staples

Individual portion frozen shepherd's pies (or any kind of casserole dish)

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This is more of a tip than a recipe, but I’ve put it here because it’s a handy way of building up your bento freezer stash. When I make something that is baked in a casserole for dinner such as shepherd’s pie, I try to make a few individual portions in cupcake liners. continue reading...

Bento item of the week: Microwaveable no refrigeration needed rice

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This week’s bento item of the week is something that goes into a bento box for a change - microwaveable rice. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 9: Green tea

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We used to have a neighbor lady in Japan who came from Shizuoka, a major tea growing region. She used to say that at her parents’ house they used to eat tea leaves sprinkled with salt as a snack. At the time, the cynical kid that was me thought that sounded disgusting! But then I was recently surfing around some Japanese sites and stumbled upon the home page of a tea producer, who mentioned the same thing. They also said that they enjoyed tea as furikake.

The site didn’t have a recipe, but they mentioned putting in chirimenjako (tiny salted fish, which I used in the hijiki seaweed furikake) and sakuraebi (tiny dried shrimp), used in Furikake no. 1, radish leaves.) Both are dried or semi-dried products that are packed with umami, and are also high in calcium. You can get them at any Japanese grocery store, and very similar products are available at general Asian or Chinese stores too. In case you can’t get a hold of them though, I’ve given some variations below, including a vegan one.

The tea furikake definitely has the taste and fragrance of tea (with a hint of bitterness), enhanced by the umami of the other ingredients. It’s really very pleasant. Tea furikake is not available commercially as far as I know (at least not outside of Japan). And if drinking the extract of tea leaves is so healthy, surely eating tea leaves has to be as good, if not better! continue reading...

Basic meat and tofu mixture for mini-burgers, meatballs and more

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I spent about an hour on Sunday making and cooking up a big batch of a basic burger mixture. The mix is very versatile, so I made four different things from it. Now I have enough mini-burgers, meatballs and more in my freezer for at least 20 or more bento portions. It was an hour well spent! I love just knowing that my freezer has a nice stock of ready-to-go bento items - it takes the pressure off considerably on busy mornings. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 8: Hijiki and chirimenjako (tiny tiny fish)

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I’m cheating a bit here since this recipe has been featured already on Just Hungry. But it did get rather buried in a general article about seaweed, so here it is again in the Homemade Furikake series.

This combines hijiki, which is full of fiber and minerals, with chirimenjako, tiny little whole salted fish. You can find both at Japanese grocery stores, and Chinese grocery stores carry something similar. Since they are whole fish, they are full of calcium, and also pack a lot of umami. Many Japanese people are lactose intolerant, so they get their calcium by eating things like chirimenjako. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 7: Salmon furikake (or Sake flakes)

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Is this salmon (sake) furikake? Or is it salmon (sake) flakes? Or maybe it’s even salmon soboro. Whatever you call it, it’s finely flaked salmon that you can sprinkle onto plain rice, use as an onigiri filling, or on ochazuke. You could fold it into egg for a salmon omelette, on boiled vegetables…whatever your imagination can come up with.

Salmon flakes are often sold in jars that cost around $8 for about 150g. You can make it yourself for less than $3, depending on how expensive the salmon is. You can be even more frugal and use the little bits that are stuck on the bones when you filet a whole salmon. This is probably how fish soboro or flakes or furikake was invented in the first place. continue reading...

Basic meat soboro, a great bento staple

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A soboro is rather like furikake, except that it’s moister. It’s used like furikake in many situations - sprinkled onto rice, folded into other things like eggs, and more. Soboro can be made of ground meat, flaked fish (though fish soboro is often called oboro instead), or egg (egg soboro is often called iri tamago, just to keep you confused!) Meat soboro (niku soboro) keeps for about a week in the refrigerator, and freezes beautifully, making it a great bento johbisai or staple for the omnivore. continue reading...

Stewed hijiki seaweed with carrots and fried tofu

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This is a very classic Japanese staple dish. More often than not, I have some variation of it in my refrigerator. The base is hijiki seaweed, which is soaked and reconstituted then cooked in dashi with various other ingredients that give it flavor. It’s great to add to a bento box.

This version has carrots and fried tofu in it. Cutting them into fancy shapes is totally optional, but it does make your bentos a bit more fun.

I’ve used me-hijiki for this but you can use the regular long branch hijiki too. continue reading...