Category Archives: japanese 日本食

Kindergarten bento – Post holiday (Thursday, 14/Jun/18)

For the first two weeks in June, we took our daughter off from school in order for her to spend time with the Dutch side of her family who were visiting Japan for three weeks. During the break we took a trip to Okinawa, the prefecture comprised of a group of islands in the south west of Japan, which is surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful East China Sea.

Okinawa was like a paradise to me, not only because of its emerald green beaches and the unique culture reminiscent of Ryukyu Kingdom, but also, frankly and simply, because of the absence of daily chores such as cleaning and cooking.

Our daughter went back to school the day after we came back from our glorious getaway, and so followed my inevitable daily bento making. After being away I needed to be wise for the bento preparation, making the most of the limited ingredients. I used the frozen basil & spinach pesto sauce with macaroni pasta, and for dessert frozen apple mousse & mashed sweet potato combo with raisins, all of which are usually stocked up in my fridge. The rest of them were bought in a convenience store in the neighborhood upon our arrival back to Tokyo.

Kindergarten bento – How many ingredients comparison (29/May, 30/May, 31/May, 1/Jun,4/Jun, 5/Jun)

29/May – 11 ingredients

Simmered cod, rice, edamame, egg with corns, spinach in sesame sauce, cucumber, carrot, apple, banana

30/May – 11 ingredients

Fried chicken (with corn flower), green beans, broccoli, cherry tomato, goma konbu (sesame & kelp), rice, furikake sprinkle (counted as one), apple, strawberry

31/May – 12 ingredients

Bread (count as one), ham, cucumber, scrambled egg, cheese, Dutch appelstroop, peanut butter, blueberry jam, green beans, apple mousse, mashed potato, cinnamon

1/Jun – 10 ingredients

Chicken soboro, chopped komstsuna, rice, sesame, tomato omelet, broccoli, cucumber with bonito flakes, watermelon

4/Jun – 11 ingredients

Nikudon (pork slices, sliced cabbage, rice), broccoli, cherry tomato, tofu omelet (tofu, egg, ao-nori (seaweed) powder), cherry tomato, apple, banana

5/Jun – 11 ingredients

Tortillas (counted as one), ham, cucumber, cheese, Dutch appelstroop, strawberry jam, banana with Nutella (secret, as it’s not allowed at her school), boiled egg, broccoli, watermelon

Wow, I am quite consistent, with mostly 11 ingredients used every day.

Kindergarten bento – Boiled egg failure (Friday, 25/May/18)

Our daughter loves half boiled egg served in egg stand. That’s how her Dutch grandmother (Oma) prepares it, and our daughter calls it “Oma Egg”. She loves cracking it horizontally at the top with a knife, and eating gooey golden egg yolk with a sprinkle of salt using this tiny egg spoon. It’s a whole pleasurable ritual for her.

Now back to our kitchen in the morning, while preparing bento, I went auto-pilot, boiled an egg for 5 minutes, peeled it, cut in half and saw the shiny yellow egg yolk spilling out of the egg white. Only then did I realise it was meant for her bento and needed to be fully cooked. As is always the case it was the last egg in the fridge, and as being Friday I had no other ingredients to fill up the bento box. Panicking, I put the halved egg into a small bowl of boiled water, but nothing really happened. I then put the bowl of egg into the microwave, being afraid it might explode, so ran it for 10 seconds, check, and repeat. After five times of pathetic efforts, it finally solidified, and with a feeling of relief I packed it into my daughter’s bento box.

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/smalltokyokitchen/

Kindergarten bento – Easy tomato sauce penne (Thursday, 24/May/18)

Despite my continuous effort on cooking healthy yet time consuming Japanese dishes on a daily basis for our daughter, if we ask her what her favorite food is, she always instantly answers, ‘pasta!’.

For busy morning, I place halved 8- 10 cherry tomatoes, a small can of tuna, little bit of chopped onion in a medium sized frying pan, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper & oregano to taste, and just let it cook with the lid on while pasta is being boiled in a separate pot. I usually add a small ladleful of pasta water when the sauce gets a bit dry. Drain the pasta once it’s ready, and toss it in the sauce and mix them well.

As simple as it may be, this pasta is quite tasty.

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/smalltokyokitchen/

Kindergarten bento – 15 ingredients (Wednesday, 23/May/18)

  1. Rice
  2. “Shirasu” baby sardines
  3. Kelp (konbu seaweed)
  4. Sesame
  5. Carrot
  6. Egg
  7. Tofu (mixed in omelet)
  8. Ao-nori (seaweed) powder (mixed in omelet)
  9. Pumpkin
  10. Chicken filet
  11. Okra
  12. Cucumber
  13. “Katsuo-bushi” bonito flakes (mixed with cucumber slices)
  14. Strawberry
  15. Banana

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/smalltokyokitchen/

Kindergarten bento – After off sick day bento (Tuesday, 22/May/18)

My daughter was a bit sick on Sunday night and woke up from her sleep, which coincided my bedtime (hallelujah). It seems she has this reflux problem especially after she eats greasy food or too much food. This time it was the latter, and the poor girl could not go back to sleep for a few hours (and me either). She was still quite exhausted the following morning, and I decided to keep her home for the day to monitor her, and luckily I didn’t have any translation assignment to work on.

As such, there was no need to make bento on Monday. Instead, I took her to the pediatrician for a checkup just in case, since this was the second time this had happened within the past two weeks. As expected, it turned out there was nothing seriously wrong, maybe just a minor tummy issue. Nevertheless I was glad to hear it from the expert.

For the entire day on Monday she couldn’t really eat – so I just fed her what she wanted to eat, such as rice, edamame, and boiled egg, and apples for dessert. She ate everything slowly but gratefully, and I could see she was on the mend and was able to go back to school the next day. I asked her what I could pack for her bento the following day, and she asked me to pack exactly the same food as today, so that’s what she got.

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/smalltokyokitchen/

Kindergarten bento – Childhood (18/May/18)

A few days ago, I mentioned about the bright colours I tend to use in my daughter’s bento, which I naturally inherited from my mum. I kept thinking why my mum’s bento involved so many vivid colours, especially considering her strong preference on subtle, understated hues when it comes to her clothing (which I also naturally inherited). Thinking back, I’ve never seen her wearing bright red, yellow or green that we both use in our bento’s.

Then I remembered about my conversation with my mum while back, when I was still living at my parents’ place, maybe over a cup of green tea after dinner sitting in Kotatsu*. She told me the story of her bento, reminiscing her childhood memory. She said, growing up, she was always embarrassed with her bento her mother (my grandmother) made for her. During lunch time at school, she always hid the contents of her bento, covering them with the lid of her bento box, so her friends would not see what she was eating. She said her bento was always filled with only very basic ingredients, usually just rice with an umeboshi (pickled plum), pickled veggies and nori seaweed dipped in soy sauce. Sometimes, maybe omelet if their chickens lay some eggs in the morning. Her memory of bento was colourless and somber, despite the fact it wasn’t her intention to put her mother down. It was not so long after the war, so there was limited amount of food supply. They lived in the mountains, and most of the time they depended on their own rice and vegetables they grew in the fields. Moreover, her mother had six children to take care of, on top of working in their rice and vegetable fields and silk farm. Simply put, she did not have luxury of making colourful bento.

This seem to have significantly influenced my mum on how she prepared bento for her daughters (my sister & I). She wanted to make visually cheerful bento with vibrant colour palette, so that we didn’t have to go through what she had gone through, and she could give us different experience surrounding what’s inside this tiny box . I remember being always proud of my mum’s bento. I never had a slightest thought of hiding it from my friends. It was quite opposite for me, I always wanted to boast how pretty my bento looked. All these years I never thought about what was behind my mum’s bento. And now, more than ever, I sincerely appreciate my mum for her beautiful bento and embrace all the amazing history that comes with it.

* Kotatsu is a low table with a heating device under the table top, with one or two layer/s of blanket covering the table under the table top to preserve the heat

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/smalltokyokitchen/