bunny-eggs bento

31 03 2010

so easter’s not really my thing, but i couldn’t resist this very easter-ish combo of eggs (quail eggs, to be precise) and bunny ears (from this new pick set i first saw on akinoichigo-san’s blog; i don’t think they’re supposed to be bunny ears, but use your imagination!).  plus, these bunnies give me another chance to submit to hapa bento’s BOMB for this month!

these are super simple to make: just boil your quail eggs and peel (i find that using a sharp object to puncture the thick inner “skin” — in a place on the egg that won’t be seen, of course — really helps get the peeling started), and insert picks. i cut the noses with a straw from fish sausage, and punched the mouths with a face punch, and added sesame seeds for eyes.

the rest of this box has rice mixed with shiso powder and topped with peas (an idea from lucky sundae’s awesome blog), lettuce, a star-cut radish, kimchi mandoo and one edamame shumai, takuwan slices, clementine segments in a food cup, a few grape tomatoes, a few pea pods to fill in empty spaces, and some broccoli topped with fish sausage stars.

a close up of these bunnies, before they hippety-hop right into my mouth:

oh, and in case you’re wondering, these cute paper-covered kids’ chopsticks were another j-list score.  the picks came from ebay, and the flat-rate shipping from japan was actually quick compared to some other ebay sellers located there.

making mandoo

24 02 2010

tonight’s bento was fugly and totally thrown together, so i thought i’d focus on the high point of its contents: my mostly-home-made mul mandoo (물만두 in korean, which translates to “water dumplings”).  these dumplings are pretty easy to throw together, and you can make the filling in advance, keep it in the freezer, and throw it in the fridge to defrost over the course of the day, so that it’s ready to fill dumplings for a pretty quick work-night dinner. i use store-bought dumpling skins, which also speeds the process. hey, mostly-home-made is better than not-home-made-at-all, right?!

here are my two filling recipes:

tofu-kimchi mandoo filling

  • 2/3 cup cooked hulled mung beans (i make mine in a 2-cup batch in the rice cooker, and then freeze part)
  • 1/4 of a medium-sized white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (i used plain button because that’s what i had, but shitake or something more flavorful would be even better)
  • 2/3 cup chopped kimchi (i used granny choe’s baek kimchi — it’s just as flavorful as regular “red” kimchi, and much less messy!)
  • 1/3 block of tofu, chopped into very small cubes, with water squeezed out (i do this by putting my pile of chopped tofu into a kitchen towel, gathering up all the ends of the towel so that the tofu forms a “ball” in the center, and then twisting the whole thing — basically, wring the tofu out with the towel)
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • about 1/4 tsp. each salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp. gochugaru (korean red pepper flakes)

beef mandoo filling

  • 2/3 cup cooked mung beans
  • 1/3 lb. ground beef
  • 1/4 of a medium-sized white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil, 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • about 1/4 tsp. each salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp. gochugaru

in case you didn’t notice, the fillings are basically the same, except in one you substitute beef for the tofu and kimchi (though you could leave in one or both ingredients — adding tofu to beef gives it a nice silky consistency, and the kimchi would obviously taste good with the beef too). in both cases, the idea is to keep the filling as dry as possible — this is the main reason for squeezing the tofu, and also explains the small portions of soy and sesame oil (just enough to help marry all the ingredients together). you can play around with additions or substitutions to this recipe, but i think you’ll find that if you add much more liquid, your dumpling skins will get soggy before you can cook the mandoo.

basic mandoo instructions:

  1. buy a package of dumpling skins. (i like chorpidong brand, because they are slightly thicker and therefore less prone to splitting.)
  2. make or defrost your filling.
  3. lay a dumpling skin flat on your work surface. dip your finger into a bit of water (i fill a ramekin and keep it on my work surface when i’m making mandoo) and run it around the edge of the skin, making an “O” that will serve as the “bulls-eye” for your filling. this water will act as the “glue” to seal the mandoo.
  4. place a heaping teaspoon of filling directly in the center of the skin. using your hands or a dumpling press, fold the dumpling in half and seal the edge so that the filling is enclosed. there are some lovely decorative ways to do this, but my boyfriend has been making mandoo since he was a kid, and he still prefers a simple, flat seal (i think he actually thinks he can cram more meat in this way, and he loooooves meat!).
  5. bring a large pot (the size you would cook pasta in) of water to a boil. drop your mandoo in — in order to prevent them from crowding and sticking together, you want to do this in small batches (6 to 8 mandoo).
  6. boil your mandoo for about 5 minutes. when they are done, they will be floating; the skins will have expanded ever-so-slightly, and will be slightly translucent. in the picture at the top of this post, the rectangular dish displays uncooked mandoo, and the leaf-shaped dish displays a few fresh from the pot; you can see the change in texture and transparency.

that’s it! you can dry them on paper towels and give them a quick pan-fry, but my boyfriend prefers to eat them still-wet from the pot. (like pasta, a slight amount of cooking water actually helps sauces adhere to the skin, rather than repelling it.) for sauce, we like a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, gochugaru, vinegar and chopped scallion — but you can dip in anything your heart desires.

just as the filling freezes well, so do the mandoo themselves — we usually make a huge batch and then cook them on nights when we’re feeling lazy.

osechi bento

30 12 2009

apologies for my extended absence — i had a terrible cold for the last week or so, and just wasn’t up to bentoing.  luckily the boyfriend nursed me back to health with multiple nights of soup and grilled cheese (my preferred “sick in bed” comfort food meal), and now i’m back in action…

and just in the nick of time!  tomorrow is the last working day before the new year, so i’m bringing a new year’s bento for lunch.  traditional japanese new year’s food is known as osechi-ryōri, and includes sweet black beans (kuromame), a version of tamagoyaki made with fish paste (i used dashi instead), carrots, snow peas, and kamaboko (layered in the top tier with takuwan). i have added tomatoes, cherries, broccoli and blackberries for color and flavor variety, as well as a radish cut to look like a chrysanthemum, or in the spirit of the new year, a bursting firework.  the “2010” (resting on top of three veggie mool mandoo, a korean new year’s tradition) is cut from kamaboko with an xacto knife.

happy new year to all my bento friends!

[as seen on socyberty and lincoln cooking examiner]

tired dumpling bento

5 10 2009

bento 13late late night = putting together a bento from random fridge contents.  top tier:  homemade (frozen, then reheated and boiled) veggie-tofu dumplings, topped with purple potato stars, and a babybel cheese.  bottom tiere: pepper slices, kiwi slices, golden plum slices, purple beans, and a checkered apple.

mandoo bento

13 09 2009

bento 03

homemade veggie dumplings (tofu, kimchi, mushrooms, onions, cabbage) with carrot sticks, tomato skewer,  takuwan flowers with nori centers, soy sauce (chick bottle) and salad dressing (plain bottle).  apple sidecar has apple and nectarine slices, raspberries, a lemon fruit gel and a basil garnish.

[as seen on granny choe’s blog]