Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Bentoing

Sorry, no recipe for the ramen yet. I'll try to push him on it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm living with my boyfriend now and working a new job. Now that I share my dinners with another person, I very rarely have leftovers, especially if he's cooking because Japanese food never has leftovers. My new job also has a much longer commute than before, from 15 minutes by car to 1 hour by bike, train, and foot. But I wouldn't trade that for anything. I love using public transportation! I've lost some much needed weight, I can relax, catch up on Democracy Now! and Vegan Freak podcasts, and my company pays for it all! Anyway, I swear I'm going somewhere with this...So all these things combine lead to me not having any time in the morning to throw together a lunch nor leftovers to eat, so I have to be very diligent about making a bento everyday for myself and more recently I also make one for the boy (he makes dinner, I do bentos).
If you remember a while back, I posted about bentos and how I make Japanese housewives cry with my bento making skills. Well, I've gotten a bit better. They still aren't the crazy-on-crack bentos you've probably seen. I don't make any cute shapes out of any of my food, I don't use decorated plastic dividers to separate the food, and I don't cut my seaweed out to make faces on the rice. My bentos are focused on getting a full, nutrient packed bento.

I thought I would show you a bunch of them so that you can feel inspired to make your own.


This was one of the first ones I made. It included fresh blueberries, black beans taco filling (I think), corn with sesame seeds and sesame oil, white bean hummus, gyoza with soy sauce in the little animal bottle, and fresh carrots. On a side note, my coworkers freaked out when I was eating the raw carrots. Japanese people DO NOT eat carrots or very many other vegetables raw. They were shocked that you CAN eat them raw.

A bento from the same week. As you can see, I'm still eating the fresh blueberries and carrots with sesame, in between them is the black bean taco filling as well as taco seasoned seitan, more of the white bean hummus, and roasted eggplants. I had raw carrots and cucumbers in a separate container.

This bento included some leftover yakisoba, canned fruit, sliced aburage, and a big salad with the little blue animal dressing. That day I also brought a separate container of roasted red pepper hummus and carrots.

This bento included marinated and fried shiitake, fu and green peppers in an ankake sauce, broad beans with chopped umeboshi and a bit of soy sauce and mirin, marinated red cabbage, and koyadofu prepared to be like minced chicken over rice.









This bento had more of the red cabbage, a few cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant, cucumbers with umeboshi, and a big thing of yakisoba.









This one was boiled cabbage, roasted eggplant, breaded and fried tofu, tomato and red onion salad, soba noodles in a peanut sauce (I reheated them at work), and snap peas.

Starting in the back is half a chickpea cutlet, piece of koyadofu, cucumber and umeboshi salad, boiled and steamed vegetables, boiled pumpkin, roasted potatoes, and rice with shiokombu (salted kombu seaweed). The bento is sitting on one of the cloths I use to wrap my bentos. They are called furoshiki, but this one is just an old handkerchief.


A very Japanese bento containing, strawberries, stir fried veggies, boiled pumpkin, steamed carrot, fried kabu (turnip), spinach with sesame, then rice with sesame and seaweed furikake.



Look at our bentos in love! haha!

Just some notes on how I prepared the bentos...I use reusable silicone cups to separate the foods, usually people just use disposable foil cups. I also use 2 kinds of sauce containers; the little animal ones that can only hold sauces with no seasonings (they don't come back out), and one that I unfortunately don't have picture, but it's bigger holds any kind of sauce or dressing and squirts them out like a ketchup bottle.

For the recipes, I use a few books. This one and this one are in Japanese, but great, simple, and quick recipes. For foreign recipes I use a bunch of different books. American style recipes often make enough for a whole meal and leftovers, so when I make one of these recipes it can last me the whole week by putting a few things in each day. For examples, the roasted potatoes, chickpea cutlets, and breaded tofu were from the Vegemonicon. The hummus recipes were from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan.

I also said that Japanese feminine bentos were a little small for my liking. And this is true in some ways. The bento you're seeing here is a pretty standard one and it leaves me satisfied and then starting to get hungry by the time I get home for dinner, so I usually want to eat dinner by about 6. I could definitely eat more and some days I take a small container with fruit or my rice or a salad. But this bento is also good for portion control, it doesn't let me overeat at lunch, but gives me just enough to keep me going through the day. I also recently realized that I'm supposed to be putting the rice in the black part on the bottom and the other foods on the top. So I imagine that way may leave you fuller, but I have no interest in eating that much rice. Plus my divider cups don't even fit in the top part with the lid on. But Japanese people love their rice.

So overall I'm happy with my bento. I may consider buying one a little bigger like the blue one above, but it just requires me to make so many foods. I spend at least a little time each night preparing 1 or 2 bento foods that will last me at least a few days, so the foods are constantly rotating. It's much more tiring than I would like it to be, but I don't have much choice. I have to wake up at 530 to get ready for work (and I am NOT waking up earlier to make a bento), I get home at 530 and need to be in bed around 10 to really function. So I just feel like my nights are really short and I'm just repeating the same routine every night: eat, cook, clean, watch a show, shower, sleep. I guess this is what it's like to be an adult. I can not fathom how people do all this and have kids or get to the gym. It seems shocking to me right now.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed a tour through my lunches. I'll have more to show in the future.

--Pamela

9 comments:

herbivore said...

oishi! The yakisoba looks especially good.

Less than one month before Japan! I think I am going to have to get a cute bento box while I am there.. even though I don't ever go anywhere that requires me to bring a lunch.

I probably won't be making it to Milwaukee.. but I am planning on spending a good chunk of next summer somewhere in Japan. Hopefully I will get to meet you!

Penny said...

so very cute! I gotta get back into bento-ing...

Mihl said...

I rarely use my bento box. Thank you for all the inspiration. Your meals look so good, I need to grab the boy and start cooking.

meg said...

Your bentos are awesome! I've always been 'thinking' of making bentos for lunch but the thought of having to get up extra earlier just kills me. How do you prepare your rice by the way? That's my biggest worry that it may not be 'fresh' if I make it the night before. Any tips would be appreciated. So good to see another vegetarian doing bentos for lunch :)

vincent said...

Hello,


We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM YUM.
We would like to add it to the Petitchef.com.

We would be delighted if you could add your blog to Petitchef so that our users can, as us,
enjoy your recipes.

Petitchef is a french based Cooking recipes Portal. Several hundred Blogs are already members
and benefit from their exposure on Petitchef.com.

To add your site to the Petitchef family you can use http://en.petitchef.com/?obj=front&action=site_ajout_form or just go to Petitchef.com and click on "Add your site"

Best regards,

Vincent
petitchef.com

Vegan Japan said...

Brilliant ... Vegan Society of Japan.

Jade Is Green! said...

I feel so slack that it has taken me this long to comment back but thanks so much for your kind words on my cupcakes and I'm glad the recipe was of help to you.

Your bento boxes look really great and I'm super impressed that you're doing the vegan thing in Japan. I've known lots of friends/bands that have travelled to or through and it's always the same complaint that they've spend half their time scouring the city for something vegan.

Myself and my boyfriend are actually going to Japan for 2 weeks at the beginning of next year so any tips on places we could eat would be super appreciated!

Keep up the great work!
Jade

Laurie said...

These bentos are awesome, thank you! I took down a lot of your ideas for my own lunches--when I pack my own, it's always one dish of mish mash.

I cannot tell you how inspiring this blog is. I visited Tokyo in August and only got perhaps a B- in finding food. It was a lot more difficult that I expected, and I ate a lot of ume onigiri. When I return in January, I am going to get some proper vegan food, no matter what. ;)

Pamela & Sarah said...

Meg-sorry I totally missed your comment, if for some reason you check back here, I use a rice cooker and add my rice fresh in the morning. You just have to add it a bit before you leave. Well, I guess you don't have to...I think making the rice the night before would be fine, just let it cool fully before adding to the bento. Another idea would be making big batches of rice and storing them in the freezer in smaller bags, then just take out a bag in the morning and add it to your bento, you can heat it in the morning or just let it defrost in your bento and microwave it for a bit at lunch for some warm rice.

Laurie- Get in touch with us if you have more questions or time to meet up! We're always up for a meet up if we have the time. We live in Shiga (next to Kyoto) and Osaka, respectively.