September 11, 2011

Simpler Bento Box and Bento with Lots of Frozen Foods/シンプルな弁当箱と冷凍食品をいっぱい使った弁当

Months ago, my son's bento box partially broke, and recently my son said he wanted to have another one. Yesterday, we went to buy one, and here is the one he selected, with some suggestions from me.
数ヶ月前、息子のお弁当箱が一部壊れ、最近、新しいのを買って欲しいと言われたので、昨日、一緒に買いに行きました。私が少し助言をして息子が選んだ弁当箱は、これです。
I'm really happy that he selected a simple one!
シンプルなのを選んでくれて、本当にうれしいです!

My son kept saying that my bento was simple (as compared with the fabulous bento of some of his friends), and I finally gave in, suggesting that we buy some frozen foods suitable for bento. Here are my son's selections:
息子は、(友達のスゴイお弁当と比べて)私が作る弁当がシンプルだといい続けるので、私もとうとう降参して、お弁当用の冷凍食品を少し買うことにしました。息子が選んだのはこれです。
Top: Spaghetti with grilled tarako (code roe)
Bottom: Omelets with meat in them
上: 焼きたらこのスパゲティ
下: 肉の入ったオムレツ

I was surprised to see that my wife bought additional ones:
妻が他にも買って来て、驚きました:
Top left to right bottom:
Haru maki (spring rolls); simmered hijiki, komatsuna (a type of leafy vegetable) dressed with sesame seeds, gobo (burdock root) kinpira; beef korokke; and chicken karaage
左上から右下に:
春巻き; ひじき煮、小松菜のごまあえ、ごぼうのきんぴら; 牛肉コロッケ; 鶏のからあげ

Bento for my son that I made this morning:
今朝、息子のために作ったお弁当:
The broccoli had been previously boiled and frozen by me, and the kinpira is what I made as part of supper last night. The grapes (Kyoho) in the separate container were from my father, and the tomatoes were from a brother-in-law.
ブロッコリーは前に茹でて冷凍したもの、きんぴらは、昨日の夕飯に作ったものです。ぶどう(巨峰)は父からもらったもの、トマトは義理の兄からもらったものです。

I also had to make three different types of onigiri (rice balls) for breakfast (to be eaten on the bus).
また、(バスの中で食べる)朝食用に3種類のおにぎりも作りました。

Shirasu (baby sardine), aka jiso (red perilla), and salmon flakes.
しらす、赤ジソ、鮭フレーク。

I first wrapped each onigiri in a sheet of nori and then in a sheet of plastic wrap.
おにぎりはそれぞれ、まず海苔で巻いて、次にラップで巻きました。
The remaining onigiri will be consumed by family members as snacks.
残りのおにぎりは、軽食として家族で食べることになるでしょう。


I am not very happy with using these frozen foods, but as long as my son is happy about them, I guess I should be happy, too. When he goes on to senior high school next year, I will consider improving my bento making skills so I won't have to rely on frozen foods. (At most senior high schools in Japan, they don't serve school lunches).
このような冷凍食品を使うことにあまり満足してはいませんが、息子が満足しているなら、自分自身も満足すべきだと思います。来年、息子が高校に進学したら、冷凍食品に頼らないで済むようにお弁当作りの技を磨きたいと思います(日本の高校では大抵、給食は出ません)。

30 comments:

Sissi said...

I remember I always preferred my classmates' sandwiches than mine and always complained mine were too simple and too "poor". I wish I had had the bentos you make for your children.
Sometimes frozen food is a good solution, as long as it's not packed with too much sugar and salt. I suppose your son's friends' mothers must be the ones who wake up at 4 am to make impressive bentos ;-)
I still think all of your bentos look fabulous. I am looking forward to see how they will look when you improve your skills!
I have bought the dry shiso and salt mixture to sprinkle over the rice and have never used it...

Fräulein Trude said...

Maybe you could cook some dishes on weekends in advance and store them in the freezer. Meatballs, chicken- or fishpaddies, glazed chickenwings, vegetables (not carrots), springrolls or chinese dumplings can be precooked and put in the freeze without loosing texture and taste after defrosting. Or just cook the pasta in the evening. In the morning the microwave will be your best friend (laugh). Don't freeze something with potatoe - defrosted potatoes taste bad. Many salads can be made at the evening before as potatoe- or egg- or noodle salads. Maybe your kids would enjoy to help their devoted salve aka dad in the kitchen (as kid my son loved to cook meals together with me and as grown up he likes to cook for his wifeand friends)? In the morning just put in the raw ingredients as green onions, tomatoes,cucumber or green salad leaves. I am not a fan of ready made frozen convinient food. In my country it contains too much fat, sugar, salt, chemistry and trashy ingredients for lots of money. がんばってね.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: According to a recent questionnaire survey conducted in May 2011 on women aged 20 to 59 who make bento at least once a week, http://www.garbagenews.net/archives/1767808.html
(Japanese only)

Most respondents make bento containing 4.2 okazu in a period of 24.6 min. on average. Those who spend more than one hour making bento account for 4.9% of the total, while those spend less than 10 min. account for 4.2%.

So, I guess those mothers who get up at four in the morning to make chara ben (キャラ弁) account for a very small percentage. I also guess that chara ben are usually for small children like kindergarteners.

As a native Japanese, I can imagine what my son means by "simple". Some mothers are so accustomed to making bento almost every day for their husband, childen, and themselves that they are capable of making elaborate bento in a short time, the kind of bento that look like a jewelry box.

As a male in his 50s, I feel some kind of mental difficulty dressing and presenting my bento like a young mother does...

Hiroyuki said...

Kiki: Thanks for your suggestions. Yes, I'm thinking of using the approach you mentioned, and I also consider learning how to make several okazu in a short time.
For example, this site (Japanese only)
http://www.ajinomoto.co.jp/recipe/obento/index.asp
describes how to make three dishes in 15 min. (almost) simultaneously in a single frying pan.

I hope that some leftover okazu from the last night's supper, some home-made frozen okazu, and some okazu made quickly in the morning can make a fabulous and healthy bento.

My children sometimes take interest in how I make certain dishes, but they still cannot use a knife properly...

Sissi said...

Thank you, Hiroyuki! I was convinced much more mothers did the complicated charaben...
Kiki has given you such sensible tips! She must be much more organised than me... (and more experienced? probably). I never make any lunch for anyone. Sometimes I would love to prepare bentos, it sounds very creative (even though much more complicated than the sandwiches I used to get as a child).

Stacy said...

I was wondering when your son goes to senior high school will you still be expected to do all the work for making bento? Perhaps your son will help his father do a lot of the hard work and preparation for making bento! :)

I bring my lunch to work everyday and while it's not as varied as a bento lunch, I usually bring leftovers from a large meal I make on sunday. (today is eggplant and swiss chard cheese dish with tomato on the side) yum

Fräulein Trude said...

Hiroyuki: I found lots of videos on youtube about preparing キャラ弁. Hello Kitties, panda bears, rabbits, manga characters and there is a huge industry involved selling the molds and punching tools. And they always cut the ingredients with scissors in shapes (e. g. slice of ham in hearts) - pretty disgusting from a hygienic point of view.
I think you should stick to the website with the 15 minute meals. Nice recipes.

muskrat said...

Hiro, I think your bentos look great! When I bring lunch to work, I usually just have leftovers - one, two or at the most three items. Having several components makes for an interesting lunch but its so time-consuming! I don't mean to change the subject, but are you going to defrost your nukkadoko soon? I plan to try this again, when the weather gets cooler.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: I forgot to mention the shiso furikake(?). It can be a good addition to your salad or asazuke (light pickle).

Hiroyuki said...

Stacy: You are right. I guess I should at least try to persuade my son to make his own bento.

Hiroyuki said...

Kiki: Yes, yes, you can find lots of such videos, sites, and blogs, like this one:
Simple character bento you can make in 15 minutes
http://www.recipe-blog.jp/blog/akinoichigo/
Japanese only

Of course, I have no intention of making kyara ben. I'm only interested in making healthy bento (that look good).

Hiroyuki said...

muskrat: Thanks for your compliment!
I think I can restart my nukadoko soon, hopefully late September.

Ruminating Roy said...

Hiroyuki, your bento may be simple but they still look better than mine! Before moving to a new town to start attending a trade school, I started using the same bento you purchased for your son, and I have to say I love it! Heavy textbooks and even a person have ended up on top of it with no ill effect, and even with this horrendous Texas heat I've had no issues. Hopefully it will last him through his last years of school and even beyond!

Hiroyuki said...

Ruminating Roy: Just I had imagined, his previous bento box broke at the hinge of the cover of the portion that houses the chopsticks. His present bento box is just great, and I must say that the manufacturer is very kind. They will send you replacements for the rubber packing and the air valve if you send them 190 and 110 yen worth of stamps, respectively. Isn't that great?

muskrat said...

Hiro-san, I'm glad to hear that! I'm eager to start my nukadoko again! I have vague childhood memories of my Japanese grandmother making nukka pickles, but I don't think she ever fed them to me. So, I welcome your input! Ruminating Boy - hello from another fellow Texan! Where are you? I'm in Fort Worth.

Fräulein Trude said...

Hiroyuki: Thanks for the link. Sadly my child is a grown up now and lives in china. Looking at the pictures and easy recipes I wish I had a kindergarten child to take care for once more again (laugh). This rice balls with cheese hoods, simply great.

Hiroyuki said...

muskrat: If you have never tasted nukazuke before, maybe it's a good idea to visit an authentic Japanese restaurant to see what nukazuke should taste like.

Kiki: Probably the hood is made of thinly fried eggs, not cheese.
A similar recipe can be found here:
http://www.recipe-blog.jp/blog/akinoichigo/index_6.html

You can always make a chara ben for yourself, right? (laugh)

Sissi said...

Thank you, Hiroyuki, for the shiso furikake tip! I have already used it once this week to "cheer up" the white rice and really love it.
I must look a bit more in my cupboards, I'm sure I have some other products I have never used...
Talking about foolish buys of the things I don't know what to do with... I have recently bought some herring roe. It was very cheap, had a beautiful small jar (very useful for all my preserves ;-) ) so I thought "why not?". Have you ever had it? I love for example ikura sushi, but still haven't opened this one (I know I would have to use it up quickly afterwards).

Fräulein Trude said...

Hiroyukis: The Kanjis tell me: thin baked egg so it is indeed no cheese at all. But it looked like cheap sandwhich cheese (laugh). I should really try to make a cute kindergarten bento just to show off at lunch time with my collegues. They just tease me with "hello kitty" all the time. That would give them another excellent opportunity.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: Herring roe (kazunoko 数の子 in Japanese) is one item of osechi ryori:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osechi

Of course, I've had it before, but unlike many other Japanese, I'm not a big fan of fish roe, except tarako.

It's rather chewy, and is quite different from ikura in texture.

Sissi said...

Thank you, Hiroyuki. Actually I have bought it at IKEA grocery shop ;-) That is why I was curious if it was also eaten in Japan (apparently in Sweden too).
I think I'll first taste t straight from the jar!

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: Wise decision! If you are interested in making matsumaezuke
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matsumaezuke
but can't find a recipe in English, I think I can help you.

Kiki said...

Sissi: Is it Sillrom? http://www.ikea.com/at/de/catalog/products/50201666
I like it, but it is quite salty and fishy.
I am more addicted to the ikea salmon paste http://www.ikea.com/at/de/catalog/products/90201650

Sissi said...

Hiroyuki, thank you for the proposition! I will analyse the description and when I have all the necessary ingredients, maybe I will ask you. In the meantime I will not bother you!
Kiki, yes! This is the same product.
Is it smoked salmon roe paste? the one which was blue before and had a boy's face??? I love it!!! It's the best salmon roe paste in the world and I always have a tub at home.
I also must admit I love their daim bars. I always fight very hard to stop myself from buying them. It's I think the only industrial bar that I love.
Hiroyuki, is IKEA present in many Japanese cities?
Even if you and Kiki are not fans of IKEA, I hope it will make you both laugh (this woman would be me if my husband did the same!!!):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rBkL-1cnxc

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: According to their official website, there are only five IKEA shops in Japan, and they have no intention to open more.

I watched the video three times, trying to find out what the pencils are supposed to mean, but in vain...

Kiki said...

If you enter a ikea store you can take a notepad and a small yellow pencil for free to write down the product numbers or messurements while walking to the store. Afterwards you may order or collect the products at the storage unit following your notes. This guy had a brand new pencil. His wife was angry because he visited ikea secretly without her. I think the pencil story should match common "strange lip stick traces at the collar" jokes. This pencils are wellknown. Maybe one must be french to get the joke.

Hiroyuki said...

Kiki: Thank your for your explanation. I watched the video the fourth time, but I found it hard for me to laugh when I saw the grave expression on her face...

Sissi said...

I'm so sorry, I should have explained (why do I assume everyone knows all about IKEA pencils?).
Thank you, Kiki for the explanation. It might be compared to the lipstick on the collar. It's pure betrayal going without one's wife to IKEA!
Hiroyuki and Kiki: I think one must be addicted to IKEA to get the joke maybe ;-) All the addicts take every time a pencil home as a "souvenir" (it's all thought over by the marketing team I am sure...).
I laugh every time I see it (and I have seen it several times).

kbjesq said...

I am glad that I found your blog. I always enjoyed your comments on Egullet. For many years, when my daughter was in elementary school in the US, I would send her to school with an o-bento lunch. I used many of your suggestions for Japanese cooking. As a result, my daughter enjoyed a healthy lunch. Thank you!

Hiroyuki said...

kbjesq: So, you are kbjesq from eGullet? Thank you for your compliment!

More than one month has passed since I started making a bento for my son on weekdays, who now goes to high school. I hope I can post about it soon, although I haven't made much improvement on it.