Tiffin Tuesday - Not quite Japanese

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Posted by Petra Hildebrandt

Whenever I have to explain the concept of bento boxes to people who have never heard of them, the obvious explanation is: it is a Japanese lunchbox. And the next question, inevitably, is: isn't Japanese cuisine terribly complicated for Westerners? Well, not quite... and most of my lunchboxes are anything but filled with Japanese foods. However, I adapted a few (easy) Japanese ideas for this lunch:

As Biggie pointed out last week, a lunch box doesn't have to be filled with the equivalent of a buffet-style meal to be satisfying, but nonetheless some variety adds to the fun as much as to the nutritional value. So let me delve a little into bento philosophy.

In an ideal world, a bento should employ the principle of goshiki (five colors - typically red/orange, black/purple/brown, white, yellow and green), and even better, goho, or five cooking methods - such as grilling, frying, simmering, steaming, pickling and boiling (I've added "raw" to my personal list of choices). By doing this, you will vary the textures throughout your meal, too. You don't have to pack Japanese foods to do this, though.

So in my not quite Japanese lunch above, I packed

  • not quite zaru soba - about half a bundle of soba noodles (available as 100% buckwheat or with a little wheat flour added. The wheat soba can be boiled, the buckwheat-only variety nees to be steamed). I boiled the soba the night before packing the lunch. The dipping sauce in the Winnie-the-Pooh container consists of equal parts of mirin, soy, black bean garlic sauce and sesame paste - a little goes a long way. In the morning while packing I added a few scallion slivers to the soba.
  • not quite tonkatsu - one of the dishes I call "double duty cooking". We had sesame fried pork chops for dinner, so I used one of the boneless chops, cut it into thin strips, and breaded them with a sesame crust (flour, egg, and half panko crumbs half sesame seeds) . They were fried at the same time as our dinner pork chops - this works nicely with chicken tenders, too, probably even with tofu.
To add a little crunch and freshness (and color), I packed a few (organic) cucumber strips to munch on. Cutting the scallions and cucumber (and removing the stone from the red plums in the second tier) takes about 2 minutes, if you did the cooking the night before, so this is done and packed easily even in a hurry.

The "snack" tier features an instant coffee drink (I never buy these, they somehow appear in my life via promotion teams strolling the city, or via mail) and an organic chocolate biscuit bar, plus a handful of almonds as a quick protein-and-fat snack, two red plums and a few mini chocolates. Apple optional :-)

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This Post was written by Petra from Foodfreak


I've started cooking extra things too so that I had good things for my bento. I love having a good johbisai (stash) built up!

Cyndi said...
February 6, 2008 at 12:14:00 AM GMT+1  

I saw soba? That, enough will make me love the bento :)

tigerfish said...
February 6, 2008 at 1:15:00 PM GMT+1  

Looks great!

Meg Wolff said...
February 8, 2008 at 3:59:00 PM GMT+1  

I love the idea of bento boxes and the concept of goshiki and goho for the food.

Is it possible to find bento boxes in regular stores?

February 8, 2008 at 5:00:00 PM GMT+1  

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