asian pantry bento

20 02 2012

today was the end of a leisurely, three-day weekend, thanks to the president’s day public holiday.  because of the extra day, i finally got to shoot a bento in sunlight, something i rarely get to do as i typically make my lunches at night.  what a treat!  this bento is comprised primarily from asian ingredients i stock in my pantry.  calorie info and recipes (if they can be called that) below.

if you aren’t familiar with the korean term namul, it really just means a prepared vegetable dish.  when you eat at a korean restaurant and sample the delicious banchan (the assortment of small, complimentary dishes laid out before your meal), there will always be several namul in there; the seasoned veggies that form at least part of the toppings for the common dish bibimbap are also namul.  typical namul are sesame spinach, pickled cucumber, and sesame bean sprouts (kong namul).   a new favorite namul for me is this gobo namul, which i ate at my mother-in-law’s home over the christmas break and finally had a chance to make myself over the weekend.  gobo is burdock root, a traditional ingredient in several asian cuisines.   here is the basic recipe for this version, but you could apply this method to a different vegetable of your choice.

gobo namul (makes about six 1/2-cup servings)

  • just under a pound of julienned burdock root or a burdock/carrot mix– i purchased a 15-ounce bag produced by wel-pac from the frozen aisle in my japanese grocer, but there are several manufacturers who produce a very similar item
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. gochugaru (korean red chili flakes)
  1. defrost the gobo.
  2. in a large sautee pan or wok over medium heat, combine the gobo with the 1/4 cup soy sauce, as well as 1/4 cup water.  simmer this mixture, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. with your spatula/spoon, move the gobo to the outside of the pan, so that the center of the pan is clear.  add the sesame oil and the minced garlic, and move the garlic around until lightly browned.
  4. stir the entire contents of the pot until the garlic and oil are evenly distributed throughout the gobo.  continue to cook the gobo for a one to two minutes, stirring constantly, until individual pieces are slightly toasted and the rest of the liquid has evaporated or been absorbed.
  5. turn the heat off and add the vinegar, mixing thoroughly once more.

because i’m watching my calories, i need to be sure that when i’m eating rice — which we all need sometimes, as it’s one of the most comforting foods ever! — it’s really doing something for my body.  this mild, nutty mix has iron, as well as some protein thanks to the cannellinis.  however, it isn’t as aggressively “beany” as full-on korean kongbap, which makes it a more versatile accompaniment.

protein-packed bento rice (makes about six 1/2-cup servings)

  • 3/4 cup jasmine rice
  • 3/4 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 1/3 cup dried white kidney or cannellini beans
  • for garnish, divided amongst the servings: 6 tsp. furikake of your choice (i used a lovely yuzu-flavored one here) and 6 tbsp. kizami shoga
  1. either combine rices and beans with 2 1/2 cups of water in an electric ricemaker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, or combine rices and beans with 3 cups water in a covered saucepan, bringing to a boil and then reducing heat to low simmer for 35-40 minutes until tender.
  2. top each serving with the furikake and pickled ginger.
  3. serve hot or store in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 days.

— ♥ —

this bento has a serving each of the rice mix and the gobo namul, with a pickled lotus root slice from the fridge, and a few steamed snap peas for green color.  not pictured is a packet of instant miso that i’ll add hot water to for a warming and savory addition to the meal — i just threw this on top of the food before closing the box.  these tiny (approx. 2 inch by 1 inch) packets are shelf-stable and super convenient; i like the marukome brand and keep a sleeve of these in my desk at work.

here’s the nutritional breakdown for the whole lunch:

  • 1 serving of gobo namul, 101 calories (4.5 g. fat [0.6 g. saturated, 1.9 g. poly, 1.8 g. mono], 621 mg. sodium, 33.8 mg. potassium, 13.3 carbs [0.8 g. fiber, 0.4 g. sugar], 64.6% vitamin C, 4% iron)
  • 1 serving of rice mix (fluffed and packed loosely in the box, rather than pressed down into a compact cake like i used to!), 223 calories including furikake/ginger topping (0.9 g. fat, 470 mg. sodium, 40. g. carbs [1.9 g. fiber], 8.1 g. protein, 8.3% iron)
  • 1 lotus pickle chip, 6 calories (25 mg. sodium, 32.3 mg. potassium, 1.4 g. carbs [0.3 g. fiber, 0.4 g. sugar], 4.1% vitamin C)
  • 3 oz. steamed snap peas, 35 calories (110 mg. potassium, 6 g. carbs [2 g. fiber, 3 g. sugar], 2 g. protein, 20% vitamin A, 80% vitamin C, 4% calcium, 10% iron)
  • 1 packet of instant miso, 30 calories (0.5 g. fat, 670 mg. sodium, 4 g. carbs [1 g. fiber, 1 g. sugar], 2 g. protein)

TOTAL: 395 calories — just under the wire!



17 responses

20 02 2012

Gorgeous and energizing bento! The richly coral-colored pickled ginger adds delightful vivid punch…great meal to face Tuesday with! Have a great week, megan 😀

21 02 2012

thanks jenn! hope you had a lovely long weekend and are getting your own energized start on the week 🙂

20 02 2012

this is such a healthy bento, i love it.. and great shot under the sunlight.. me too.. always make my bento at night. so its good to have a chance to take the photo in the morning..
thanks for brighten up my day!

21 02 2012

thanks for the smile your comment brought me bobo… cheers from one night-owl bento-maker to another 😉

20 02 2012

Lovely and yummy, no doubt!
I am reminded of my early high-school days having just “discovered” Korean cuisine. It was a small place in Kennesaw, Georgia with no menus in English and the only Korean I know is “An-nyung-ha-se-yo.” (No problem at all, because I’ve always been a greedy little foodie ) ^.^ I just pointed at the first thing happily…Well, along with a whole white fish and veggie soup, so hot it was sizzling , my sister and I received a table full of all those dainty little bowls of lovely pickled veggies and a spicy squid salad to share, all included!! Honey I was sooold! If I had any extra money to spend, that’s where I wanted to be! Delicious

21 02 2012

thanks for sharing that fun memory berrygirl! korean food is truly comfort food to me… glad you enjoy it too!

21 02 2012

Thank you for the cooking details! As a newcomer to bento boxes it is helpful, too, to read your reasoning for the different dishes. So bright and colorful, and something I’ll easily be able to make for my husband and I. Thanks!

21 02 2012

thanks chris, and welcome to bento! hope you find this namul recipe as easy and versatile as i do…

21 02 2012

oh wow ist looks soooooo tasty, delicious and colourful.

21 02 2012

thanks melonpan!

21 02 2012

Beautiful yet simple and healthy bento, lovely!

I just wish I could find Burdock & Lotus root here in the UK.

Thank you for the inspiration


21 02 2012

Is this the plastic-lidded box from Daiso? If so, you sure did some skillful packing to get nearly 400 calories in there! Kudos. They look like very nutritious ones too; I love making protein rice as well; not only do I feel like my carbs have become more worthy, but I find it quite a bit more satisfying and filling than plain white rice (which I can eat bucketloads of!). Wonderfully pleasing bento, megan 🙂

21 02 2012

hi sheri! this box is actually the aizawa utile “zen 1” from bento & co. ( — it holds over 600 ml., so it’s pretty roomy. which is exactly why i need to be careful with the rice portion, rather than just be guided by the size of the box!

you are the *queen* of protein rices… i am so inspired by your hearty and healthful blends 🙂

2 03 2012

Oh this one is also an appetizing bento! I’ll diffidently have to copy this bento style for mine. Really like the retro feel to the bento all around. And I love the pink lotus! I might copy it too hehe! Miso shiru is perfect to top off the bento!

2 04 2012
asian pantry bento, redux « bento zen

[…] it was made with almost exactly the same ingredients as the pantry-based lunch i posted about here: same cannelini-rice mix (this time, with a quarter-cup of steamed spinach mixed in), same burdock […]

5 04 2012

I love the lotus root pickle. Did you make it and do you have a recipe?

19 06 2012
asian pantry bento | Bento Boxes

[…] details at bento zen […]

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