingredients, okara. continue reading...

Bento filler: 3-color Spring Vegetable Namul with Crabstick

spring-veg-crabstick-salad.jpg

This is a very simple and quick vegetable side dish or filler for bentos, using vegetables available in the spring - new or spring cabbage, little carrots, and greens, with shredded crabstick or surimi. You could use shredded ham instead of the crabstick, splash out a bit and use real crabmeat, or just keep it all-vegetable. This is a namul, a Korean salad-like side dish. More about namul (and another namul recipe) here. The addition of a bit of vinegar is very unauthentic, but I think it enhances the flavors.

The most time consuming part of this recipe is shredding the vegetables. You can cheat and use pre-shredded carrots and cabbage, or use your food processor, if you’re not too handy with a knife. continue reading...

Budo Mame or Budoh Mame: Sweet-salty soy beans (Bento filler)

budomame1.jpg

There are many recipes for stewed or simmered beans in Japanese cooking, but this is one of the simplest, and I’m fairly sure, one of the oldest recipes in existence. It traditionally only uses three ingredients — soy beans, sugar and soy sauce — but I’ve added a little salt too since I like the saltiness to be a bit more assertive to balance the sweetness. The beans have a unique, chewy texture that is unlike any other bean dish I’ve ever had. The soy beans become almost caramelized, yet are not cloyingly sweet.

The name budo mame means ‘grape beans’. I’m not totally sure what it means, but it probably means that the beans take on a shiny appearance rather like grapes. They do indeed look like black grapes when made with black soy beans (kuromame), but here I’ve made them with regular white or light brown soy beans, which are a lot easier to get for most people.

Just a spoonful or so tucked into the corner of your bento box makes a nice change of pace, even a mini-dessert of sorts. And of course, it’s packed with protein. continue reading...

Bento filler and staple: Sweet stewed haricot, navy or white beans (Ingen no nimame)

nimame.jpg

Nimame (煮豆 にまめ), or stewed beans, are a standby item for bentos. They are usually rather sweet, though not dessert-level sweet, and serve the purpose of a hashi yasume or “chopstick rest” (see anatomy of a Japanese meal), a little something that contrasts in flavor and texture from the rest of the bento.

While it takes rather long to cook these, like most bean dishes, this is a terrific staple item. The beans keep for at least a week in the refrigerator, and freeze well in small batches too. Tuck in a spoonful in any bento for something a little sweet, a little salty, and good for you.

You can make nimame with any kind of dried beans, but here I’ve specified white or navy beans, or haricot beans, which are widely available and inexpensive. You could use cannellini beans instead.

You’ll notice that the only remotely exotic ingredient used here is soy sauce, so anyone can make this! Yes it’s still authentically Japanese. (It’s another one of my mom’s recipes.) continue reading...

Bento Filler: Orange Juice Carrots

orangecarrots1.jpg

What, yet another carrot recipe? Well I do like carrots, and they are so handy - available year-round, cheap, and long-lasting in the refrigerator. This one may not look like much, but it tastes very interesting - a little sweet, a little sour, just a little bitter, with an underlying heat. This was originally presented as a dessert in one of my Japanese cookbooks (but I can’t for the life of me remember which one); the original had I believe maple syrup and/or honey in it, which I have mostly omitted. Instead I’ve added salt and a little soy sauce. It makes a nice contrasting accent in a bento, like a salad. Cutting the carrot slices into odd shapes is strictly optional. continue reading...