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Saizen is in Trinoma!

:happy dance:

Yes, that’s right. My favorite 100-yen store is now in my favorite mall! Saizen sells all items at Php 85 (~$1.84) regardless of size. The most important thing is that Saizen sells a lot of bento and cooking equipment not found in the other 100-yen stores. I already have bought some items from Saizen before.

Here’s my loot:

Okay, this is not exactly bento equipment. This is a plate specifically for holding and serving cold soba noodles. The wooden mat serves to both absorb the excess moisture as well as lets water drip onto the plate underneath. This also comes in a pure black theme, but I got the red-and-black since most of my plateware is also red-and-black. I’m thinking of getting a second (and maybe a third) soba plate, just in case I need it.

Yes! I finally got myself a nori cutter. I haven’t tried it out yet and see how this actually performs, but I have high hopes. The interesting thing about this cutter is it actually comes in a set of eight cutters (separately bought, of course). I chose cutter number 5, the bunny cutter. I plan to get cutters 1-4 and 6 as well, and skip the last two. The last two are a ship and a car respectively, which is not useful because my daughter isn’t into vehicles at this stage. Too bad Saizen does not have any kao (face) cutters, so my bentos will go faceless for now.

Lastly, I also bought a set of sauce containers. These are basically small plastic containers with lids and comes in different colors and designs. I have so far been reluctant to take pictures of my bentos with sauces because I’ve been using ugly sauce containers. Now, I will no longer be ashamed! Freedom! :3

Here’s a picture of those three items unwrapped. There are several other items that I am planning to buy: bento boxes to add to my collection; additional picks; the other cutters as I mentioned; onigiri molds; and cookie cutters.

Since I’m already in the process of sharing pictures of my loot, let me show you two new bento boxes I bought from two other merchants.

This is a two-tier bento I bought from Japan Home (another 100-yen store). It is quite small, and it comes with its own bento band and chopsticks. I’m planning to use this little bit a lot, to help me control my portions better. My other boxes are much much larger than this one. I bought this one for Php 88 (~$1.90).

Is it hard to imagine who this bento is for? The moment I saw this bento I knew I had to get it for my little T. The only problem I have with it is that it’s HUGE. It might not fit in her lunch bag, but we’ll see. I bought this one at Clipper in Trinoma for Php 99 (~$2.14).

Disclaimer: These items are bought with my own money and all opinions are my own. I have not been paid in any way to advertise by these merchants.

Originally posted: Jul 21, ’10 5:50 AM

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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Old posts

 

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Kyaraben # 4: Rainbow in my box

Finally! I was able to make that rainbow work after a disastrous first attempt. This is by the way my entry for the Bento Summer School Homework # 3. Here it is:

I have a bed of rice and sprinkled some nori strips on it. The clouds in the bottom corners are made of steamed fish cake, cut using a heart-shaped sandwich cutter but using only the top part. The rainbow itself is made of grated cheese, some broccoli florets, sticks of steamed squash, and grated carrot. From another angle:

You’ll see I’m just using a standard Lock n’ Lock box here (one of my first!). I wanted to avoid distracting the eye with funky box colors, so I kept it simple.

I really liked the taste of this bento that I went ahead and made a similar one for today.

Originally posted: Jul 9, ’10 6:57 PM

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Old posts

 

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Kyaraben # 3: Kiddie treats

This is my entry for the Bento Summer School Homework # 2. The task is basically to assemble a bento filled with finger foods, or food that does not require any utensils.

This is my daughter’s school lunch yesterday. It’s basically made up of things that I just pulled out of the freezer and threw into the steamer, except for the makizushi, which I made on the spot. Clockwise from the left: there’s steamed cocktail hotdog octopii, ham sandwich with a nori strip to make it look like sushi, a mushipan, a jumbo chicken sausage cut into flowers, and a roll of cheese makizushi.

Here’s another view:

I have been told that she ate most of it, which made me really happy!

Originally posted: Jul 2, ’10 5:16 AM

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Old posts

 

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Kyaraben # 2: Flowers of summer

Yay! 2 exciting things in this entry: my second kyaraben, and my first recipe!

This is my entry for the Bento Summer School Homework # 1. The task is basically to adapt a non-muffin/cupcake recipe and use a muffin tin to cook it. Then, for bonus points, to pack a bento using that recipe.

Here, I used silicone muffin cups and cooked chawanmushi in them. If you search online, there are several takes to the basic idea of chawanmushi, which is basically steamed savory egg custards. My own interpretation is as follows:

Pat’s Chawanmushi
Makes 3 small cups

Ingredients and Preparation:
1 small carrot – Grate the carrot finely.
1 shiitake mushroom – Remove the stem. Slice into half inch strips.
1 medium/large egg
1/4 cup dashi stock (I used instant dashi granules to create the stock.)
~ 1/4 tsp mirin
~ 1/4 tsp soy sauce
~ 1/2 tsp white sugar
* Mirin, soy sauce, and sugar amounts can vary according to taste.

Break the egg into a small bowl. While pouring the dashi stock into the bowl, gently stir the dashi with the egg. (Note: Do not beat! We don’t want bubbles into our mixture.) Add the mirin, soy sauce, and sugar and stir some more. Divide the grated carrot and sliced shiitake into three small silicone cups. Gently pour the egg mixture into the three cups. Some of the carrots and shiitake mushroom might float to the top; this is perfectly fine. Steam the eggs for around 12-15 minutes.

Bento break-down: Here you’ll (barely) see that I put in a heart-shaped carrot slice in my chawanmushi, which is slightly submerged in the egg. I have a bed of carrot-rice beside the silicone cup (Carrot-rice: I put grated carrot, a bit of olive oil, and a dash of salt into the pot while cooking rice.) At the bottom is a row of steamed broccoli florets to represent grass. The flowers are actually flower cut outs off a steamed fish cake, with cheese circles in the middle.

You’ll notice that this entire bento is made using only the rice cooker. Prep time (including packing the bento) is around 35 minutes and the cooking itself is another 20 minutes.

Originally posted: Jun 30, ’10 4:47 AM

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Old posts

 

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Good morning bento

Today I made my first kyaraben. Here it is:

Composition: The bottom layer is basically just a rice layer with “オハヨウ!” written in cut-out strips of nori. Ohayou is “Good morning” in Japanese. Here, I wrote it in katakana instead of hiragana mainly because it’s easier to cut out katakana because it’s more angular. There is also a slice of hardboiled egg topped with cheese with scalloped edges (no, that’s not the egg yolk), as well as a slice of flower-shaped cheese.

The top split-layer’s left compartment is a veggie section (steamed cauliflower and broccoli florets around a fresh tomato). The right side has a bed of mac, cheese, and shrimp topped with two slices of hardboiled egg (egg whites only) with nori faces.

Thoughts: This bento is not quite the one I had planned a week ago. There is very little protein, because I had to ditch my original plan of using fried fish cakes. I bought these ready-made frozen fish cakes in Landmark and tried shallow-frying a couple. It actually turned out fine (and tasted like how I imagined it to taste like) but it spread smoke all over the house. I don’t think I want a repeat of that, so I’m sticking to sauteing at the most when it comes to frying. No more shallow- nor deep-frying, so I’ll need to find alternatives to cooking protein. I had planned to just boil the fish cakes as if putting in an oden, but I forgot to overnight-defrost the fish cakes.

In addition, I find that the actual bento is smaller than what I had pictured. I was envisioning more room to put things. This is actually a good thing, helping me control the portion size and thus help me eat less. Nori is also very hard to shape. Notice that here, I made only the most basic of shaping, which is basically just cutting strips out of nori and arranging them to form things I want.

On the positive side, steaming vegetables was a great idea! The colors are preserved beautifully, and they taste fresh too. I also got to use the picks I bought earlier, here arranged as if they were the hair on the two egg-faces. Lastly, the mac and cheese was awesome!

Conclusion: I need to work on protein for bentos, as well as making better faces. I’m thinking of acquiring more food punchers and nori cutters.

What do you think is a good theme for my next kyaraben?

Originally posted: Jun 22, ’10 9:10 AM

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Old posts

 

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Sushi attempt number two and then some

Today I made another attempt at making sushi. This time I tried some variations. Here’s what I came up with:

The nigiri-sushi in the upper portion are made using the mold that I bought recently. I’m not 100% satisfied with it because it used up an insane amount of rice for just a few pieces, and I needed to improvise on the strip of nori that goes around each piece. I made double-striped one on the right side with the leftover rice.

I was also able to make thinner sushi (all of the ones under the double-striped piece) by using half a nori sheet and only one kind of filling. Here I made two sets, one with tamagoyaki inside (the yellow ones on the right) and one with kani inside (the ones at the bottom). I also made two sets of the fat sushi I made before (the ones under the lone nigiri-sushi).

Along with that plate of sushi, I made a huge batch of mushipan. Mushipan are basically steamed bread-cakes that the Japanese eat as an afternoon snack (merienda). Usually it’s served hot with toppings like maple syrup, chocolate syrup, or even marmalade or jam. I’ve determined that it’s actually fine eaten cold and by itself and is perfect for bento.

I made my mushipan using silicone cups instead of a colander as most steamed bread recipes use. The bigger square shaped ones are roughly twice as big as the small circular ones (because it used twice the amount of batter). I’m still in the process of finding the right sugar content; the original recipe called for a small amount and is almost bland. This batch I made had 1.5 cups more sugar, but still Gaeb says it could use a bit more. Tesla liked it, though.

Originally posted: Jun 16, ’10 7:02 AM

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Old posts

 

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More equipment!

I was able to go for a bit of shopping yesterday for some bento equipment. All of these were bought from Saizen, a 100-yen shop at Robinson’s Galleria, where everything is sold at Php85.00. I like Saizen because of the sheer variety of items that they offer.

This is a popsicle mold for four. Since Tesla loves ice cream, I figured I could make her some using this mold. It’s also rather nostalgic, since the kids from my era are used to making homemade ice drops by freezing fruit juice.

This is a nigiri-sushi mold. I am told that my maki were good, so I’m planning to make more. This mold will help me make differently shaped sushi.

I also bought these bento picks. Admittedly this is on the decorative side of making bento, I am hoping also that this will encourage Tesla to eat her packed lunches. This is a set of 50 vegetable-themed picks (actually they are more fork than pick).

Here I displayed the picks along with the opened sushi mold. As far as I can tell, there are five different designs of the picks. Aren’t they adorable?

Originally posted: Jun 14, ’10 2:24 AM

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Old posts

 

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