johbisai

Bento filler staple: Walnut miso paste for cooked vegetables

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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...

Sweet pepper and carrot confetti

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I am calling this colorful dish confetti, because it’s not quite assertively flavored enough to call it furikake. It is sort of a no-sugar (low-carb) and much lower calorie variation of Cooked to Death Hot and Sweet Peppers, though I have made the hot peppers optional. Even with no added sugar or sweetener, I think the natural sweetness of the vegetables comes through nicely. It’s a really useful vegetable side dish, to just pack on the side or sprinkle on top of rice or other things. You could also fold in a spoonful into tamagoyaki to make it really colorful. It can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen. continue reading...

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

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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...

Torihamu or Homemade Chicken "Ham"

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Torihamu (鶏ハム)or chicken ham is a recipe that was born and made popular on the internet. It was first popularized around 2001 or 2002, on an extremely popular and often wild and woolly Japanese community/forum site called 2ch or 2-channel (2ちゃんねる), sometime in 2001 or 2002.

Torihamu is a method of cooking chicken breast meat so that it supposedly resembles ham. Nowadays torihamu has entered the mainstream of Japanese culture; there are many recipes for it in regular cookbooks, and the (very mainstream) Cookpad community cooking site has (as of April 2013) nearly 1250 recipes for making torihamu or where torihamu is a main feature

I didn't try making torihamu for a long time, since I was skeptical that it would actually manage to turn low-fat, bland and often dry chicken breast meat into something ham-like. But I've been experimenting with different methods proposed on the Japanese internets, and am now convinced that it's well worthwhile making, especially for bento lovers. It is low in fat, has no chemical preservatives, and really lengthens the refrigerator shelf life of chicken. There's not much difference time and effort wise between making one or several, so it's really best to make a batch and freeze the extras. I make some when there is a sale on chicken breasts. continue reading...

Stewed winter vegetables with kouya dofu (freeze dried tofu)

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Salads and such are fine in the warm months, but now that it’s cold outside here in the northern hemisphere, I tend to prefer cooked vegetables. This homey stewed vegetable dish is rather typical of Japanese ‘mom’s cooking’ - seasonal vegetables all cooked together in a dashi based broth. (I know that green beans are not exactly seasonal, but they are added just for the color; use any green vegetable instead.) It does take a while to assemble and cook, but once you have a big potful it lasts for a few days, so it’s a great refrigerator stock dish.

I’ve tried to use ‘ordinary’, non-exotic vegetables as much as possible, but I did add a little lotus root since it adds visual flair as well as a nice crunchy texture. This is a one-pot meal due to the addition of potatoes for carbs, and meaty-textured kouya dofu or freeze dried tofu (for which you can substitute extra-firm tofu or even chicken pieces) for protein. You can just pack this into a bento box on its own, or accompany it with rice and pickles. continue reading...

Making your own frozen kabocha squash, plus a simple recipe for simmered kabocha squash

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It’s the best time of the year to stock up on your own frozen kabocha squash; here’s how to do it. Plus, an easy to remember recipe for classic simmered kabocha squash. continue reading...

How to: Freezing pre-portioned rice

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From the archives: This is a foundation post for anyone interested in Japanese style bentos based around rice. Edited and updated to reflect some safety related questions. Be sure to read the linked bento safety posts too. Originally posted in October 2007.

Rice is the base carbohydrate for most Japanese style bento lunches, but the idea of cooking rice fresh every day may be rather daunting. If you have a rice cooker with a timer that can be set so that the rice is ready when you want to make your bento it is easier (and recommended if you make bentos daily). Of course this does mean that you need to rinse the rice the night before.

While I prefer to wash the rice the night before and set the timer on my rice cooker, I often freeze pre-portioned packets of rice to use on extra busy mornings. Rice freezes very well if you make sure that it’s still warm when you wrap up the portions. This retains the necessary moisture inside the plastic. It’s also a good idea to use sturdy, microwaveable wrap such as Saran Wrap. continue reading...

Miso, tahini and nut paste for broiled or baked root vegetables

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From the archives. This is a terrific vegan condiment of sorts, that can be used as described here on top of vegetables and roasted, or even as an onigiri filling. Originally published in January 2008.

I’m always looking out for interesting vegan sources of protein, and I think this one is really a winner. It’s a rich paste that contains miso, walnuts, and tahini - three great protein-rich foods. But never mind the nutrition aspect - it tastes terrific! Even the confirmed omnivore in our house loves it. It is a wonderful topping for firm, sweet root vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash, turnips and so on. I’ve used it as a topping for carrots here. It looks rather meaty in a bento box, and is quite filling too. continue reading...