June 2009

All the content on this site by month.

Bento filler and staple: Sweet stewed haricot, navy or white beans (Ingen no nimame)


Nimame (煮豆 にまめ), or stewed beans, are a standby item for bentos. They are usually rather sweet, though not dessert-level sweet, and serve the purpose of a hashi yasume or "chopstick rest" (see anatomy of a Japanese meal), a little something that contrasts in flavor and texture from the rest of the bento.

While it takes rather long to cook these, like most bean dishes, this is a terrific staple item. The beans keep for at least a week in the refrigerator, and freeze well in small batches too. Tuck in a spoonful in any bento for something a little sweet, a little salty, and good for you.

You can make nimame with any kind of dried beans, but here I've specified white or navy beans, or haricot beans, which are widely available and inexpensive. You could use cannellini beans instead.

You'll notice that the only remotely exotic ingredient used here is soy sauce, so anyone can make this! Yes it's still authentically Japanese. (It's another one of my mom's recipes.)

Homemade furikake no. 11: Spicy radish leaves


This furikake may not even look like furikake, since it's wet, but it can be used in every way dry furikake can. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a week or so, or freeze it in small batches. And since it's using radish leaves (leftover from making radish pickles for example), it's very frugal and nutritious too. It's a vegan variation of the first furikake recipe I posted, and just as delicious.

One of the major online sources for bento boxes and other supplies, Ichiban Kan USA, will be closing their mailorder business down as soon as they sell out their existing stock. I contacted some other popular online bento supply sellers to see how they were doing in the current economy, and the good news is that they seem to be doing very well.

Bento filler: Green beans and aburaage (fried tofu skins)


I swear this site has not gone all vegetarian - I'll have some recipes for you omnivores soon! Still, now that the weather is so sunny and beautiful here, and with the abundance of great produce, it just seems easier to think up vegetable recipes. This one can be used as a filler or a vegan main in a bento, and is dead easy to make - and it just uses four ingredients! The main ones are fresh green beans and aburaage, deep fried tofu skins. No oil is added, since we utilize the residual oil on the aburaage instead. This dish keeps quite well in the refrigerator, so you can make a batch and use it throughout the week.

Quick onigiri tip: Show what's inside on the outside


Here is an ultra-quick and easy tip for how to identify the filling of an onigiri (rice ball) without having to crack it open.

Weekly Bento Planner and Menu Planner forms now available in German


The Weekly Bento Planner and Weekly Menu Planner with Bento printable forms have both been downloaded thousands of times. Now, they are available in German too, thanks to Antje. She has also offered to create other language versions too, if she is provided with the translations. So if you'd like to see the planner forms in your language, please download the original forms from their respective pages (Weekly Bento Planner link: Weekly Menu Planner with Bento link) and send in your translations to maki at makikoitoh dot com, and I will forward them to Antje.

Der Wochen-Mahlzeitsplaner und der Wochen-Bentoplaner, welche schon tausende male heruntergeladen wurden, sind nun in deutscher Sprache verfügar; vielen Dank, Antje!


  • Posted on: 5 June 2009
  • By: MitarashiDango
I haven't been bento-ing for soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo long thanks to lack of time management and assignments. As a result, I just eat whatever that comes across me and pile the weights back on :( So from tomorrow, I shall use bento-ing again to get myself back on track and take photos of what I eat ^^

It seems that British singer Lily Allen is going to Japan for a concert tour - and she wants bentos! Well, sort of. Earlier today, she Twittered that she "put a traditional school packed lunch contained in lunchbox" on her rider, and posted a couple of photos. I wonder if she asked for the pink Hello Kitty box. Click on the thumbnail pics to see a larger view:

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The large box contains some typically Japanese sandwiches. The round container is fruit yogurt (yoghurt for you Brits), and the square box is juice. Yep, they have Doritos (ドリトス) in Japan. Looks like they are giving her the メキシカン・タコス味 (Mexican Tacos Flavor).

It does look like whoever is supplying the lunches did go for the most Western version of a 'typical' Japanese school lunch though. If they were going for a typical schoolkid's bento lunch, where are the onigiri, the potato salad, the octopus wieners? :) She's sure to like the sandwiches though, since Japanese sandwiches are very similar to English tea sandwiches- soft white sliced bread with lots of butter and a thin layer of filling. (via chotda/santos)

Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled Radish

Freebie alert: I'm giving away a copy of the cookbook mentioned here, The Enlightened Kitchen, <a href=""http://www.justhungry.com/book-review-enlightened-kitchen-shojin-ryori-home-cooking">over on Just Hungry. Deadline is Sunday, June the 7th!

<img src="http://justbento.com/files/bento/images/lentil-2color-salad500.jpg" width="500" height="361" alt="lentil-2color-salad500.jpg" " />

Vegetarian Bento May is over, but I still have some bento-friendly vegan recipes to post! This one was inspired by two sources: Sarah's Curried Lentil Risotto, and a recipe for a lentil and mushroom salad in The Enlightened Kitchen, a great shojin ryori cookbook that I've just reviewed over on Just Hungry. The latter recipe uses both green and red lentils to come up with a bi-color effect that is very pretty, and that's what I wanted to emulate.

The first time I tried making this, I used hard, flinty green Puy lentils, and ran into a problem: they take about twice as long to cook as the red lentils, which are hulled. By the time the Puy lentils were cooked, the red lentils had disintegrated. On my second attempt, I just adjusted the cooking times, putting the Puy lentils in the boiling water first, then adding the red lentils later. That came out quite well. The Puy lentils remain al dente and firm, while the red lentils are quite soft and starchy.

The lentil salad recipe in the Enlightened Kitchen book called for curry powder, which is a standard spice in Japanese kitchens, but I used a mixture of Indian spices instead, which I think makes for more vibrant and exciting flavors. The last of my pickled radishes fit very well too.