May 27, 2012

Making Bento for my Son/息子の弁当作り

More than one month has passed since I started making bento for my son on weekdays (and sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays as well).
I had planned how to make bento for him well in advance.  From two questionnaire surveys on bento I found on the Internet, I learned that most people spend up to twenty minutes (about 30% of the respondents) and up to thirty minutes (about 30%) in the morning making bento that have three or four okazu in them.
After much thought, I decided to make a bento that contains four or five okazu within ten minutes.  To that end, I have to make preparations in advance.
Four okazu are almost fixed:  Boiled broccoli, atsuyaki tamago (Japanese-style thick rolled omelet), spinach goma ae (dressed with sesame seeds), and cherry tomatoes (all of which are his favorites).

I kept this tray, which came with store-bought frozen food.

I bought a set of four silicone cups at a 100-yen shop (shown on the left).  Shown on the right are packs of large and small aluminum cups that I usually use.

This is the way I use the tray together with aluminum cups.

I store atsuyaki tamago in the partial freezing compartment of the fridge.

I make small hamburgers in the toaster oven.

I put some in each aluminum cup and store in the freezer.

I also store chicken karaage and deep-fried meat balls in the same way.

I boil broccoli in a pot for 2 min. and store in the freezer.

My job in the morning is to assemble them together in the bento box, except cherry tomatoes, which I previously put in a separate container and store in the fridge. 

I usually sprinkle something on the rice, such as goma shio (salt and sesame seeds).

I place the lid diagonally on top of the bento box to keep out dust while cooling the rice.  I make it a point to cook rice every morning.

Then I wrap the bento box in a bandana.

Shown on the right is my son's portable thermos bottle.

I make it a point to make barley tea the night before, by boiling water.

All my family hate the off-flavor of barley tea made with cold water.

As you can see from the photos below, all of my son's bento look almost the same.

I don't thaw store-bought frozen foods in a microwave unless otherwise specified on the package.  I usually don't thaw home-made frozen foods, either.


okasan said...

You are very efficient at making bento, your son is so lucky. You are so smart to use the silicon cups, you can manipulate the okazu easily this way. You must have to get up very early each morning to make rice. Even with a rice cooker it takes 40 minutes. Do you pack a bento for yourself too?

Unknown said...

I have to make bento for my three children every day so it was very useful to see your methods. If you don't thaw the okazu in the microwave or fridge, what do you do? Does it just thaw naturally by lunchtime? Thank you for your site!

Hiroyuki said...

okasan: He is not lucky. There are a lot of parents (usually mothers) who can make much better bento for their children and spouses.

I was glad when I found silicone cups at a 100 yen shop; at home improvement centers, they are much more expensive. But, I have two minds about using them, because I have to wash and rinse after use. Are they more eco-friendly than disposable aluminum cups???

I use the timer function of the rice cooker, and when I get up, the rice is cooked. I DO have to get up early, around 5:20, though.

I work at home, so I don't need a bento.

Unknown: Yes, yes, it just thaw naturally by lunchtime, as you say.

Sissi said...

Hiroyuki, I'm sincerely impressed by your detailed organisation and bento making skills! Your son is a very lucky boy!
I also work at home most of the time but whenever I go to work in the office I make Japanese style bentos lots of work but such a pleasure!
I have very similar silicone cups. I bake cookies in them, but they look very cute too. The 100 yens shops will "hypnotise" me when I go to Japan... It's one of the "activities" I have already planned and also planned to exclude my husband from it (I know it would be a nightmare: I am able to spend hours there).
I must see if I am allowed to bring a rice cooker from Japan... They sound so magical! (My doesn't have any timer it's just on and off and it wasn't a cheap one, the brand is quite good too). Japanese rice cookers cost a fortune here in my Japanese grocery shops.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: When I took my parents to one of those 100 yen shops for the first time about a decade ago, they ended up spending more than 10,000 yen!
But, be careful! Some items are cheaper at supermarkets and home improvement centers, and some items are just cheap and nasty.

If you ever decide to buy a rice cooker in Japan, I'd suggest buying an IH or pressure IH cooker.

Sissi said...

Thank you, Hiroyuki for the advice. I have written down the brand (yes, I have already a shopping and activities list for my trip to Japan!).
I will also be careful with 100 yen shops.

muskratbyte said...

The 100 yen shops in Japan are similar to our "Dollar Stores"... although strangely, most dollar stores now carry mostly items that are over a dollar each. You also have to be careful for value and quality there. I definitely plan to spend some time in 100 Yen stores when I finally get to visit Japan!

Hiroyuki said...

muskratbyte: Thanks for letting me know about Dollar Stores. I did a quick google search and found one video:
(There should be more.)
100 yen shops are like your "Dollar Stores" in that they now carry not only 100 yen items but also more expensive (150, 200, 300, and even 500 yen) items.