Bento no. 8: Leftovers bento with garlic chive blossom fried rice

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Bento contents:

  • Fried rice with ham, lentils and garlic chive blossoms (400cal, more or less depending on the fattiness of the ham)
  • Broccoli stem, celery, walnut, apple and carrot salad with lemon dressing (60 cal)

Total calories (approx): 460 cal (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15-20 minutes

Type: Japanese, leftovers yay

A regular bento maker relies heavily on leftovers. But there is no reason why they have to look boring or sad, or scream 'ich bin ein Leftover!' at you from your bento box. This bento is made almost entirely of leftover bits; the rice is left over from dinner so I didn't have to draw from my frozen rice stash), the ham and lentils were from a soup a couple of days ago (the lentils were Puy lentils so they stayed nice and firm in the soup) , and the broccoli stems are, naturally, left over after the florets were used up. Once they are peeled, they are perfectly edible, and add a nice crunch to any dish.

Garlic chive blossoms add flavor and color to the fried rice. If you can't get a hold of these (they are available at Chinese grocery stores) use garlic chives, regular chives, or green onion instead. I've kept the oil in the fried rice to a minimum - see the steps for how to do this. Lentils add a nice crunch and added fiber. You can easily make this vegetarian by using a veggie protein instead of the ham. Here's a closeup of the rice showing the pretty flowers. I love things like this that take no extra effort, yet make a dish immediately more attractive.

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This bento is quite quick to make since there are only two items. The main work involved is the chopping up, so if you can do that part the night before all the better.

Ingredients

Per person.

For the fried rice:

  • 1 cup brown or white rice
  • 1/4 cup cooked lentils, well drained
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cooked ham or other cooked meat (how about turkey?)
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • Handful of garlic chive blossoms, or about 1/2 cup chopped garlic chives, chives, or green onion (or a mix)
  • 1/2 Tbs. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • About 1/2 cup broccoli stems, peeled and cut into pieces
  • About 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
  • About 1/4 cup celery, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 small apple, not peeled, cored and cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 walnut halves, finely chopped

Equipment

  • 1 large nonstick frying pan or sauté pan
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 small saucepan
  • electric water kettle

Steps

  • Fill and switch on the kettle.
  • Peel and cut up the broccoli stems and carrot. Add to saucepan with boiling water and a pinch of salt.
  • Chop up the celery and apple. Toss with the lemon juice, mustard, salt and honey.
  • Chop up the ginger and ham.
  • Heat up the frying pan. Add the ginger and ham to the frying pan with a little boiling water. Sauté until the ginger is softened and the water is about gone. Add the sesame oil and the chive blossoms; sauté until the blossoms turn a bit limp. Add the rice and stir-fry, keeping a high heat, until the rice grains are turning a bit crispy. Add the lentils. Season with the soy sauce and salt and pepper (if needed - the lentils will add some peppery flavor and the ham may be salty enough, so taste first), tossing well. Take off the heat.
  • In the meantime, drain the carrot and broccoli stems. Refresh the hot vegetables and cool them down a bit under cold running water. Add them vegetables to the bowl with the apple and celery. Toss well. (The heat will make the uncooked veg a bit limp and amalgamate it nicely). Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  • Put the rice in the bento container. Let cool a few minutes.
  • Put the salad in the bento container. Sprinkle on top with the walnuts.

This is how the Guy's bento looks. It has 1 1/2 cups worth of rice in it, and more salad. I think it's about 700 calories in total. He said it was very filling.

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Timeline

As you can see, most of the work is for the chopping. Do this the night before if you can, while you're making dinner.

The salad can be made the night before or even further in advance. (It is in fact a variation of the 5-a-day honey lemon pickles, which keeps for several days in the fridge.) The fried rice will taste much better though if you make it in the morning.

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Tips for lower-fat fried rice

Normal fried rice is loaded with oil, which helps to separate the rice grains. Instead of glugging in the oil, use a very hot good non-stick pan or well seasoned wok to stir-fry, sauté everything before you add the rice using boiling water to cook through raw vegetables, and add oil sparingly, mainly for flavor. Here I only use about 1 tablespoon for 2 1/2 cups of rice (1 cup for me, 1 1/2 cups for the Guy). Not bad!