Yummy Bento!

Yummy Bento!

It’s been a while and I’ve been slacking. But being snowed in has given me time to make more bento!

Karage chicken: I made karage chicken the night before and made sure to add one extra piece to the recipe so there was some for the bento. I use Runnyrunny999’s recipe from his hiyashi chuka video. It’s my favorite way to make any kind of fried chicken.

White rice: My personal brand of choice for rise is Nishiki. Why? Because it was the first one I tried that wasn’t Uncle Ben’s, I really enjoyed it, and it’s available at several local grocery stores. On top of it is umeboshi furikake (plum seasoning). Furikake is seasoning that can go on top of rice and comes in LOADS of different flavors. You can find some at your regular grocery store, but there will most likely be more variety at the Asian market.

Curry broccoli: Not sure why, but I’ve been on a broccoli kick lately. There are always 2 or more bags of the frozen florets in the freezer at all times. If you plan on eating this bento soon enough where you don’t think they will thaw in time, then toss them in the microwave a bit to give it a head start. Otherwise if this is a bento that will sit for a while, you can probably opt to leave them frozen (it will keep the celery cool!). Sprinkle on your favorite curry powder, maybe some sesame seeds, and you’re set!

Celery: Not much to say here. Just celery hearts out of the bag. I personally prefer the more tender celery hearts. Not nearly as stringy (almost none) than the darker green regular celery. Only catch, it’s more expensive.

Seaweed salad: I can eat this stuff all day and all night long. Any bento can benefit from this. it’s healthy, and requires zero effort. Place it in a cupcake wrapper, small container, or a silicone cup (as shown).

Nabeyaki Udon

Nabeyaki Udon

Once again at my favorite local Japanese restaurant, Takumi on a cold day. It was REALLY cold outside and the Nabeyaki just called out to me from the menu. I had to stray from the normal Unadon (eel on rice) to get this hearty soup.

My apologies for the cell phone picture. I need a better quality camera to take to restaurants that isn’t my giant Canon.

The broth is a dashi stock, which is a light fish broth made from bonito flakes, konbu (seeweed), soy sauce, and mirin. It is topped with prawn tempura, kamaboko (fish cake), carrots, green onion, soft egg, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, and bamboo shoots. This all sits on top of thick and almost chewy udon noodles. And on the side is my personal favorite, shichimi!!! (seven flavor chili pepper). I put this on pretty much everything and go through these bottles faster than any other herb/spice (including salt and pepper).

I wish there was something else in the picture other than the small shichimi bottle for size reference because this kettle of soup is HUGE! I could not finish it (and I was pretty darn hungry). Similar to eating Pho, this warms you up from the inside and made the cold weather almost non-existent.

And for $11.50 with a salad during lunch, you can’t go wrong πŸ™‚

Another H-Mart Haul

Another H-Mart Haul

This is only my second trip to H-Mart and I honestly don’t know why I don’t go there every single week.
Oh wait, probably because I’d gain a ton of weight and have no more money.

This trip was special though. I had one item in mind: a Zojirushi rice cooker! I’ve been wanting one of these (and water boiler, but that’ll have to wait) for literally over 10 years. Why did I wait so long? I received a rice cooker from my mom as a moving gift that did the job. But it was honestly way too big for just the two of us and over its 8 year life span, the rice was starting to burn on the bottom. BONUS, the one in H-Mart was on sale! Cheaper than Amazon!

So while I was there, why not stock up on a ton of goodies. πŸ™‚
(not everything is included in the picture)
Fresh fruit and vegetables, candy, snacks, LOTS of bakery items, super delicious lychee juice boxes, Rilakkuma note book and Hello Kitty pen (was going away for training and wanted something fun for note taking), Korean sheet masks, curry, and an adorable stuffed animal.

Not much else to say except if you have an H-Mart anywhere around you then it’s well worth checking out. You could purchase most of these items online but it will cost more (many H-Mart grocery items are cheaper than the regular grocery store) and you’ll most likely have to pay shipping. Also the fresh items are very fresh and you can to choose the exact one you want. Bring some friends and make it a field trip! As I mentioned in a previous entry about this store, there is a decent size food court, which alone is well worth the trip.

Skoshbox: October

Skoshbox: October

The first of every month is a super happy one because it’s Skoshbox time! WEEEEE!!!

I am signed up for the monthly subscription and have no desire to cancel any time soon. A present arrives on your doorstep every month filled with Japanese treats.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with Skoshbox. Just a rabid, food-loving fangirl.

You can view what was in each box here. Here is my review on each item:

Green tea gum – tasted just like a Starbucks green tea frappuccino. Not too sweet, not too bitter.

Salad flavored rice cakes – next to the chocolate stick these were my favorite. Savory, salty, and crunchy!

Choco puff – imagine a giant cheese puff but instead it’s all chocolate. And it’s big! Hands down, my favorite thing in this box.

Awa Dama candy – it’s fizzy candy! It actually fizzed a bit while sucking on it. Very interesting and fun. There were two different types in here with different flavors.

Nori rice crackers – this is my go-to favorite whenever I’m in an Asian market. I always get any variation of a seaweed (nori) wrapped rice cracker. The cracker usually has a kind of soy sauce coating on it and is very delicious.

Black sesame mochi – pretty much as it sounds…chewy candy that’s black sesame flavored. It was great trying something new like this and I could easily eat 50 more. Very interesting and yummy.

Yakionigiri rice cracker – this came in close second for my favorite item in this box. It really did taste like yakionigiri (which is rice balls coated in soy sauce and pan fried). Very delicious. I ended up making some actual yakionigiri not long after eating this. It put me in the mood!

Green pea snack – crunchy peas out of the pod. Yep, that’s basically it. A healthy snack that wasn’t too salty.

Pretty post cards – they put one inedible item in each box. This month is postcards which are beautiful and can’t wait to send them out. Other months included a Japanese eraser (which are amazing) and chopsticks. Β NOTE: starting January 2014 their boxes will be food only.

Jazz Up Your Ramen

Jazz Up Your Ramen

Ramen is my personal choice for lunch on the weekends, especially now that the weather is getting cooler.

The base for this is one of my new favorite brands of ramen, Shin Ramyn. I actually found these in the Asian section at the local grocery store. If you can’t find them there, check your local Asian market. If that isn’t an option, Amazon has a large selection. Amazon has probably the best price, at around $1.25 per pack.

Now for the “jazz it up” part. Here are things you can add:

Egg: Probably the most common (and delicious) thing you can add to ramen is an egg. Either stir it up during the last minute and a half of cook time (while noodles are cooking) or boil beforehand. I like the look and texture of the hard boiled better, but that’s just me. It takes a bit longer to do, but you can boil a few ahead of time and even marinate them in soy sauce (and/or sriracha). Just put the egg into a zip top bag with some soy sauce and let it sit. The longer it sits, the better.
WARNING: this makes the egg taste more salty! Ramen is usually pretty salty, so if you don’t want to add more salt, either cut this step or just use sriracha.
The length of time you boil the egg will give you a more runny or hard yolk. RunnyRunny999 made a nice YouTube video about how to make a sexy hard boiled egg with the yolk juuuuust a bit runny.

Seaweed: This ingredient seems to be getting a bit more common. You can find this in the Asian section at the local grocery store and it’s sold in sheets. You can even buy them in snack packs, which are salty and delicious on their own. The sheets meant for sushi are a bit thicker and won’t get soggy as quickly.
Depending on your personal preference, either add these immediately before eating, or let them sit in the broth (crunchy vs soft seaweed).

Ham: There’s something about the sweetness of ham that goes well with ramen. This bowl of ramen is a spicy version so I wanted something to counter that. This is just one piece of pre-packaged deli ham. Get any flavor you want. Probably a good idea to get a low sodium ham since ramen has more than enough.

Veggies: I can go on and on about all the different vegetables you can put in ramen, but it will vary depending on your taste. In the picture above is a sliced mini bell pepper. Here are things I’ve tried and personally enjoy. Feel free to experiment and add whatever you have available:
bamboo shoots
bok choy – add to water while noodles are cooking for softer leaves
cabbage – either raw or boiled with the noodles, depending how crunchy you want them
mushrooms – pan fry with some oil then add before serving
green onion/scallion – add right before serving for more crunch
pepper – sweet or spicy
lettuce – on top right before serving for a refreshing crunch
corn – if frozen, cook beforehand then add on top before serving

Meat: The list for this can be just as long as veggies. Whatever you have on hand and whatever you feel like experimenting with. Remember that this will be going in a salty broth, so whatever seasonings you add may be different than if you were eating the meat on its own. Be wary of the amount of soy sauce you use.The ham mentioned above was just to cover what’s in the photo above, but here are other things to try:
ground pork – pan fry with sesame oil, chili oil, ginger, and garlic
deli meat – ham is my favorite so far. Have not tried others yet.
chicken – sliced chicken breast boiled or pan fried
sliced pork – pan fry with whatever seasoning you prefer

Seasonings: As mentioned above, be wary of the salt content. You are adding this into an already seasoned broth. The seasonings you add will vary depending on the brand of ramen you purchase, your personal taste, and what you have on hand. Here are some suggestions:
soy sauce – SODIUM WARNING!
red bean jam
sesame seeds
sesame oil
hot chili oil
shichimi togarashi
sriracha
ground pepper
basil
cilantro

Lunch was so good I’m having it again for dinner: Tantanmen

Lunch was so good I'm having it again for dinner: Tantanmen

Saw this on Cooking With Dog about a month ago and it hit all my happy points: noodles, seasoned pork, spicy. It didn’t seem insanely difficult to prepare (brown pork, add garlic and ginger, seasonings, boil noodles, mix broth, chop veggies, assemble, consume.

Searching for the ingredients the first time around at the local grocery store proved to be a flop. They only had organic super tiny baby bok choy for $6! Literally, the entire thing fit in the palm of my hand. Also, I could not find sesame paste, bean paste, or hot chili oil. *sigh*

Take two, this morning at the LARGER and still somewhat local grocery store. They had it all except for the sesame paste. Hey, I have sesame seeds and olive oil. How hard can it be? What you see in the broth is the result: lumps. It’s not super creamy smooth but it tasted damn good. I actually took a rolling pin and a small glass bowl (great for friction, right? Yea, no. Yes, I could have used food processor…if I wanted to make a LOT of paste. No clue how long it would last and didn’t want to waste anything. But at the very least, it’s doable like this.

For the ramen noodles, I really wanted fresh ones (as the recipe suggests). The only fresh noodles that were available were Chinese stir fry noodles (in the produce section by the wonton wrappers). They are a little bit chewier than ramen but they seemed to work really well.

Why didn’t I go to the Asian market where I could easily find all this stuff? Because it wasn’t open 😦

I didn’t add any twists to CWD’s recipe (other than hand smashing the sesame seeds with some olive oil). You can find all details here.

But seriously though, I’m about to make and eat this again.

My First Skoshbox!

My First Skoshbox!

I subscribe to Sharla in Japan on YouTube and she had this video talking about Skoshbox and showed its products for that month. I immediately signed up and voila! Got my first package at the beginning of August. Here is their page describing each item that was in this month’s box.

The subscription is $15 US dollars per month and you can cancel whenever you want. Ew, sounded like a commercial there for a second. But really, it’s super simple. I even emailed them with a question and they responded quickly and were super friendly!

My favorite item from this box was the Mini Salad. I don’t know why but it was just so different and delicious! It was salty and sweet and wish I had 50 more to eat! The Cheese Kibun were delicious as well. Heck, there wasn’t a single item in here I wouldn’t eat again.

Inside is a card with the name and description of each product. I really liked this because if there was something I must have full size I could easily order it online or hunt it down at the local Asian market.

It was packaged nicely with tissue paper and everything was laid out neatly (not just thrown in there). There were more snacks than I was initially expecting, making for a fun Japanese candy and snack adventure!

Personally, I think this is an awesome idea and really wish I had thought it up myself. Sometimes the snacks at the Asian market can be a bit expensive and only come in large bags. I love trying new things but honestly do not want to invest in something that I am completely unsure of. This is a great way to sample several different things and most of these items were not even available at the local market.

September can’t get here fast enough πŸ™‚