japchae frogs bento

17 11 2010

sorry for the sporradic posting, there have been a lot of random salad-in-tupperware, sandwich-in-ziploc-bag, and overpriced-to-go-from-the-concourse lunches lately.  nothing wrong with the first two though they’re not particularly photogenic; the latter is one of the main reasons i started making bento in the first place ($12 for a vegetarian sandwich and soup is just outrageous!).  so i’m really trying to get back into the swing of things, and tomorrow’s lunch is a start.

i had leftover japchae from sunday dinner that needs to be used up before it turns, so i decided to use that as a bed for two kiwi “lily pads” and quail egg frogs, inspired by these cute guys i saw a while back on luckysundae’s blog.  i used peas and sesame seeds for eyes, whereas hers appear to be cheese, but i hope they’re similarly cute.

in the back section, i have some lovely winter plum slices, a vine-ripe mini-tomato, one takuwan gingko leaf, a steamed broccoli floret, some pumpkin sections (i had roasted a whole bunch and then threw some in the freezer, so i all i needed to do with these was defrost), and a frozen product from the korean grocer that i’m trying for the first time — it’s called 김 마리, and it’s some sort of glass noodles mixed with veggies, wrapped with nori, and then deep fried (i am a strong subscriber to the philosophy that a little deep fried once in a while is good for the soul!).

this will probably be one of the last times i get to use this nifty metal box — i’ve used it so much that it’s been banged against hard things in my bag, and the lid has become a bit dented, meaning that it doesn’t seal as tightly anymore.  that makes me nervous when it comes to saucy (or in this case, sesame oil-y) foods, and so with my next paycheck i’m hoping to spring for one of the beautifully-made aizawa stainless boxes at bento & co., like this zen 01.





penguin meatballs bento

26 05 2010

yikes, someone reading only the titles of this week’s posts would think i have a real thing for eating strange animals!

tomorrow’s lunch has vegetarian meatballs made to look like penguins.  i cut the cheese with a toothpick, and then popped them in the microwave for 9 seconds to make it melt down around the round meatball surface.  then i added steamed sweet potato beaks and nori eyes with sesame seed details.

my penguin couple sits atop white rice, which again is applied in a thin layer over more protein (in this case, about 1.5 additional meatballs that were already somewhat mushed and crumbled in the package).  to complete the meal, i have a fish jun (korean pancake), half a hard-boiled quail egg with a nori star, some pea pods, two tomatoes, some kiwi slices, and three blackberries.  my final decorative accent is two sweet potato fish (cut with one of the cool hand-crafted metal cutters) and one fish sausage fish (i cut the details with half of a drinking straw, a trick i learned from one of pikko’s boy’s day bentos).

i’m packing a few of my wooden utensils, which i accented with removable washi tape.





shikai maki bento

23 05 2010

thank you all for sharing so many wonderful links in your contest entries!  i had a wonderful time this weekend browsing through them — some took me to blogs i already know and love, and some took me to totally new sites i had never even heard of.

tomorrow’s bento has a few sources of inspiration:  one is the luxirare shikai maki bento that brenda posted in the comments, and another is the beautiful work of my good bento pal jenn (bentobird).  i tried to echo the natural elegance that her boxes epitomize, and it seemed fitting to incorporate her style into this meal, since her boxes often include sushi.  for the sushi component, i tried my hand at this interesting square-format sushi (using a handy how-to video on youtube!).  my roll contains shiso rice, kiwi strips, cucumber, and fried tofu… i need some more practice (the kiwi layer, in particular, didn’t hold its structure because the kiwi was so slippery), but i have the general idea and am sure i can improve!

another source of inspiration this week was a long-postponed first trip to minamoto kitchoan, the fine purveyor of gorgeous wagashi (japanese sweets) located on manhattan’s chi-chi 5th avenue.  here is a photo from their display case (these are plastic, but do look just like some of the items they are selling):

alongside tomorrow’s box i have a shobumochi packaged to look like a beautiful iris.  this will cap off my dessert fruit section (kiwi slices, pomegranate seeds, two juicy blackberries and one ripe cherry), which will in turn balance my veggie section (peppery arugula, a tiny sweet red pepper, two asparagus tips, two carved takuwan flowers, and a quail egg). to fill up the empty space in the box, i placed a bottle of soy dressing and a pair of disposable chopsticks (both decorated with washi tape in complementary colors).  the box is packed in a pretty red-patterned furoshiki that i received from another sweet bento friend.

— ♥ —

getting back to the contest… i edited the entry comments in order to number them, and then used the random.org website to generate a random integer from 1 to 95:

the winning entry, number 79, is abby of totoro bento!  congratulations!  please get in touch with your mailing information and i’ll mail your prize package right away.





egg flowers bento

20 05 2010

a quick bento tonight, with may’s BOMB theme in mind:  two flowers made from hard boiled egg slices (i topped the yolks with yellow cheese so that they would be more consistent-looking), with sesame seed eyes, nori mouths, and gochujang cheeks.  i used edamame for leaves, and the flowers are on top of rice mixed with ume powder, which is layered over kidney beans for extra protein.

behind the lettuce baran is a steamed broccoli floret, a vegetarian meatball in a paper food cup, two pea pods, a tomato and some takuwan slices, and some kiwi slices with a blackberry and a raspberry.

have you entered your flower-themed bentos in the BOMB?  and have you entered my new apartment giveaway?  i’m loving all of the links and ideas people have shared with me so far!





“before and after” bento

26 04 2010

one night last week, i was tweeting with some bento pals when debra of hapa bento showed us the first bento she had photographed and posted online, a full year ago. we all dug up our first bento posts, and remarked on how fun it was to see the evolution of our bentos. then debra had the great idea of us all doing a “before and after” post, to show how we would use the same ingredients from our first bento in a different way.

my first bento was pretty simple — some homemade kimbap rolls (with tofu, carrot, egg and spinach in them) laid over a leaf, with a separate tier of kiwi slices and a checkered apple and takuwan flowers. the checkered pattern was one of the first decorative techniques i learned, and the soy sauce bottle and flower cutters the extent of my bento equipment! here’s a picture of that bento:

to revamp the same ingredients this time around, i chose a similar box (unfortunately my original box suffered an unfortunate dishwasher incident; this one is also slender and pink, though), and filled it with slices of a simplified kimbap roll (just egg inside) over some shiso leaves. modifying an idea from hawai`i’s bento box cookbook (“hotdog sushi bear,” p. 35), i used the eggy centers of the slices as the bear’s muzzle, and added nori details for eyes, nose and mouth. then i cut takuwan ears and attached them with toothpick ends.

instead of a checkered apple, this time i have some apple “coins” with teddy paw-prints carved into them. to use the other ingredients that were inside the kimbap roll in my first bento, i breaded and fried two tofu chunks, and topped them with steamed carrot flowers and washi-tape flag picks. i filled the empty spaces in the box with some more takuwan, and my final original ingredient, kiwi (this time in wedges instead of slices).

what do you think? nori, rice, egg, carrot, tofu, takuwan, apple, kiwi, and leaves — all there. my arrangements have gotten slightly neater and more character-focused, but i would like to think my bento “style” hasn’t changed that much.

check out some other great “before and after” bentos from some of my favorite bento artists:

if you ask me, these ladies were just as talented then as they are now, and their “before” bentos show how accessible this hobby/art form really is… if you are just starting out, you don’t need a ton of fancy tools to develop your own signature style, just some practice and imagination!





“a cute riding red hood” bento

13 04 2010

tomorrow’s lunch is packed in a new box i got from kir devries, an online store with a selection of great shinzi katoh boxes.  this box is the “a cute riding red hood” two-tier, and to inaugurate it, i made a red riding hood kyaraben.  shinzi katoh designs are whimsical and unique, and i was thrilled to find an online supplier in the states with low shipping costs (plus they offer free shipping on orders over $50!).

my red riding hood (or should i say “riding red hood”) girl is made of cheese with yellow soy paper for hair, and white soy paper (dyed red with food coloring) for the hood and dress.  her eyes are nori, and her nose and hair squiggles are food coloring.  the bows in her hair were cut from nori with this cute tiny bow punch from jlist.  she’s on plain white rice, with cheese and sesame seed flowers, and in the same box are two soy nuggets, a grape tomato with a yellow heart food pick, a flower-cut carrot, cucumber slices, and some mint leaves.

the other tier has sliced kiwi (accented with one purple potato flower) in a paper food cup, with a plump strawberry, two more flower-cut carrots, and some purple potato slices.  here’s a picture of the lid of the box, so you can see how closely i tried to model my kyaraben after shinzi katoh’s design:

— ♥ —

the past few days have been full of excitement: the apartment search has continued at a frantic pace (preventing me from bento-ing), and i think i finally found the perfect place… fingers crossed, and i’m not going to say more because i don’t want to jinx it before the paperwork goes through.

on monday i also found out that my “spring butterfly” bento won the spring bento contest hosted by bento & co.just bentofrench bento!  i’m so sorry for not getting to this earlier, but i did want to take this opportunity to repeat my congratulations to all who participated, especially to lia of my bentolicious and sheri of happy little bento (two of the best bento pals and competitors a girl could ever ask for)!  i’m extremely honored to have won, but the best prize was the chance to see the other contestants’ inspirational ideas and to make some new international bento contacts — it was really a great experience, so thanks again to maki, mook, thomas and erico for hosting!





monkey soboro bento

1 04 2010

i received an unusual request via flickr-mail yesterday: a friendly user (and apparent fan of my photostream) asked if i might be willing to make a monkey bento, in honor of her favorite animal.

well, i have a couple of monkey sauce cases that have been lying around since my west coast bento shopping spree back in november, and i’m always up for a challenge, so i decided to use the monkey on the sauce case as my inspiration, and figured i could achieve the brown with a soboro bento.

my soboro is made of vegetarian faux ground beef. first i made an onigiri in approximately the same shape as the monkey’s inner face, molding pink rice free-form with saran wrap. then i layered some sliced orange bell pepper and scallions in the box, added the onigiri, and spooned in my “ground beef” (which i had sauteed with some cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper). i added radish eyes, nori eyelashes, a red pepper mouth, and a dyed-pasta bow, and voila! i had my monkey (no banana, though). this was my first time trying soboro for a bento, and i wish it had come out a teensy bit neater, but it was fun and i’ll definitely keep trying to perfect this technique!

even though the monkey looks like she’s made of just two ingredients, don’t forget about the veggies layered under there — once i mix it all up (with the hot sauce i stored in the actual monkey sauce case), it will be a tasty and healthy entree. i figured i would want something sweet too, though, so i made a quick side car of kiwi slices, pear flowers, and kumquats.

here’s a close up of the sauce case (available from napa japan):

see the resemblance? ok, i used artistic license to omit the ears and add the eyelashes. i hope my new flickr pal enjoys this one, and i hope you all have a great friday and weekend!