Posts tagged ‘rice’

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!

June 7th, 2011

Banned from the house

We were hosting a Sunday family dinner at our house. Everybody was enjoying food; roast chicken with pancetta and olives, creamy polenta (recipe at bottom) and grilled asparagus. Nice, right?  My husband went to the kitchen to get drinks from fridge and came back and whispered to me “there’s something rotten in there.”

Keeping a meticulously clean kitchen, I knew nothing was rotten in our fridge.  What was he smelling?  The culprit was kimchi, Korean fermented pickles.  The ‘rotten’ quality comes from the fermentation; garlic, chili, onion…, all the healthy stuff that’s good for your body, but bad for the nose, if you’re not used to it.  That night, it was decided: kimchi is officially banned from our fridge, along with natto, the other fermented product that I love, but that can also really stink up your place.  The way my husband explains it, “The smell makes it too hard to notice if the other food has gone bad.”

Smell, maybe more than sight,  is such a big part of the culinary experience.  When I was a kid, I smelled every food that came my way.   My parents were embarrassed by my behavior, and scolded me a million times, “Do not smell that, you are not a pig!” But, no matter how many times they said it, I never listened.  I have a very keen sense of smell.  I can smell things that are far away or things that are very subtle; it  is my superpower; ESP or invisibility might have been more useful for fighting crime, but my gift serves me well in the culinary world.  I was having dinner with my best friend last week, and as soon as my plate came, I unconsciously smelled my dish.  “You still smell everything, don’t you?” she casually mentioned.  I didn’t realize anybody noticed my habit, but looking back, I have to rephrase my previous statement from “When I was a kid…,” to “Since I was a kid, I’ve always smelled every food that comes my way.”

There is a brand of natto (Japanese fermented beans dish) that smells less offensive. The manufacture’s website mentions since they are freshly made in United States and never frozen, the smell stays mild.  In other words, most of natto in the states are imported from Japan, so due to temperature changes, its fermentation is accelerated and that may lead to a stronger smell.  So natto has started to sneak into our fridge.  Here’s my favorite breakfast and lunch menu.  Kimchi and natto over rice with seaweed.  While there’s no single word in this menu that appeals to my husband besides ‘and’, for me, it’s heaven.

Creamy Polenta recipe:

1C polenta

2C chicken stock (this is what I use and think is the BEST)

1C water

1TS butter

1/2 C low fat or regular milk

salt & black pepper to taste

Boil chix stock & water, add polenta, stir medium heat for a few minutes

steam in low heat 20 min with lid on

add milk stir, salt & pepper low heat for 5 min

add butter stir for a minute or so and serve.