A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

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I’m catching up on posting bentos gradually! I was all set to feature this one as a Featured Complete Bento, with a calorie breakdown and so on, but realized I really couldn’t since many of the ingredients are hard to obtain outside of Japan. (Newcomers to the site, take note: most of my full-featured bentos are mostly put together with everyday ingredients that you can get in most Western supermarkets, plus a few key Japanese ingredients on occasion.) So here it is as an also-ran bento. Note that while it is vegetable based except for the small piece of fish, classic dashi stock using bonito flakes (katsubushi) is used extensively. To make this a vegan bento you can leave out the fish and substitute a vegan dashi stock using only konbu seaweed with optional shiitake mushrooms if you prefer (go easy on the shiitake, otherwise it will overwhelm the delicate flavors of things like takenoko (bamboo shoot).

Starting with the rice and going clockwise, this bento has:

  • Takenoko gohan - Rice cooked with steamed bamboo, with some store-bought nasu no shibazuke (eggplant pickled with red umeboshi vinegar)
  • Some Tofu and vegetable piccata, which has quickly become a household favorite
  • Below that, some blanched zenmai, or fiddlehead fern, and the tender tip of a bamboo shoot
  • Blanched komatsuna greens with some chiremenjako (semi-dried tiny whitefish)
  • Classic kinpira gobo, spicy sauteed bordock root
  • A small piece of salt grilled fish (tai or sea bream)

There are lot of diffferent textures in this bento: crunchiness from the bamboo shoot and burdock, the slightly chewy (and bitter) fiddlehead fern, and so on. This adds a lot of interest to the bento, and makes you feel fuller too.

Again, this the kind of bento that is fairly simple to assemble in Japan, but pretty hard elsewhere - even with a well stocked Japanese market, but I hope it gives you some ideas for combining colors, textures, colors and flavors. (And I promise I’ll post a much more universally doable bento next time!)

Just for eye candy, here is a purchased spring bento that I had in Kyoto back in April, also featuring takenoko gohan (bamboo shoot rice). Isn’t it beautiful? Note that this has even more color, texture and taste variety in it. (Yep you can still get delicious and gorgeous food like this in Japan, just like always!)

Spring bento (storebought)

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Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

Good heavens, that looks amazingly delicious. YUM.

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

Yay! I'm really happy to see new posts on the site! Both bentos look lovely. I should try to buy some of those spring veggies, since I am in Japan right now. Maki, are you still in Japan? I'm in Akita, and I'm having a really good time! I'm so glad I didn't listen to everyone telling me not to go, because I'm having the time of my life and my Japanese is getting really good. At the end of the semester, I'll be going to Kyoto. I haven't bought any bento boxes yet, but I'm planning on it. Maybe some magewappa since I'm in Akita.

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

Hi Kyandasu! I'm so glad you made it to Japan after all! ^__^ I am still in Japan for another couple of weeks, doing family stuff in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Have fun!

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

Hi Kyandasu! I'm so glad you made it to Japan after all! ^__^ I am still in Japan for another couple of weeks, doing family stuff in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Have fun!

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

This looks so beautiful!Thank you for posting!!~(=^‥^)/。・:*:・゚★,。・:*:・゚☆ ありがとニャ!

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

I just got your book this morning!!! I cant wait to try your recipes :) XOXO from Mexico

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

I love it when you post food/bento/store photos from Japan. More, more, more, please! They bring back so many memories. Domo arigato!

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

About the zenmai: I have fiddleheads growing right next to the house. We missed fiddlehead season this year due to illness, but I would love to try cooking them Japanese style next year if you could point me to a recipe.

We also have burdock, as weeds and also for sale in the store--I think they're the same plant!--as well as something called Japanese false bamboo, which is treated purely as an invasive weed, although I think it's a spring vegetable in Japan--? Anyway, people keep trying to kill it wherever they find it, but it keeps coming back!

Are dandelions traditionally part of Japanese cuisine? Do you have a species of Epilobium (fireweed or willow-herb)?

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

Everything looks delicious in there.
That bamboo rice looks very tasty and pretty simple - I was wondering, do you need fresh bamboo for it? I think I have some canned bamboo shoots in the cupboard and I was wondering if that would work?

Re: A very Japanese spring vegetable bento

That looks lovely!

Maki, I had my first experience at a cool Japanese market here in the US (Mitsuwa Marketplace http://www.mitsuwa.com/english/index.html) and was completely overwhelmed with the interesting stuff. Do you know of anyone who's written something up on how to tell what's good and bad at a market? Or just...how to tell what I'm looking for? ::grins:: Those mochi were good that I bought, but I'd like to get more things like miso, sushi supplies, Japanese vegetables, etc.

My husband and I had a lot of fun there but it was hard to tell what to look at where. We had some interesting samples, looked at Japanese books, and came out with some green tea flavored mochis.

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