Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Bento box bandwagon

Its funny how things work out. Ever since I started work, I've always hated bringing my own lunch to work. My lunches are driven by cravings, mood and weather. So packing my lunch the day before, means I'll have to predict how I will feel the next day. And added ontop of that, I'm not a big fan of leftovers. As much as I love my mum's cooking, they don't look too crash hot the next day. Besides, working near Wynyard meant there was a huge range of fantastic food at fairly reasonable prices, why bring my own lunch?

Suddenly, everything's changed since my new job. I'm over at Martin Place now, and although its only a 5-10min walk to all my favourite food joints in Wynyard, I'm suddenly too lazy to go. All the food offerings around Martin Place are a bit......dull. Overpriced and dull. I resorted to going to the local coles and buying sandwich ingredients to make my own lunch. Then I started reading all the bento boxes The Food Pornographer put up. They just looked sooo healthy, yet strangely appetising. I never really thought the 2 could go together. Healthy and appetising!

Its been more than a few weeks of reading TFP's bento posts, and one day, I just decided to pack my own bento lunch. Since I buy sooooo many plastic containers, I had more than enough choice to fashion my own bento box look alike thing. Plus, I've been buying bento gear online, like my egg moulds which I bought over a year ago, and I've never used it! So here are my early attempts at a cheaper, healthier and well balanced lunch.

Large compartment contains boiled rice, with slices of vietnamese meatloaf. Its basically the slice of meatload you get when you order Vietnamese broken rice. These were made by my sister and I absolutely love it. Infact, I think I like it more than her kids and my family does. She used to bring over a few slices when she makes them, but she's since learned to make me a whole loaf! hehe

Small blue compartment contains a mix of tomatoes and cucumber. Pink compartment had celery and carrots topped by a hard boiled egg. Do you notice anything strange about the egg? Here's a close up:

Bad photo, but its actually a little bunny rabbit. It was my first time using it, and it wasn't as successful as I had hoped, simply because the eggs I had were too big for the mould. The egg just exploded out of the sides! I tried my fish mould first, which resulted in crumbled eggs, then I tried the rabbit again thinking it'll be easier. Luckily, its the eggs and not me ;) I sliced the egg in half so I could have it with soya sauce.

This was a last minute bento box I packed when I got home late one night after volleyball (like at 11pm) and quickly rushed to pack something. I know it doesn't look like much, boiled rice, veggies and grapes? What type of lunch is that??? Its O-K! I have a plan!

Tadah! Salt and vinegar chicken strips x 3. Yeah I know, it doesn't exactly go with the healthy balanced meal thing, but the fact that I packed my own rice and veggies, meant that I wasn't going to get chips and gravy with it, which is generally what I would've done. These chicken strips were from the Coles hot food section where they sell chicken schnitzel, chips, bbq chicken, pies pizza etc. They extremely crispy and have a really nice kick of vinegar to it. I noticed they also sell these in the frozen section, so I might buy some and just oven bake them next time.

Over the weekend, I decided to be more prepared and actually shopped for some bento ingredients. Big compartment has boiled rice and skin free teriyaki chicken thigh pieces. My mum was sweet enough to go through the chicken thigh and cut out every piece of fat she could see! The marinade was simply soya sauce, sugar and sake.

Small blue compartment has cherry tomatoes and lightly blanched sugar snap peas to take away the rawness but retaining the crunch.

Small pink compartment has cucumber strips and dashimaki tamago (Egg omlette with dashi stock). I bought a tamago pan when I went to Singapore earlier in the year, and its been sitting in my room gathering dust, I thought what better chance to bust it out and give it a try. It was much easier than I thought, so tamago will be a frequent component of my bento boxes I think.

To make sure I stick with the whole healthy bento eating, I went and ordered a bento box off eBay (and I have asked my bestest friend in the whole wide world to bring me a few from Japan! Don't forget please my sweetieeeeeeeee!! :D ). I can't believe how tiny the size is compared to what I usually eat. The recommended size for a woman of my height and age is 600ml. The bento box is 550ml in volume (Close enough). The scary thing about it is, I can walk into any food court or take away restaurant, and almost be guaranteed that their serves will be bigger than what I fit in my bento. Looks like another positive side of the bento is portion control? (could spell the end of my White Cocktatoo days!)

Left: Dashimaki Tamago, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes and sakura shaped carrot pieces. I cut these using the new cutter that came with my bento set.
Right: Broccoli, rice and beef rissoles.

The rissoles were made by my mum. Being Chinese, my mum has never really made rissoles for me. We get plenty of the steamed or boiled meatballs you get at yum cha and hot pot, but no a rissole. So when I found a rissole sandwich in the kitchen the other day, I thought she had bought it from a shop (she did wrap it in a paper bag). And the rissole was amazing! It tasted better than most rissoles you will find out there. When I found out that she made it, I immediately went and got more beef mince and asked her to make up a huge batch for me to freeze. Its basically beef mince, onions, carrots and our home grown chinese celery. The veggies made the rissole incredible moist and tender.

This is my Malaysian/Korean/Japanese fusion Nasi Lemak wannabe bento box. I've got boiled rice sprinkled with black sesame (In place of the coconut rice that comes with a nasi lemak) in one container. In the other, I've got Korean Banchan anchovies, that are spicy, sweet and sticky. One of my favourite banchan dishes to replace the ikan bilis and sambal you get in a nasi lemak. Cucumbers, cherry tomato and the last of my dashimaki tamago. And yes, that was the egg component of my nasi lemak wannabe.

I've also been talking to my friend about my bento obsession, and she's thinking its a great way for her to save money and eat healthy for lunch as well. And she's also thinking of packing a bento for her kids to take to school, instead of ham and cheese sandwiches. I've been getting alot of bento inspirations from The Food Pornographer, Lunch in a box and The Daily Tiffin. Lets see how long this obsession lasts ;)


TFP said...

Your lunches look great! I especially like the look of the teriyaki chicken thigh pieces and the rissoles your mum made. Yum.
You're so right about portion control being another plus for doing bento. I try to make sure if I add extra calories/food to the bento, it's mostly healthy stuff, like more salad, so it's all good. Very handy for you, having a mate in Japan. :)

SoRMuiJAi said...

Thanks! I gotta be good and pack more lunches in the red bento box though. I'm cramming my other plastic one with food. I don't seem as full as ordering take away food, but the box certainly seems heavier?? I need the red box to control myself from pigging out!