Monthly Archives: June 2016

Kindergarten bento – Mixed omelet (28/Jun/16)

Menu: Mixed omelet (sausage, broccoli & cherry tomato), Curry flavored chicken, Sweet potato & cucumber salad, Jako rice, Konbu

Apple mousse for dessert (freshly made but frozen right after. Still frozen in the pic)

Omelet (or sort of like Spanish frittata) is not the type of dish we’d typically eat with rice (except for omu-rice), but I ran out of ingredients in the fridge and ended up making it anyway. Actually our girl seemed to have liked it and came back with an empty bento box. Hurray!

Kindergarten bento – Chicken meatballs (26/Jun/16)

Menu: Chicken meatballs, Corn omelet, Steamed broccoli, Cherry tomato, Rice with yukari furikake

Apple wedges & banana for dessert  
As requested by our little big girl, today’s main dish is meatballs. I used chicken thigh mince, chopped onion, egg, oregano and salt & pepper for the pâté, and soysauce, sake & mirin for the sauce. For bento it’s better to put rather strong seasoning/sauce, since the taste gets blunter when it gets colder, and it is better for preserving the food in the summer heat/humidity. I heard it’s better to put something alkaline in packed lunches for the same reason such as one of the Japanese famous confectionary called umeboshi (highly salty and sour pickled plums), but I just can’t eat them and never served them for our little one… She seems to have the similar taste buds as mine not being able to eat something sour, so it’ll take some effort to have her eat umeboshi…😓

Kindergarten bento – Leftover parade (24/Jun/16)

Menu: potato with bolognese sauce,  Hijiki, Boiled egg, Spinach & jako (small semi-dried fish) rice, cucumber and cherry tomato 

Watermelon for dessert

This morning I prepared our little big girl’s packed lunch, making the most of our leftovers in the fridge. Bolognese sauce from last evening, hijiki from two evenings before (usually it lasts for a good few days given all the seasoning).

I’m sure my mother-in-law in the Netherlands would dismiss this leftover bento immediately with her strong preference to eat up all the food she cooked within the same day: another possible cultural difference in our lifestyle, or maybe just another usual in-law battle 😉

Kindergarten bento – grapes with & without skin (21/Jun/16)

Menu: Salmon & rice with sesame seeds, Potato/spinach/bacon stir fry, Corn/okura/cucumber salad, steamed broccoli

Grapes with & without skin

Our little girl generally doesn’t like eating fruits skins that actually contain the most vitamins. Grapes are no exception, and I kind of spoiled her by peeling the skin off wherever I serve them to her. But today, I mixed in some unpeeled ones as well, hoping she’ll eat them all.

To my surprise, it worked! 🙂

Food for thought – Potato is vegetable!

Did you know in Japan potato is considered as vegetable? We eat potato just like any other veggies and serve with other carbs, such as rice, noodles or bread. We have dishes like niku-jaga (potato & meat stew),  yakisoba (stir fried noodles with veggies & meat/seafood that can come with potato as one of its ingredients), and potato salad sandwich among many others.

Potato salad sandwich (fromポテトサラダ/)

Growing up in Japan, I never considered potato as staple food, since it always comes with another, more ‘prominent’ staple like rice or noodles. We also eat other root vegetables in the same manner as potato, from lotus root, burdock root, carrot and to Japanese daikon radish. The way we Japanese look at potato may be comparable to how Western people treat carrot. They are both root vegetables, and Western people don’t eat carrot as staple food just like we don’t eat potato that way. Always as side dish, salad, or ingredients in soup or stew; the same for us with potato.

In fact, if potato is served in lieu of rice or noodles it could become almost a torture for me after a few days, which always happens in Holland when we go visit my husband’s family. I don’t dare say this to my mother-in-law (better not to offend your in-laws, right…?), but my poor husband always gets nagged by me, because I start craving for rice and noodles really badly, and that becomes the sole thought in my head. Why? Because in my mind potato is vegetable, and I need to eat ‘proper’ staple food to satisfy my appetite.

Growing up in Holland on the other hand, my husband loves potato as his staple food. One evening, maybe one year into our happy marriage, I served niku-jaga for dinner, along with rice and miso soup. I still remember his puzzled facial expression, looking down at his bowl of shiny freshly cooked rice, not knowing what to do with it. He was enjoying the best dish ever from his loving wife, potato & meat stew a.k.a. niku-jaga, that reminds him of his content childhood (despite a bit different flavour I suppose). After a while he finally asked hesitantly, “why do you have rice on the table…? We are eating potato tonight, so don’t need any rice, do we…?” At the beginning I didn’t understand him, but then he told me that niku-jaga for him was like niku-don (pork on rice) for me, eating meat and staple at the same time and no need for another staple to be added to it. His explanation made such good sense, so he kept on enjoying his niku-jaga by itself while I ate my rice with a bit of niku-jaga as a side dish.

And that was when the cultural difference in our eating habit first emerged on a surface, and it has been continuing to this day.


Our compromising tofu hamburg steak dinner the other day

Kindergarten bento – Tofu hamburg steak (17/Jun/16)

Menu: Tofu hamburg steak, potato/carrot/cucumber egg salad, broccoli and furikake on rice

Apple wedges for dessert 
Today’s main is tofu hamburg steak. Hamburg steak is a Western influenced Japanese dish which is one of the most popular dishes for children. It is based on tartar steak often eaten in a German city of Hamburg (apparently), and the mane is obviously derived from it. It is like meatloaf made of minced beef/pork (or mixed) but pan-fried instead of baked in the oven, and usually comes in oval shape. 

I made this dish the evening before for our dinner. I used the mixed beef & pork mince, put a bit of leftover tofu in the pâté for more volume and lower calories, along with chopped onion (fried until golden), beaten raw egg (to hold all the ingredients together) and salt & pepper to taste. You can’t really taste the tofu because the flavour of the meat is much stronger, but you can definitely feel it in its texture that is much lighter and airy. 

For the sauce, in the same pan as the steak, I poured in a table spoon of soysauce and maple syrup, and a bit of water (otherwise it’d become pasty) and bring to boil and thicken a bit. I’d put some herb next time, maybe chopped parsley.

Kindergarten bento – Kiriboshi daikon (9/Jun/16)

Menu: Kiriboshi daikon, Cucumber/asparagus/chicken fillet salad, Pancetta & cheese omelet, and Shirasu rice (with nori seaweed laid out in between)

Apple wedges for dessert

Kiriboshi daikon. Yes, what is it? Let’s look at the formula…

Kiri(切り) = cut/sliced

Boshi(干し)  = dried

Daikon(大根) = Japanese radish.

∴  Sliced dried Japanese radish.

To my embarrassment, this was my first attempt to cook kiriboshi daikon. I like my mum’s kiriboshi daikon very much, but never had an urge to make one myself. I used to think it was one of those side dishes that attracts no particular appreciation from anyone. It is always there on your dining table, very modestly, and you never really notice it.

But recently my perception has started to change. I always try to give my daughter healthy tasty food, and suddenly remembered a wise advice from my grandmother to eat kiriboshi daikon. In fact, I think it could be one of the healthiest dishes in the Japanese kitchen… To back up my statement, I did some quick research – apparently, it contains high dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin B and B2, much more than the fresh Japanese radish because it is dried in the sun: kiriboshi daikon contains 15 times more calcium, 32 times more iron, 10 times more vitamin B and B2 than regular daikon. So, there you go. Very nutritious. If I don’t cook, our daughter will not learn how it tastes like and never get an amazing set of nutrients this dish can provide. That is why I decided to go for it.

Now, this is how it looks like. Bought this pack at a local supermarket. Even if it may look a lot, it lasts quite a while since it is dried, so you can use it little by little.

We usually cook it after soaking it in water for a while, just like the way you cook sun dried tomatoes or porcini in Italian cuisine.

This is how it looks like after half an hour so. This should be enough soaking. Take it out of water and squeeze that water out, but leave the water in the bowl for later.

Pour in a dash of vegetable oil, and quickly stir fry it. 

Once it’s heated, pour in the water you soaked kiriboshi daikon with (just the amount that covers the top of kiriboshi daikon, like shown below). Cook until it gets softer (nicely crunchy, rather than just hard and chewy), for 10 minutes or so. Add the soaking water if it dries up. 

Add some sliced carrots and cook further until the carrots are soft, for another 7 minutes or so. Here also, add the soaking water a bit if it dries up.

Once soft, for this amount shown in the image, add a tea spoon of sake, 2 tea spoons of soysauce, and 1+ spoon of sugar to taste.

I forgot to buy it this time but you can also add thinly sliced “abura a-ge (油揚げ)“, deep fried sheets of tofu, after you add the carrots.