johbisai

Lazy easy tea eggs

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This is a sort of short-term storage staple. It only keeps in the refrigerator for about 3 or 4 days, but you can make them at any time and they are handy for filling a corner of a bento box.

There are many more complicated recipes for tea eggs, a traditional Chinese recipe. The boiled eggs are usually meant to be kept in the tea-based marinade with their shells on, carefully cracked all around so that a lovely marble pattern is revealed when the eggs are peeled.

My method is way simpler, and is motivated by the fact that I don’t really want to be fiddling around with peeling eggs in the morning. Since the eggs are totally peeled, the marinade will penetrate it faster and deeper, so you can start using them just an hour after you’ve put them in the liquid if you like. continue reading...

Sweet pepper and onion confit

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This colorful, healthy yet tasty all-vegetable mixture is a great refrigerator staple for using in your bentos, and is very adaptable. Depending on the flavors you can add later, it can taste Italian, Japanese, Chinese, or whatever suits your needs.

It’s a mixture of thinly siiced onions, sweet peppers and a little garlic, sautéed over a fairly low heat until it’s quite limp. It’s only seasoned with salt, so that it’s fairly neutral. You can then turn it more Mediterranean by adding some basil and oregano for example, or Japanese by adding soy sauce, or add some oyster sauce. continue reading...

And while we're at it...what are your favorite bento staples?

instant tsukemono mixI mentioned a few bento-oriented staples to keep around in my previous post about maintaining variety in your bentos. I’ve just done a quick look around my kitchen, and here are the things I have stocked as staples that I bought or made with future bentos in mind, besides the things I’ve mentioned already.

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Getting started with bento making: Variety and saving money

A main reason many people like to, or want to, make bento lunches is for more variety, to save money, and to have some fun too. In my mind these aspects are quite interconnected.

There are three sources for filling your bento box. One is food that you make specifically for it, usually in the morning or perhaps the night before. The second is leftovers from other meals. The third is with stock or staple items (aka johbisai). The key to keeping a good variety in your bento meals is to use all three sources in in a smart way. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 4: Spicy curry peanut

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Warning: This furikake is very dangerous. It is so more-ish that you might find yourself putting spoonfuls of it directly in your mouth. To prevent this, I recommend making it a tad spicier than you might be comfortable with eating it on its own, so it will not disappear before you can use it on your rice. The spicy-salty-sweet taste, coupled with the interesting textures of the peanuts and the seeds, is quite hard to resist.

It’s the least Japanese-tasting furikake so far perhaps, but it fits plain white or brown rice very well. It is not exactly low-calorie, but a tablespoon or so goes quite a long way to spice up things. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 3: Noritama

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Noritama is one of the most popular flavors of furikake available commercially. Nori means the seaweed that’s used as a sushi roll or onigiri wrapper, and tama is short for tamago, or egg. The base, which gives the most flavor to the furikake, is bonito flakes or katsuobushi.

Surprisingly perhaps, noritama is one of the more fiddly furikake to make at home, though it’s by no means difficult. But I like to make it occasionally anyway becase I find commercial noritama to be a bit too salty. This version is lower on salt, so you can pile it on your rice if you want to. Naturally it’s free of any preservatives, MSG, or what have you. It’s also a lot cheaper than the commercial versions, even if you have to pay premium prices for the bonito flakes and nori as I do. continue reading...

How to: Homemade shio kombu or kombu no tsukudani

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Kombu, the leathery seaweed that is used to make dashi stock, is packed full of umami. A traditional way to prepare it is as shiokombu (salty kombu) or kombu no tsukudani. Tsukudani is a method of cooking something with soy sauce, sake and/or mirin, and sugar until it’s very dark, quite salty and sweet too. It’s a preserving method, since the salt and sugar greatly increase the keeping qualities of the food.

Kombu no tsukudani can be tucked into the corner of a bento box to add a little variety. It’s also a good onigiri filling. Properly made and stored in the refrigerator, it keeps almost forever. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 2: Carrot and sesame seeds

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Carrots are a staple of just about everyone’s fridge I think. They are really good for you, but it can be rather hard to find different ways of eating them. This sweet, savory and spicy furikake uses up whole carrots as well as bits of carrot left over from other uses. Plenty of sesame seeds are added for flavor and texture - and they’re not bad for you either. The warm, brown-orange color perks up a dull looking bento, especially on white rice. continue reading...