Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bento, anyone?

Okay, loyal followers, occasional readers, and long time lurkers, I need your input! I've been giving serious thought to making bento lunches for myself and want to know if any of you have experience in that department. I'd read a little about them a year or two ago but had pretty much forgotten about the concept until my friend Tracey and I started a Twitter discussion about them. Now I'm obsessed!

I admit I find the entire concept to be a little odd but it also seems like it would be fun and interesting so I'm game. I don't have a bento box yet but tonight I just had to get in the kitchen and play in an attempt to grasp some of the ideas. I ended up using a Gladeware container and cupcake papers to make my faux bento lunch for tomorrow. Yes, I took pictures and no, I won't post them. It's embarrassing they're so pitiful! But hey, I'm trying...

I found this great website, My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch, and it's basically bento for dummies. In fact, I found it by Googling 'bento for dummies'. Ha! It has photos, recipes, and basic information that even a simpleton like me can understand. And here's a video about crafting a bento.

But I'd really like to hear from any of you who have done the bento thing. I'd like to know about your experiences, especially if you made the lunches for yourself or another adult rather than a child. I told Tracey I can't see myself taking Hello Kitty rice balls to work and she said she takes Hello Kitty stuff all the time! Okay, so maybe I can work some kawaii stuff in there but really I'm going for healthy, low carb, and easy to eat. And I think bento is one way to help me stay on track with lunch at work.

Thanks for any ideas or comments!


Tracey said...

Some ideas I employ for bento:

#1 I save bites of food and freeze them in small containers in the freezer. Square works great since I can fill in a square box with square sized food...make sense? This uses up EVERYTHING! which saves at least a little money and still fills up a box. I especially like this since I can eat something later on if I have gotten tired of it as a leftover.

#2 Although I do sometimes use paper cups, especially for Sean's lunches, I mostly use leftover lettuce and cabbage leaves. The ones that can't be eaten serve great as cups plus they add that "look" while serving as a divider.

#3 I sometimes hide the uglier food under a layer of something more eye appealing.

#4 I rely on tamagoyaki (rolled egg omelet) a lot since it is simple to make and is a great protein while looking totally bento.

You do not have to add sugar to this and you can use a small touch of fish sauce from the store as a substitute for dashi.

CookinsForMe said...

Tracey, I read on a bento site about saving every bite of leftover food so I'll start doing that. I have lots of small containers to save food in but most people apparently just put food in the bento box as they're cleaning up after a meal. I can do that. Lettuce and cabbage leaves - what a great idea! I'd rather do that, especially if the leaves are still edible as it cuts down on waste.
The tamagoyaki sounds very good and I love eggs, just not for breakfast early in the morning. What is mirin? And what is fish sauce? I imagine that's available around here but am not sure.

Green Tea & Kimchee said...

You can skip the mirin, it is a sweet cooking wine. I always add a few drops of fish sauce, you can usually buy it at the asian section of a supermarket but you can also skip it. It doesn't matter too much which ethnic version, you will see Thai, Philipino and so on. Soy sauce is a must, and a little bit of something for sweet is nice but some of my friends make it sweet and others barely sweet. It is to taste but without soy sauce and the sweet it really just tastes like scrambled eggs.

My friends tell me the sauces are added not only for flavor, the sauces help keep the eggs good until they are consumed.

A quick and easy recipe you could make with ingredients on hand already is just 1 egg, 2 tsp sugar, sweetner, or honey (honey burns easy though), 1/2 tsp soy sauce all mixed together. You can just cook it in one layer and roll it up if you want. My neighbor just uses a small shallow pan and she cubes it without rolling it. I like to roll mine. Before I got a sushi mat I would roll it in same wrap and then tightly roll it in a dishcloth and chill it in the fridge before I sliced it. It's pretty easy and nice to have on hand. It is one of Sean's favorite foods.

I am going to send some instant dashi with the box, you can reconstitute it for the fish sauce flavor and try it before you invest in it, in case you don't care for it.