Archive for ‘Lunch’

October 18th, 2011

One leftover meat, two dishes

You like potato and I like potahto,
You like tomato and I like tomahto;
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
Let’s call the whole thing off.

Actually, my picky husband probably wouldn’t eat tomahtos either…

Our eating life was easier when we were dating, because I cooked what he liked–American comfort food.  He loved my cooking, which made me happy, of course, but as soon as I got home, I couldn’t wait to taste a few of my favorites from the world of Asian cuisine.  When dating turned into ‘living together, it became obvious that I would have to find a way to make food that both of us could enjoy without either one of us having to sacrifice.  They say necessity is the mother of invention, and creating a menu for two picky eaters that wouldn’t take up all of my time, turned out to be a mother of a task to perform. 

Here’s an example of how a few variations can satisfy two hungry lunchers using the same main ingredients; meat, lettuce, and rice.  On the left, with an egg, is MY lunch: a beef salad bowl with rice.  To create the flavor I love, but my husband will probably hate, I seasoned the meat with soy sauce, garlic and Sriracha.  For his sensitive palate,  on the right, you’ll find the same ingredients rolled into a familiar and comfortable burrito, with beans, salsa and sour cream on top.

How much extra time did it take for me to make two meals instead of only one?  Probably an extra three minutes.  Isn’t it worth 180 measly seconds to enjoy a rare lunch together where both parties are happy with their meals?

July 27th, 2011

Egg salad

The egg salad sandwich was my favorite lunch to take on a field trip when I was an elementary school student in Japan.  My mother had a special technique for creating this amazing meal.  She’d cut the crust off and freeze it the night before.  Why?  Because a kid walking around with mayo based food all morning would most likely result in a bad tummy all afternoon.  But a frozen egg salad sandwich in the morning, thaws out quite nicely by lunchtime.Egg salad sounds like a typical all-American food, but is it really? I’ve seen oeufs mayonaise, a simple appetizer of boiled egg with mayonnaise at many restaurants in Paris.  Also, considering that mayo was introduced to America by the French, it’s probably really a French dish…  By definition, my husband should love egg salad.  He loves eggs, sandwiches, and even Paris, (France, not Hilton) yet for some reason, the combination doesn’t work for him. His explanation?  “I like my eggs with runny yolks so I can scoop them up with bread.”  When I counter with, “But you like omelettes,” he brings cholesterol into the argument, stating, “If I’m already eating eggs, why should I make them even worse by adding mayonnaise?”  This leads us to the mayo discussion. If you ask him to elaborate on it, he’ll tell you it just tastes fatty and disgusting and that the only mayonnaise he’s ever enjoyed, came on the Burger King breaded chicken sandwich.  For all these reasons, he doesn’t want tuna salad, pasta salad or potato salad.  To me, it just sounds like a bunch of excuses, but having lived around his peculiar eating habits for a few years now, I guess it’s starting to make sense.  Besides, I enjoyed that Burger King chicken sandwich too.

My husband’s philosophy on mayonnaise suddenly changed when I introduced him to the Japanese mayonnaise, Kewpie.  Kewpie is to the Japanese household what Heinz ketchup is to the American household. It has a slightly sweeter and lighter taste than it’s American counterpart, and it comes in a plastic tube with a tiny opening so you won’t overuse it.  With a cute kewpie doll logo on the label, it’s aesthetically pleasing too.  Is it hard to find in the U.S.?  Much like anything else, these days, you can buy it through Amazon with a marked up price, or, if you’re more adventurous, you can go explore your local Asian grocer.  If there’s none in your area, I suggest venturing into that foreign food aisle at your local supermarket you usually skip, where they hide the the Asian food and kosher stuff.  Take it from me, once you try Kewpie on a BLT, you’ll wonder what the ‘miracle’ was in that ‘whip’ you used to eat.

Did the addition of Kewpie convert my husband into an egg salad eater?  Unfortunately, no.  If it’s offered, he’ll still say, what’s the point? To him, his love of the runny yolk is the whole reason to eat anything with eggs.  To illustrate the point, he’ll throw a perfectly good egg away if he breaks the yolk when preparing it over-easy.  To him, it’s like decaffeinated coffee or non-alcoholic beer.  Why ingest something that lacks the key ingredient that you enjoy?  Luckily, that same argument doesn’t hold true for tuna salad, which he now likes.  As for me, sometimes I miss those old days of field trips and delicious sandwiches, so every so often, I’ll make my own egg salad with chopped cucumbers, parsley, a bit of Kewpie and tiny bit of sea salt.  It’s great as a sandwich or with green salad.  But if you are feeling a bit adventurous, try it on warm rice with tiny bit of soy sauce and sriracha–It’s the poor man’s spicy tuna over rice…

PS: That delicious creamy taste you can’t quite identify at your favorite sushi joint–Kewpie!  Don’t tell them I told you.

PPS: I wonder if that Burger King chicken sandwich is as good as we remember?

July 14th, 2011


I’m glad the concept of “bento” has made it to the non Japanese speaking world.  For those who still wonder what I’m talking about, a bento box is a single portion of a meal (usually lunch) in a container, hence “box”, for easy transport, that contains the elements of a balanced meal.  In it, there is usually rice, one or two vegetable dishes, and a protein.  You can make it home or easier option: buy it at stores (convenience stores, department stores, bento specialized stores) for between $5 and $12, or at restaurant for $10 and up in Japan or here in America at Japanese grocery stores near you.  My local favorite in Los Angeles is Nijiya Market, they often use organic and better ingredients.

I had lunch at BreadBar in Century City the other day and was happy to see Bentoboard on the menu.  Instead of a box, though, all the food came on a heavy cheese board.  Soup, two sliders, a cob salad and bread pudding for dessert for $17.  Looked very cute, and was VERY filling.  Every woman would order it, if this menu was found in the business district in Japan, but with one notable exception–the portion would be probably half the size, while the price, of course, stays the same.Typically, Japanese bento are either washoku, Japanese style with grilled fish, tempura, and cooked root vegetable, or Japanese interpretation of “western” food, youshoku style, with hamburg (similar to salisbury steak) with demi glace sauce, pasta, egg, potato.  Either way, bento usually come with white rice.  We also eat sandwiches (no crust) as bento.When mothers ask children what they want in their bento, Japanese children usually request youshoku style.  My husband doesn’t like rice, so when I make a bento box for him, it’s usually some kind of pasta dish which is actually easier to make than a Japanese style bento.  With bento, the key is that there should be at least one main protein and a few side dishes–Coming up with a variety each day is hard to keep up with!  I’m little relieved I don’t live in Japan anymore.  The idea behind the Bento Box is nice.  It reflects the wife/mother’s dedication to her husband/child, so there’s also a pride and ego factor reflected in it.  I’m not a lazy person, but if I was expected to make these kind of bento lunches everyday, I would be overwhelmed.  But making a big batch of pasta, and dividing it into a few Tupperware containers is something I can handle!