All posts by Small Tokyo Kitchen

A Japanese Tokyoite loving food, design, culture and writing

Kindergarten bento – Sandwich a la Maman (15/Nov/17)

When I lived in the Italian city of Milan 13 years ago, I shared an apartment with two amazing, beautiful ladies, one from France, and the other one from Sweden. We all attended the same master’s course in a graduate school in Milan, studying fashion & design management. Despite our shortcomings and different backgrounds, we got along very well, and after a while we became almost inseparable.

One day, the three of us took a short trip to Paris to visit the French flatmate V’s family. Three young & crazy women traveling together with a limited budget… Any of you who’s taken a European low cost carrier would understand that their airport terminals are always located in a secluded area outside the city, which requires a long bus ride and a lot of walking/running before/after catching your flight. It was no exception for our Paris trip, and it felt as if we were always on the move in some type of transportation whether it’s a bus or airport shuttle or tram or whatever, but after what felt like a 10 hour journey, we finally managed to arrive V’s home-sweet-home in the Left Bank of beautiful Paris.

The trip was a blast, and we got to spend some quality, heartwarming time with V’s parents. Her mum, Maman, was a great cook, although she never admitted she was, and always told us she was cooking nothing special. Maman always gave us a shy, humble smile at our compliments and excused herself back to her small kitchen.

After spending a few wonderful days in Paris, it was time for us to go back to Milan. Of course, we had to take the same route back, involving a metro ride to the bus stop and a long bus ride to the distant airport. As is always the case when traveling with V, we were running late to catch our bus and hence our airplane, too.

Knowing her daughter very well, V’s sweet Maman prepared sandwiches for the three of us to eat in the bus, because she knew we wouldn’t have time to stop for a proper meal. She made one sandwich with freshly baked baguette from a bakery near by with the leftover pot-au-feu meat from the evening before. The other one was this simple sandwich made with a Pan Viennoise (long soft milk bread) with butter and boiled pink ham. Both of them were so simple but exceptionally tasty. It was the first time for me to eat Pan Viennoise as sandwich, and I can still remember the perfect combination of the milky butter and the salty tasty ham… Mmm, it was absolutely divine.

Now fast-forward to the present time in Tokyo in 2017, I randomly spotted Pan Viennoise sold on the shelf at a nice French bakery in our neighborhood. The next morning I made a sandwich using the Pan Viennoise I bought, of course with boiled ham & butter, just like what Maman made for us 13 years ago, for my little girl’s kindergarten bento. I prepared the sandwich, thinking of V’s dear Maman with a sweet smile as well as my precious memories of my time in Europe.

Menu: Pan Viennoise sandwich (boiled ham & butter/cheese & appelstroop/peanut butter & apricot jam/strawberry jam & butter), Plain omelet, Boiled green beans, Cherry tomato

Banana for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Soboro (14/Nov/17)

Menu: Chicken Soboro on rice with nori seaweed, Cabbage, cucumber & corn salad, Cherry tomato & broccoli omelet, Boiled green beans

Apple bunnies for dessert 

The Soboro (chicken mince crumble) I used today was the last bit of what I made a few weeks ago that had been kept in the freezer. Of course it’s useful, but I shouldn’t have kept it too long as it’s flavour wasn’t as good as when it was freshly made. My daughter finished it all, so I consider it was still acceptable…

Kindergarten bento – Gyu-don / nikudon variation (13/Nov/17)

This is Gyu-don, which is a donburi with beef (gyu-niku in Japanese) slices with some broth and egg. It’s a variation from my mum’s nikudon recipe, the most popular dish in this blog.

Click here for the Gyu-don recipe, and here for Nikudon.

Menu: Gyu-don, Steamed broccoli, Cherry tomato

Japanese Nashi pear for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Another busy week (7-10/Nov/17)

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more translation assignments. It’s a client driven business, so it’s highly due date sensitive. Because of that, I couldn’t post any of the bento pics last week, working my head off to meet the deadline.

I work freelance from home, primarily because I want to be flexible enough to have ample time with my daughter. She’s the only child, and I don’t want to miss a thing and don’t want to regret at a later stage of my life that I should’ve spent more time with her when it’s too late.

Having said that, I also think having a career is very important for one’s life. It is a great part of who you are, and gives you confidence as well as an independent mindset. Doing freelance was the choice I made, so that I can manage to have both.

The downside is I don’t get paid so well. The rate of freelance translation projects is not something you can brag about. But I take pride in doing this job. I hope one day my little girl will look back at this period of her life and remember her happy time she spent with her mummy, who always gazes at her computer, typing and mumbling something weird.

Tuesday 7/Nov – Bi-color bento with grilled salmon flake & scrambled egg

Wednesday 8/Nov – Onigiri for 2 (the school closed before lunch and it was raining outside, so we had a indoor picnic on the living room floor at our apartment)

Thursday 9/Nov – “Omuraisu” Omelet rice bento

Friday 10/Nov – Grilled Spanish mackerel bento

Kindergarten bento – Hamburg steak again (6/Nov/17)

I felt lazy in the morning and just defrosted the hamburg steak I made the other day. I usually eat the same thing for lunch at home as my daughter to see how it tastes like. It worked just fine.

Menu: Hamburg steak (defrosted), Spinach omelet, Boiled green beans, Rice with furikake sprinkle, Steamed carrot

Apple bunnies & kiwi fruit for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Another busy but short week (31/Oct, 1 & 2/Nov/17)

It’s been another busy but short week for us. Monday was a school holiday since our daughter’s school was open on last Saturday for an art event. Tomorrow, 3rd of November is a public holiday in Japan called Culture Day. As such, there’s only 3 days of school, but since I took up this translation assignment for 9000 words of text, which is due tonight, I’ve been working non-stop since Tuesday. 

Anyway I thought I’d take a break and post our daughter’s bento images because the bento making happens every day no matter what as long as her school is open!

Tuesday 31/Oct – Soboro bento


Wednesday 1/Nov – Macaroni in  tomato sauce with aubergene & bacon


Thursday 2/Nov – Picnic tortilla wrap bento 


Our daughter & her friends are on their way to the sweet potato farm for potato digging today. It’s their first time to take a chartered bus on their own, without being accompanied by their parents. Hope they’ll have fun.

OK, back to my assignment, 2000 more words to go!

Kindergarten bento – Mini Hamburg steak (27/Oct/17)

Menu: Mini hamburg steak, Steamed veggie salad, Boiled egg, Rice with sesame sprinkle 

Kyoho grapes & Japanese Nashi pear for dessert

My daughter is not a big fan of meat. When she saw me mixing the hamburg pâté this morning (yes I made it in the morning – impressive for a sleepy head like me) she made a frowning face. But I told her I’m making “mini” hamburg, and she seemed satisfied with the remark. 

I used to be or still am fascinated with miniatures of everything – doll houses, a small kitchen set, miniature food samples… I think my daughter also enjoys looking at and playing with them. I’ll probably start cooking all the meat dishes in small bite sizes going forward!