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Koi Fish Bento with Mapo Tofu and Gyoza

Koi fish bento with gyoza and mapo tofu

No fish was harmed in the making of this bento

Hi guys! Did you all have a good weekend?

This week’s bento was sort of an experimental bento. I bought a different brand of vegetarian mince (I normally eat Quorn, but decided to give Neal’s Yard soy protein a try) and decided to cook it two ways: mushroom and veggie mince yaki-gyoza (grilled dumplings), and vegetarian mapo doufu or mapo tofu (Szechuan style tofu in a spicy bean sauce). I added to my bento two koi (Japanese carp) rice balls decorated with nori and carrot peel, radish stars, and omelette strips to create a lattice effect over the tofu.

Mapo doufu is like chilli or bolognese; everyone’s got their own recipe. It is usually cooked with pork, but as I don’t eat meat, I needed to add some depth to the dish, hence the miso paste. Unlike pork, vegetarian mince does not add any flavour to the dish, only texture. Here’s my recipe:

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5

Love Birds Bento

lovebirds

Two little love birds sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Hello everyone! Hope you had a nice couple of weeks? It is absolutely freezing here; friends in the Northern hemisphere, don’t forget to wrap up warm! 🙂

A couple of you asked where I have been the past couple of weeks… It was the wedding of my sister and her fiancé last week. I was of course there to help out, spend time with the family, and enjoy the festivities. She was, I kid you not, the most stunning bride I have ever seen.

I made the above aptly themed bento to commemorate this special occasion, and I shall name the Love Birds Sasha and Steve in honour of the newlyweds.

Here’s how I made it:

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11

Princess of Manchuria Bento + Tofu Manchurian Recipe

manchuria

When I was little, my siblings and I used to have dinner at grandma’s. Dinner time would not be complete without back-to-back Chinese period dramas on TV. I remember being in awe of beautiful princesses in their delicate brocade Manchu-style robes and elaborate tasselled headdresses. This bento pays homage to all those TV shows back then that kept us entertained for hours as we chowed down grandma’s delicious food.

To keep my theme consistent, I made a side of Tofu Manchurian, a vegetarian take on Chicken Manchurian (deep fried chicken chunks coated in a hot sweet-and-sour sauce)… which funnily enough, doesn’t originate from Manchuria or China. It is an Indo-Chinese dish, i.e. Chinese food cooked Indian style. I decided to pan-fry my tofu (instead of deep frying) instead for health reasons. Scroll further down for Tofu Manchurian recipe.

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10

Temarizushi Bento + Tutorial

temarizushi

Life in Technicolor?

Temarizushi is ball shaped sushi topped with a variety of colourful toppings, usually served as a celebratory dish. I do have a cause for celebration – I started my new job last week. 🙂

Temarizushi is not dissimilar to other types of nigiri sushi and usually contains raw fish. I am not a fan of raw fish so I made mine vegetarian using whatever ingredients I could find in my kitchen. You can construct temarizushi using pretty much anything, so there is plenty of room for vegans and vegetarians to be creative.

Almost all types of vegetables work well – raw, grilled, roasted, sautéd, or blanched. For extra flavour, I brushed the reverse of the toppings with a little white miso sauce (recipe below):

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17

Alice in Wonderland Bento

alice-bento

Alice in Bentoland?

A few weeks ago, the bf and I went to Oxford, the birthplace of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Across the road from Christ Church college is a little shop that used to be a sweet shop frequented by real life Alice, Carroll’s muse for his books. The shop now sells Alice themed gifts and memorabilia. Amidst the impressive array of tea sets, books, etc., two things stood out most for me: a miniature top hat with tea in it, and a tiny jar of jam with Eat Me on the label – which I promptly bought.

alice-shop

Alice’s Shop in Oxford – a must-see for all Alice in Wonderland enthusiasts

alice-gifts

Souvenirs I got from Alice’s Shop: Mad Hatter Tea and Eat Me jam

I was fiddling with the hat when I suddenly had the inspiration to make an Alice in Wonderland bento. I also made vegetarian baked sweet potato korokke (Panko crusted Japanese croquettes) for this bento (see those fuzzy brown things?). They turned out really well, so I will post recipe soon.

Here’s how I made the characters / props:

  • Alice (bottom right): Head shaped from rice ball coloured with soy sauce, blond hair from omelette, hair band and facial details from nori
  • White Rabbit (bottom centre): Head, ears, and paws are shaped from rice balls, stopwatch from radish and nori, facial and paw details from nori
  • Cheshire Cat (bottom left): Korokke for face, eyes and mouth from omelette and nori
  • Mad Hatter (top right): Head from soy sauce coloured rice ball, hair from lollo bionda lettuce, hat is my top hat tea
  • Playing cards: Saltine / Soda crackers with nori and red layer of kanikama (surimi crab sticks) stuck using a bit of mayo… Without the kanikama, the bento would be vegetarian.
  • White rose: Egg white

Happy Monday folks!

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16

Mini Totoro Bento + Veggie Chirashizushi Recipe

chibi-totoro

Yesterday, I made a bento of vegetarian chirashizushi (scattered sushi). Chirashizushi is perhaps the least known type of sushi in the UK, as many associate sushi with dainty bite-sized morsels of rice and fish. Chirashizushi is easy to make, requires minimal cooking, and can be easily adapted to suit various dietary needs. It is assembled from vinegared rice and a variety of colourful toppings (commonly fish and fish roe). This is my take (vegetarian, of course) on the chirashizushi.

The centrepiece of my bento is my homage to the humble sushi rice. Often the chirashizushi is chock-full of toppings that you can hardly see the most important ingredient, the rice…  without which, there would be no sushi! I chose Mini (Chibi) Totoro, a Studio Ghibli character, as it is cute, white, and fluffy… just like perfectly cooked rice. Chibi Totoro is Big Totoro’s littlest ‘cousin’ in the film My Neighbour Totoro. 

Here’s the recipe:

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14

Treasure Island Bento + Tutorial

treasureisland2

First off, to my US friends and readers, Happy 4th of July!

Made a Treasure Island inspired bento of summery confetti rice salad stuffed avocado boat served with a dressing of shallot vinaigrette. I made a cute pirate bear from a bento pick and cut out the eye patch from nori. The hat is unfortunately not edible, and neither is the flag. I made them by creating the heart-and-crossed-sword design on Adobe Illustrator and then printing onto sticky labels. The avocado half represents the pirate ship/boat stuffed full of the pirate’s loot, and the little heap of rice in the background is the island. I used yellow peppers in the salad to depict the treasure.

I created an illustrated tutorial and added my artwork for those interested in making this bento. 🙂

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