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.
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
As spoiled as a child can be, my daughter told me the other day she wouldn’t want to eat the same thing from one day to the other. Ha!
Luckily, she forgets stuff overnight, and today’s bento is filled with our dinner leftovers. The bento box came home empty.
Menu: Simmered sweet potato with chicken thigh, Spinach goma-ae, Tomato Omelet, Riceixed with wakana sprinkle & dried jako (baby sardine) with sesame on top
Tangerine Mikan for dessert
Menu: Boiled egg (exploded and hence deformed while being boiled), Grilled salmon & boiled chopped spinach mixed in rice, Steamed broccoli, Steamed sweet potato mixed with chicken soboro crumble with dash of olive oil
My daughter’s favorite apple mousse for dessert
Menu: Grilled sawara (Spanish mackerel) in saikyo-miso, Roasted sweet potato, Steamed broccoli, Simple omelet (only with a pinch of salt), Cherry tomato, Rice
Apple mousse & banana for dessert
My daughter went back to school after being absent for a few days due to some stomach bug. Following the doctor’s advice, I avoided using heavy ingredients that might upset her sensitive stomach once again.
Well actually, over the weekend we took her out for lunch since she was already feeling much better and had too much energy to stay inside. It was very crowded everywhere with the holiday season, and we took a seat at the first restaurant we found a table, which happened to be a French crêperie. She & I shared a gallette complete and a crêpe with Nutella. She ate them contently then, but after a while she had to go to the toilet, and we had to cut a long queue to barely make it. It’s totally my fault…. so no butter no sweets no cheese no grease for a little while…😭