Making Japanese Bento Box Lunches

Posted on June 17th, 2012 in Random Thoughts,Recipes by Stephanie

I love to spend my free time in the evenings making cute Japanese bento box lunches which I keep in the fridge for lunch the next day. Bento lunches are hugely popular in Japan. They are home packed lunches that consist typically of rice, meat or fish and vegetables but it’s really up to you what you want to put in it. There are so many different varieties and possible food combinations that you can use.

Making bento lunches has become somewhat of an art with the food being used to create many different designs including cartoon characters such as Southpark and The Simpsons :)

Southpark And The Simpsons Bento Box Food Art

People have even made bento lunches in honour of their idols. Check out the Bill Gates and Tiger Woods bento lunch designs below!

Bill Gates And Tiger Woods Bento Box Food Art

Bento boxes come in a huge array of colours, patterns and sizes and although typically rectangular shaped, they can also be found in the shape of animals, food, popular Japanese characters, etc. They are usually both microwave and dishwasher safe so it is easy to heat up your lunch and clean in the dishwasher afterwards. That’s assuming that you aren’t having dishwasher problems like the ones that I’m experiencing! I recently got a new dishwasher installed in my kitchen after months of deciding on what dishwasher to get but every time I’ve attempted to use it, my dishes aren’t clean! :( So if anyone has any good dishwasher troubleshooting pointers that they would like to share, please let me know! :)

There are many different bento accessories available such as picks, cups (to separate food), sauce bottles, rice moulds, vegetable cutters, seaweed punches, egg moulds, etc so that you can make cute and beautifully presented lunches. I just bought a simple white bento box from the Japanese homeware shop Muji on Oxford Street so I decided to use it to make a pig themed bento lunch. I used some cute pig shaped bento cups and pig bento picks and sauce bottle to decorate the bento. The bento contains kanpyo (sweet gourd) rolls, edamame, tomato slices, a hard boiled egg (shaped into a heart using a Japanese egg mould), curry potato croquette, chicken siu mai and a mochi filled with matcha green tea chocolate.

Pig Themed Bento Lunch

I also made another bento lunch consisting of mostly Japanese food. It contains boiled vegetables with spicy miso sauce, salmon furikake rice ball, fish cake balls with edamame, gyoza dumplings, kimchee fried rice, seaweed with sesame, cream corn croquette with Kewpie mayonaise and rambutan with pineapple for dessert. I used some cute flower bento picks that I got in Japan to accessorise the lunch.

Japanese Bento Lunch

Bento lunches are fairly simple to make although more time consuming than making sandwiches but hopefully this post has inspired you to try and make cute and tasty bento lunches for your loved ones! 

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Japanese Pan-Fried Gyoza Dumplings Recipe

Posted on April 24th, 2012 in Random Thoughts,Recipes by Stephanie

Japanese Pan-Fried Gyoza Dumplings

Sunday is my dedicated cooking/baking day where I like to spend the day trying out new recipes and making old favourites. I usually have a few friends over afterwards to enjoy the results over a glass of wine and endless cups of tea, a great way to end the week! Unfortunately I have a countless number of red wine stains and tea stains to show for it and have had to invest in a good carpet cleaning shampoo! :S

Last week I made a Japanese favourite of mine, pan fried gyoza. Gyoza are dumplings, traditionally filled with pork and cabbage cooked crispy at the bottom and steamed juicy on top. They go brilliantly eaten together with a bowl of soup noodles and are great for parties. Here is the recipe that I used to make the gyoza:

Mitsukan Rice Vinegar Ingredients (makes 32 dumplings):

  • 32 gyoza skins
  • 270g minced pork
  • 200g cabbage
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 spring onions (chopped finely)
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger (finely grated)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • cooking oil
  • soy sauce (for the dipping sauce)
  • rice vinegar – see photo opposite (for the dipping sauce)
  • chilli sesame oil / rayu (for the dipping sauce)

Uncooked Gyoza Directions:

  • Boil the cabbage until soft and then drain well. Soak up any excess water using a paper towel or use a cheesecloth to squeeze out the water. The cabbage should be dry so that it doesn’t make the gyoza skins soggy.
  • Cut the cabbage into small pieces and put it into a large bowl.
  • Add the minced pork, garlic, spring onion, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce to the cabbage and mix well. Put the mixture aside for a short while to marinade and to allow the flavours to infuse.
  • To make the gyoza, put a gyoza skin in the palm of one hand and put about a heaped teaspoon worth of the mixture in the centre of the skin.
  • Have a small bowl of water on hand and dip a finger in the water in order to moisten the edge of one half of the skin.
  • Gyoza Folding Press

  • Fold the gyoza skin in half over the mixture and pinch at the top in the middle to seal it at that point. Pleat the skin starting from that middle point out on both sides until the skin completely seals the mixture inside (see photo above). Make sure to press firmly whilst pleating to make sure the skin sticks together. If you have a gyoza folding press such as the one in the photo opposite you can use this to make the gyoza (personally I think it doesn’t make such attractive looking gyoza).
  • Repeat this until you have used up all the gyoza skins and mixture.
  • To cook the gyoza, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large pot on a medium heat and fry the gyoza on one side with the pleated edge up for about 3 minutes until it is brown and crispy on the bottom side.
  • Add 1 cup of water to the pot so that the gyoza are half submerged.
  • Cover the pot with a lid, leave on a medium-low heat and allow the gyoza to steam cook until the water has completely evaporated and there is a little oil still left at the bottom of the pot.
  • Leave the gyoza to cook for a little longer to make sure that the bottoms are crispy.
  • Serve the gyoza with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli sesame oil mixed together.

For more recipes of mine please check out my cooking blog: Stephanie Law’s Cookblog :)

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American Style Pancakes Recipe

Posted on October 1st, 2011 in Recipes by Stephanie

One of my all time breakfast faves is a huge stack of fluffy American pancakes drizzled with heaps of warm maple syrup. A good American pancake is hard to find in London so I usually make them myself at home as they are so easy to make and it takes less than 10 minutes!

Here is a great American style pancakes recipe so you can whip them up yourself for breakfast or as a treat for dessert. I found this yummy recipe on the BakingMad.com website which is full of recipes for cakes, cookies, breads, pancakes and more and is fantastic for getting recipe ideas!

American Style Pancakes With Maple Syrup And Dragonfruit

Ingredients:

  • Plain white flour (225g)
  • Baking powder (4tsp)
  • Golden caster sugar (2tsp)
  • Salt (1tsp)
  • 2 Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • Milk (300ml)
  • Butter (50g)

Directions:

  • Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and milk. Whisk to a smooth battter and ideally leave for 30 minutes.
  • Lightly grease a pan with butter and spoon the mixture onto the hot pan. Cook on each side for a couple of minutes.
  • Transfer to a plate and keep warm while you cook the remaining batter. Use the remaining butter inbetween to re-grease the pan.
  • Enjoy drizzled with syrup or stack and serve with fresh fruits.

TIP: Sometimes I add thinly sliced bananas to the pancake mixture for banana pancakes or blueberries for blueberry pancakes. Or you could try using grated orange peel and orange cooking essence for orange pancakes.

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Vegetarian Pad Thai Recipe

Posted on September 19th, 2011 in Alternative Things To Do,Recipes by Stephanie

I absolutely love Thai food and one of my favourite Thai dishes is a noodle dish called Pad Thai so I’m going to share my Vegetarian Pad Thai recipe with you all. This recipe can also be made with prawns, chicken or whatever you want to put in it too.

Ingredients (Serves 4):

250g/9oz rice stick noodles
4 tbsp groundnut oil
4 garlic cloves, finely  chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp lime juice
100g / 3 1/2oz beansprouts
75g string beans
4 spring onions, chopped
1 small courgette, chopped
125g / 4 1/2oz deep fried tofu, chopped into 5mm / 1/4inch pieces

Instructions:

  1. Soak the rice noodles in hot water for about 15 minutes, drain thoroughly and put to one side.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the garlic over a high heat for 30 seconds. Add the tofu, courgette and string beans and stir-fry for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, fish sauce, ketchup and lime juice and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the noodles, then add the beansprouts and spring onions and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds to cook lightly.
  5. Turn out onto a serving dish and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Pad Thai

If you’re interested in Thai cookery, Channel 4’s “The F-Word” finalist Angela Malik has a cooking school in London which specialises in Thai and Asian cookery classes. Also for today only Groupon have an offer for a 2 1/2 hour cooking class at the Angela Malik cooking school in London to learn either Thai, Indian, Dim Sum or Vietnamese cookery for only £39 (usually £85). For more details on this offer as well as other Groupon offers you can visit the Groupon website HERE.

For more information on Groupon see my post HERE

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Hummingbird Bakery London Portabello Road

Posted on August 23rd, 2011 in Afternoon Tea,Places To Visit,Recipes by Stephanie

Hummingbird Bakery Portobello Road London

If you happen to be around the Notting Hill area in London then you simply must stop by the Hummingbird Bakery on Portabello Road. Over the years the Hummingbird Bakery has become London’s most famous cake shop stocking fresh hand baked cupcakes, cakes, pies and brownies. At any time on any day there always seems to be a queue of people waiting to pick up their Hummingbird Bakery cake fix. The branch on Portabello Road is their flagship branch and there are also branches in Soho (Wardour Street), South Kensington (Old Brompton Road) and Spitalfields (Frying Pan Alley).

Hummingbird Bakery London

The Hummingbird Bakery first opened in London in 2004. They wanted to provide Londoners with an alternative to supermarket cakes and French patisseries, a place where you could buy real cupcakes, fluffy with buttercream icing, moist layer cakes or genuine American pies. The mouthwatering display of cakes in their shops leaves you wanting to buy out the whole shop but if you have to choose one, go for Hummingbird bakery’s most popular cake, the Red Velvet cupcake. This cupcake has a fresh home-baked taste with a hint of cocoa and vanilla and an extremely addictive cream cheese frosting.

Hummingbird Bakery London Red Velvet Cupcake & Vanilla Cake

If there isn’t a Hummingbird bakery near you then they have a recipe book which has detailed recipes for all their cakes and creations so that you can make your own at home! The recipe book is available on Amazon here. Alternatively if you live abroad you can get the book from The Book Depository here which gives free international delivery!

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