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.
I’ve been told a few times what colourful bento I make. Looking at other people’s arty and beautiful bento images via Instagram or Pinterest, they may be right, the bento I make are quite lively and bright compared to theirs.
But it’s almost automatic for me. For me the colour palette in my daughter’s bento is totally normal. It’s how my mum used to make bento for me. And it always consists of three main colours: red, green and yellow. Maybe it’s time for me to explore a bit more, incorporating ingredients with more complex or subtle colours, so that I can potentially teach my daughter about the world of Wabi Sabi (and I have to learn it first).
Last night for dinner, I cooked beef steak with pan-fried potatoes, carrot & chicken filet soup, stir-fried komatsuna & corns, and boiled broccoli.
The leftover ingredients have been transformed into the bento for my daughter today.
- Rice mixed with boiled chicken filet (from the soup) & green furikake sprinkle (with goma-konbu on the side)
- Potato salad (from the pan-fried potatoes) with boiled carrot (from the soup)
- Corn omelet
- Boiled broccoli
- Stir-fried komatsuna
Although I was quite happy with the makeover, my daughter claimed yet again that the chicken (well she thought it was fish) was too dry.
Is it only me, or maybe anyone who grew up in the same/similar culture as mine, who feel a slight sense of guilt for cooking something too quick and easy? As a good cook in the Japanese society, you are supposed to (or trained to) devote a great deal of time in the kitchen, to make elaborate dishes. In fact, when we visit my parents’ place, my mum hardly ever sits down with us. She spends most of her time cooking in her kitchen, focusing on serving freshly made dishes one after the other, right from the stove. And she does it with great pleasure. She is very proud of it.
I know this is quite the reverse of the modern thinking, and I’m not saying at all that this is how things should be. I hate it, to be forced into the framework of becoming a stereotypical ideal woman, and try hard to push the pressure away always. But on the other hand, this sense of guilt always comes with it. No matter how much I am exposed to the feminism movement, I just cannot change the way I instinctively feel. It is ingrained in my bones, having grown up in the society with high expectations for girls to become a good mum/wife/woman. The society expects it, and your fellow female peers expect it to a certain extent, still in the 21st century.
Well, it takes about three minutes to make this yakitori-don if you already have your rice ready. I bought pre-cut chicken thigh (guilt), don’t even have to marinate it (another guilt), stir-fry it and quickly season at the end. Voila, it’s done (within three minutes). I just boiled egg rather than make omelet (guilt), packed it with unseasoned vegetables (guilt). On top of this, I packed frozen apple mousse and mashed sweet potato from the freezer for dessert (see, I am now officially guilty).
Recipe for the three minute Yakitori donburi:
Ingredients (for 2 servings):
- Diced chicken thigh (100g)
- 1 table spoon of Japanese sake (or white wine)
- 3/4 table spoon of soy sauce
- 1 table spoon of mirin (if you don’t have mirin, just a sprinkle of sugar instead, with a bit more sake)
- In a medium sized frying pan on medium heat, quickly stir-fry the chicken thigh. No oil needed
- Once the chicken becomes golden, add the sake until it starts evaporating
- Add the soy sauce & mirin and cook it until the sauce thickens – this takes about a minute or so, depending on the heat
- Serve it on top of freshly cooked rice with sliced nori seaweed
We had a couple of guests over for dinner at the end of April. They were visiting Tokyo from the Netherlands, and I wanted to offer them a true Japanese experience. I cooked homely meal, with marinated pork, tofu salad, light-fried aubergine, and corn rice.
The dinner was lovely, with home cooked food, champagne, great company and interesting, grown-up conversation.
Our daughter sneaked out of her bedroom a few times, trying to be a part of it. She asked for corn rice in her pajamas, but I declined her request and told her I’d pack it for her bento the next day. She seemed to be convinced and went to bed finally.
Here is the bento with the leftovers for our cheeky girl.
My daughter sometimes gets fussy with spinach or komatsuna greens. When that happens I usually mix it (boiled, chopped & drained) in to the rice. With a bit of salt to taste, it transforms to be one of her favorite rice dishes.
In Japan, it is said that “toshi-no-se,” the year-end, is bound to be busy, as everyone starts acting somehow anxious to finish off things prior to the fresh start of the new year. As mentioned before, the new year is a big deal in this country, and we do everything to make sure the new year to be quiet and special.
This year was no exception for me also, and I was running around like a headless chicken without any time to stop and take a big breath… until we left for our Christmas holidays in the Netherlands to visit my husband’s family. Hesitantly we dropped unfinished errands, hurriedly packed our suitcases, left beautiful & sunny Tokyo, and arrived in the equally beautiful, but quite dark Netherlands yesterday. It is Christmas Eve here in the Netherlands, and things already seemed to have slowed down, and people are starting to relax for the festivity to begin. The sense of rush I was feeling in Japan is nowhere to be seen here. It’s an interesting realisation what a huge difference there is depending on which culture you’re in.
Looking back at the bento photos I didn’t have a chance to upload before our departure, I can vaguely remember how I managed all these bento making during my busy schedule. It’ll resume in the new year, but for now I’m relieved that I won’t have to do it for the next two weeks.
15/Dec/17 – Grilled cod in saikyo-miso
18/Dec/17 – Simmered sword fish
19/Dec/17 – Nikudon-don
20/Dec/17 – Macaroni genovese
22/Dec/17 – Chicken soboro