recipe

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...

Make your own instant miso soup balls

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In some respects I’m a typical Japanese person, since to me there’s nothing as soul-satisfying as a hot bowl of miso soup. At home we have miso soup at least a couple of times a week (see my week of miso soup series for some ideas.) Miso soup with a bento lunch is great too, especially at this time of year when you feel a bit chilly inside even if the roo is heated.

There are many kinds of convenient instant miso soup packs out there. I like to make my own ‘instant’ miso soup balls though. They are dead easy to make. All you need to do is combine about 1 to 2 teaspoonsful (for an average size miso soup bowl) with whatever ingredients you have on hand. All you need is a source of boiling water at lunchtime, which most offices have. Put the miso ball and ingredients in the bowl (or you can use a mug), add hot water, and let it sit for a few minutes while the ingredients expand and flavors amalgamate. This technique is often recommended in Japanese bento books with a healthy or macrobiotic focus, since instant miso soup mixes are often loaded with preservatives and MSG and so on. 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...

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...

Homemade furikake no. 1: Radish leaves, bonito flakes and tiny shrimp

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If you’ve been exploring the aisles of a Japanese grocery store or looking at bento recipes, you’ve probably encountered furikake already. Commercial furikake usually comes in small foil packets or glass jars, in all kinds of salty flavors. Furikake is a dry or semi-dry condiment that is sprinkled on, or mixed into, rice. David Rosengarten, ex-Food Network host and gourmet food expert, declares it to be a miracle in a jar. continue reading...