Who So Delicious? Shiso Delicious! Bento, pt 2

Photo: Sara Kiyo Popowa @ShisoDelicious

THE SECOND HALF OF A TWO-PART SERIES ON HOW TO MAKE THE EASIEST, PRETTIEST (& HEALTHIEST!) BENTO LUNCH.

Yesterday I promised you a solution to sad salad for lunch and introduced you to Sara Kiyo Popowa, creator of the irresistible Instagram feed, @ShisoDelicious and sister ‘gram, @bentoparty. (If you missed her story, check out yesterday’s post.) I asked her to guide us through the simple art of modern bento, the basic principles. We covered the foundation: the rice and the veg.

Today we’re moving onto the juicy bits—the protein, fruit, and some special sprinkles. Just like that, it’s all going to come together before your very eyes and you won’t believe what you’ve just created. You haven’t just meal-prepped, you’ve bento-ed.

 

 

TRY AN EGG AS PROTEIN

“Making tamago omelet the traditional way can seem a little daunting,” says Sara. “But you’ll have an (almost) fail-proof, simplified version in about a minute with this. If you like your tamago slightly sweet, add 1/2 teaspoon coconut palm sugar (or any sugar) to the egg mixture. Make either in the evening or in the morning before packing your bento. Lasts up to 2 days covered in fridge.”

 

LAZY TAMAGO

  • Makes enough for 1 bento
  • A little olive oil to fry
  • 1 organic egg
  • 1 pinch each of salt and chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 sheet nori seaweed
  • Heat a medium sized frying pan and drizzle with a little oil. Crack your egg into a glass jar with lid, add seasoning, close the lid and shake shake shake. Pour egg mixture in the medium hot pan and quickly tilt the pan to cover the surface like a thick crepe. Immediately place a whole nori sheet on top and within seconds your lazy tamago is ready to fold up a few times. Let cool on a clean cutting board before cutting into bite-sized pieces. Pack in bento box. You can use a few salad leaves or baking paper as separators between the different dishes.

 

 

NOW FOR FRUIT

Choose something fresh from your local market. In season now: grapefruit or pomegranate.

I experimented with a persimmon–an Asian favorite and winter fruit. Says Sara: “Add happy color and an eye-health boost to your bento! Persimmons content Vitamin A, Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Choose a firm, sweet persimmon and peel with a small sharp knife or potato peeler. You can leave the skin on but the Japanese way is to peel, remove the woody stalk then cut the fruit in thick wedges from the top like a flower. Prepare a whole fruit at a time. Even if you don’t use all of it right away it keeps well for days covered in the fridge.

You can use a few salad leaves or baking paper as separators between the different dishes when you pack the bento box.

Some varieties are high in tannins when unripe so you may want to test a small piece before giving yourself a mount-puckering lunch experience! I buy them quite firm and let ripen for a few days at room temperature–that way they’re almost always very sweet. You can leave it to ripen for a few days covered in the fridge, even if you have peeled it.”

 

 

FINISHING TOUCH, SOME SPRINKLES!

One of the great delights of bento is that each mouthful has different tastes and textures. Her “sprinkles” bring in healthy fats and proteins, while lending a satisfying crunch. Double or triple the recipe if you’d like–it’ll take the same time to prepare and keeps for weeks. Perfect to perk up bentos, salads, bowls, or mix with raisins or dried fruit for a trail mix.

SOY TOASTED SEEDS

  • Makes enough for 2-3 bentos
  • 1/2 cup sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (organic tamari or soy)
  • Toast the seeds in a medium hot, dry frying pan, shaking or stirring frequently for them not to burn. When they start to tan, tip them to one side of the pan and quickly pour the soy sauce over, shaking the pan over the heat until they are completely dry. Spread on a plate and let cool. Sprinkle either directly over rice in the bento box or pack in a small side-container to keep the crunch. Store what’s leftover in a glass jar with lid.

PACKING

So now you’ve made all your micro-recipes. You have all the elements of your bento. All that’s left to do is pack.

  • Wrap or separate your protein with leaves/lettuce or parchment baking paper as Sara suggests. Each “dish” is contained, but the flavors are harmonious and meant to be eaten together.
  • This is where playing with your food comes in. Move some to one side, snuggle them up against one another. It’s like a puzzle. Et voila, everything fits together perfectly!

A bento is like a Marie Kondo exercise. Everything has its place and purpose. It’s comprised of only things that bring you joy—nourishing food, fresh flavors, myriad textures, a visual celebration, and the warm feeling that you’ve made something with your own hands for yourself or someone you love.

For more recipes and inspiration follow @shisodelicious and @bentoparty! Bento Power: Brilliantly Balanced Lunchbox Recipes will be out this fall.