recipe

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...

Potato Oyaki and Sweet Potato and Carrot Oyaki

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Here is a reiteration of the popular Potato Oyaki filled with meat soboro, plus a variation oyaki using sweet potatoes and carrot, filled with ham and cheese - using Thanksgiving feast leftovers or not! continue reading...

Fun with sweet mochi and fruit "sushi"

To start off the weekend, here is a fun guest post from Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen, about making sushi that is not exactly what it seems to be!

This is not what you might think it is. Yes, it looks like sushi - almost too similar. But guess what? It’s mochi! It’s mochi with various fruit pieces posing as fish.

Mochi is surprisingly easy to make. You can actually make this dessert with kids, it’s so easy and fun. The nigiri are especially easy - just cut up various fruits into squares to put on top. Rolls are a bit trickier, but not impossible. continue reading...

Bento side: 3-minute omelette

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Well, I have finally delivered the first draft of my bento cookbook. There is still a lot of work to be done before the book will be ready for publication, but I am so relieved to clear this first hurdle at least. I was practically unable to think about any other recipes other than the ones destined to go in there for a long while, but now I can start thinking about new things for the site! (And yes, the book will have all new recipes and bentos, except for some basics. What’s the point of just copying recipes available online here, you know?)

Anyway, here is one of those barely-a-recipe ideas - yet another way to cook an egg. I make this when there is a spot to fill in a bento box, or as a late night snack. It literally comes together in 3 minutes, from breaking the egg to final result. It adds a bright spot of yellow with so little effort. Here I have mixed in some leftover chopped up green onion, but you can put in anything any number of things. I’ve tried furikake, some plain bonito flakes with a little soy sauce, bits of leftover meat or hamburger, canned tuna, mixed frozen vegetables straight from the freezer, and more. You can also leave it plain. continue reading...

Mini fruit fit for bento boxes

Mini fruit fit for bento boxes

I am not sure if it’s because I’m always on the lookout for things to go into bento boxes, or just a coincidence, but I have been seing more mini-fruits that are just right to tuck into the corner of a bento box lately. The photo above shows a couple of these: small yet still sweet figs, about 1 inch / 2 cm in diameter at their fattest point, and something that was being sold as mini kiwis (Debra of hapa bento saw them being sold as kiwi berries). They look like tiny kiwis when cut open, and taste like kiwis, but lack the hairy skins; they have smooth, totally edible skins. I’ve seen two kinds - ones that are a reddish-green on the outside and about the shape of an American football or rugby ball, and ones that are elongated, about the length of my thumb. They are very cute, though a bit expensive - but then you only need a few for a bento box. continue reading...

Sarah's Take On Mabo Dofu, A Classic Tofu and Meat Dish

This is a guest post from Sarah of Get Cooking, who’s back to share another great frugal recipe with us.

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Aonori seaweed isn’t a common garnish for mabo dofu but some people in my house like it that way.

I know this might be looking a bit too decadent to any lover of authentic Mabo Dofu, but, well, no Japanese dish stays very authentic in my hands for too long. Mabo Dofu, an originally Chinese dish popular in Japan, is meat (beef in this case) and tofu simmered in a red miso-ginger-garlic-chili sauce. Over the years, it has become a staple in my household. Like everything else I make regularly, the recipe changes slightly each time depending on what ingredients and condiments we have around.

The more I make and eat mabo dofu, the more I love it. I used to use sauce packets that you can find in many Asian groceries, but then I realized how much more easy, cheap, and tasty it was to make the sauce myself. While the list of ingredients looks long, it’s a very simple dish to prepare. After you have it once, you may even start adding some of the main ingredients to your fridge and pantry staples. Before this dish entered my life, I had an aversion to tofu. Having tofu in a dish where it is not meant as a substitute for something else changed my perspective on the protein completely. This is my favorite use for tofu.

Even though I did not grow up eating Japanese food, this dish tastes like home to me. The suppleness of the tofu, the chewy meatiness of the beef, the silky, salty, tanginess of the sauce that permeates all the other elements, coupled with the firm stickiness of the rice, and the cool crisp of the pickles I tuck in along side make this an adventure for the taste buds. 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...

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...