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Apr. 13th, 2008

Books from the library

Although I've been a member of the library for at least 2 years, I've never borrowed at all. Yesterday, I went to the local branch opposite the Central Markets to seek out some new reading material. Due to it's location, there are hundreds of books on food & wine, and very little other non-ficition works! I thought that I would have a look out for some Japanese recipe books, and found two that immediately appealed to me.

"Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes" by Ikuko Hisamatsu has been mentioned on Maki's blog, Just Hungry, so I was delighted to spot it on the shelves. While many of the recipes may not really appeal to Western palates, I think that there are a few recipes that I might transcribe, such as Garlic in Miso and some of the quick pickles. I don't know that I have the patience to make kim chee or other ones that take weeks! I will definitely need to scale down the recipes in the book - most of the "instant" pickling recipes only keep for a couple of days.

The other book I found was Kurihara Harumi's book, "Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking". This book has beautiful photography and a casual style, appropriate for homestyle cooking. Harumi is apparently Japan's answer to Martha Stewart, and has written many books, has a TV show, and her own lines of tableware, kitchenware and clothing.

Not being an experienced connoisseur of Japanese cuisine, I do wonder how authentic these recipes are, as the author does try to limit the number of exotic or hard-to-find ingredients. She does, however, mention the traditional ingredients (such as shiso leaves) and suggests an alternative, should you not be able to find them (a mixture of basil & mint, if you're interested!)

I had briefly leafed through the contents at the library, so imagine my surprise when I got home to find that many of the recipes were suggested as good inclusions to a bento, and then later in the book, a whole chapter devoted to packing a bento.

I will have to try some of these recipes out, although like the last couple of weeks, I think this will be a slow week for bento. I have a new role at work which involves me doing training all next week, and will be supplied with lunch. We'll see if the cafe at work cuts it, or whether I will still bring a bento!
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Mar. 24th, 2008

Tamagoyaki triumph!

I know that not many people will be excited by my success in making a tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette roll), but I'm thrilled to bits! I bought the nifty little rectangular pan whilst in Singapore, and thought it would be therefore very easy, but it's not. I tried again last week and came with a perfect looking roll. Thanks to Biggie for her great instructions and encouragement!

Unfortunately, the eggs I had were not as yellow as normal, maybe this is the difference between free-range & organic? Anyway, it was pretty good - I think it's all down to the heat of the pan and the right amount of oil.



Featured today is one of my very favourite bentos, the meat & egg soboro bento. Essentially, it's just rice with flavoured mince meat & sweet scrambled egg sprinkled on top. A good recipe for meat soboro is here from one of my favourite bento blogs. I made a large batch and froze small portions, so now all I have to do is take it out of the freezer the night before.

Included in this bento is an organic tomato that we were given by one of the residents of Christie Walk, the nearby eco-village where we are allowed to compost. They have a beautiful little veggie garden oasis in the middle of the city.

Mar. 13th, 2008

Heatwave

Something I haven't said in the last recent entries is how hot it is. It's searingly and unendingly hot. Yesterday was the tenth consecutive day over 35 degrees, and today's forecast is for 40 degrees. It looks like the first cool day will be Wednesday next week (a whole week away!) where the temperature will drop down to a balmy 31 degrees. We try to run our air-conditioner as little as possible, but it's been used more frequently in the last week than in the last year. :P

In response to the heat, I have tried to make simple, cooling lunches, with one of my favourites, zaru-soba, making an appearance.


Zaru-soba is a lovely simple dish, consisting of chilled soba noodles with a dipping sauce. You can't quite see the noodles in this photo, but when cooked, are a warm, chocolate brown colour. On top, there is shiitake mushroom, simmered aburaage (tofu puff), snow peas, leftover chicken from dinner the other night and sliced tamagoyaki (omelet roll). Needless to say, the bento is a little full so couldn't stir it up! I had to decant the contents into a bowl, which served as a great demonstration to my co-workers as to how much food you can fit in a 400ml bento. :)

I am still yet to master the tamagoyaki, which is cooked in a special rectangular pan. I picked one up for only $2 at Daiso in Singapore. I think I have been setting the heat too low, and the egg has been sticking. This attempt, however, was much better than my first, so I think it's just practice. Biggie from Lunch in a Box has a fantastic tamagoyaki tutorial here.

Oh tiny pan and runny eggs, I will master you yet!

Mar. 12th, 2008

Sacred Monsters

I went to see Sacred Monsters tonight with my friend, Belinda. It was an unexpected delight that will leave me thinking for days.

Despite a very sparse set with a fairly brutal lighting design, it was really stunning. I was really concerned that all the hype surrounding Sylvie Guillem would be exactly that, but she is one of the most incredible dancers I have ever seen, with this lean, stringy body with incredibly long limbs. All parts of her body (right down to her fingers and toes) seemed to move independently of one another and yet seamlessly together at the same time.

Her collaborator and partner in the work was Akram Khan, who in the opening scene, looked like he had no skeleton, as his movements were so fluid. His portrayal of Krishna in the classical Indian section of the work was wonderful. He was mesmerising. Each scene showcased a new side to his talent, from water-like fluidity to jerky playfulness, to a wonderful piece where he seemed so anchored to the ground that he might have been a tree that had put roots into the stage floor.

I was taken aback at first by Guillem & Khan addressing the audience, and the level of humour within the work. Whilst the other was performing a solo, they would sit upstage and drink water, mop themselves with a towel, and in Sylvie's case, brushing and plaiting her hair. At first it was distracting, but somehow later, it all seemed to fit.

The live musicians were also beautiful, playing a really eclectic mix of classical Indian music, and other modern, more discordant stuff. The vocalist, Juliette Van Peteghem, was a standout - she started off singing in a style that reminded me very much of the gorgeous Micheline van Hautem (a fellow Belgian), but then seemed at home with the classical Indian music, and demonstrated some extraordinary mouth percussion later on.

Wow - much to think about...
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Mar. 10th, 2008

New look, new direction

Well, I've done it. A new start on blogging. I'm keen to keep it up but don't think I can make this an exclusive bento site which I post to everyday. I would like to explore other interests and hope that this new format will do that. Topics I hope to include in the future are:

Living sustainably and ethically
My little craft projects
Bento (because it will always be my obsession - food and nifty little containers, together at last!)
Becoming the best musician I can be
My family
And my ongoing wonder and love for the gorgeous Aurora (my 7 week old niece)
And of course, the namesakes of my blog, my cats, Milo & Sylvie

Ok, will now go and do something else, although in the current heatwave, it's very unappealing... Yay! Washing and cleaning, here I come!

I'm starting again...

I have been woefully bad about posting to my blog. It was all getting a bit hard as the pics seem to take forever to upload and I really don't have the hang of formatting my blog better. Life has been extremely busy of late (when is it not?) and I was posting in preference to my Facebook group, The Zen of Bento. This group now has 29 members, but they are all pretty quiet and don't post anything. So I might as well talk to myself here! I am thinking of ditching this site and just having a general blog with bento stuff in it.

The biggest update on the bento front is that I scored a HUGE amount of bento booty whilst on holiday in Singapore. They have 3 branches of Daiso, a Japanese chain of 100 yen shops. The way it works is that everything costs S$2, so when you get to the counter, they just count how many items you have and charge you accordingly. Nifty. Anyway, in two trips I spent about $100 on bento stuff, so you can imagine how much I came back with!!! In my defence, half of it was for my fellow bento-maker friend, Chloe.

I now have a drawer full of stuff and 5 bento boxes to select from every morning. Cool...



This is one of my recent creations, with a recipe that has become one of my favourites - meat soboro (sprinkles) with egg on top of rice. It's really tasty. In the other tier, I have cheese, strawberries, broccoli, steamed pumpkin & edamame. I picked this one because I think that the colour and food balance is good.

Nov. 1st, 2007

It's been a LONG time...

I knew I'd been slack in keeping up with my blog, but this is ridiculous! I use OneNote to keep all my bento recipes and photos together, and I hadn't even kept that going. I have no photographic evidence of what happened from 24-26 Oct, and have absolutely no recollection of what I did, or if I even made a bento! I think I lost my brain at our very successful concert the previous weekend.

I thought rather than spend hours uploading every photo, I'd just do the best. One of my proudest bento days was Oct 18. This is my mum's birthday, and her present was a bento lunch. She joined me at work, and we sat out in the park overlooking the river, eating together.


Ma got the real bento set, while I cobbled together something for mine. The top tier contains crumbed prawns, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and chicken dumplings with sweet chilli dipping sauce (should have taken the lid off for the photo!), and the bottom tier has capsicum stir-fry, carrots shaped like flowers, and lots of edamame, because she loves them. I added a mini cheese and a coffee wafer.

My bento was a bit different, as I didn't have any more chicken dumplings. I tried out something I'd seen on Cooking Cute, rice with egg and chicken sprinkles.



You can see that I don't have another bento box, but I think I did a really good job anyway! The box seemed to fit everything quite well, and then I wrapped it in a tea towel, like a traditional furoshiki (wrapping cloth). A friend at work brought me a bento bag and chopstick set back from Japan just the day before, so that got tucked in as well. Cute, huh?

Oct. 15th, 2007

Hi ho, hi ho, it's back to work I go...

Well, I went back to work today after a week on sick leave. I wondered if I had got out of the rhythm of making bento, but I did some preparation and I was back on track.

I had a small disaster with this one - I did cook some baby spinach, but when I opened the lid of the saucepan, it smelled awful! I don't know what happened, I've cooked spinach like this many many times... it called for some last minute scratching around for vegetables. It looked pretty good in the end.



The smaller tier has sakura-shaped carrots, cucumber sticks, capsicum stir-fry and steamed asparagus. The top tier has steamed rice with furikake, topped with teriyaki pork ball and spring onion sticks. Accompanying this is the usual coffee wafer.

I did attempt to go to work on one day last week, but was still not really up to it. By lunchtime I was too tired, but I stayed long enough to eat lunch with Chloe.



The small tier has cherry tomato and bocconcini kebabs sitting on top of asparagus (you can't see them in the photo), a mini cream puff and slices of Corella pear. The top tier has carrot & sesame stir-fry, onigiri and garlic & chilli chicken drummettes.

The butcher thought that I was extremely strange when I asked for only 4 tiny chicken drumsticks. He's obviously never heard of bento before, I think he thought that I was anorexic or something. Speaking of which, I think it's time that I start including a snack bento as well, as I was still hungry this afternoon. Hmmm...

Oct. 10th, 2007

I miss my bento!

I'm still at home sick today so I haven't made any bentos. I've found I've really missed it! I made a quick and simple bento to accompany to rehearsal last night. I didn't really feel up to going, but we have a concert next week and I'm the director, so I had to go. Quick and easy comfort food was in order as I wasn't going to get dinner.

It was the first time that my partner had watched me make a bento (I usually make them in the morning and leave before he gets up), so I think he was almost impressed. He still doesn't want me to make him his own bento for work, I think he thinks that the big kids will tease him. :)



The smaller tier has a Babybel cheese, asparagus, Corella pear (dipped in lemon & water to stop it going brown) and a tiny cream puff. The other tier has "fried" rice, with all the ingredients coming out of the freezer: pre-cooked rice, peas, corn and diced Chinese sausage. I put the whole lot in a bowl and zapped it in the microwave, then added Maggi seasoning - EASY! It would have been nice if it was real fried rice with egg but I was running out the door. I also took a thermos of yuzu tea (Korean citron tea) and a mug, so I could have a soothing drink during rehearsal.

Not one of my best, but quick and tasty nonetheless.
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Oct. 7th, 2007

More bento pics

I feel that I need to get more up to date with my bento pictures or risk always being two weeks behind! Here are some more of my lunches with descriptions.


The large tier contains teriyaki chicken with heart-shaped carrots, yaki onigiri with nori stripes and edamame. The bottom tier contains a Babybel cheese with a face cut into the wax, more edamame, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and strawberries, and finally, some vanilla Hello Panda cookies for dessert.


This was quite a good one I made on the first day back after the long weekend. It contains dumplings on a bed of spinach cooked with butter & nutmeg. Next to that is buckwheat somen noodles tossed with bottled chilli & soy noodle dressing and some minced leftover Chinese sausage. In the smaller tier I packed a chocolate hedgehog slice, balsamic strawberries with mint and a mini frittata.


This is probably one of my best to date. In fact, one of my co-workers stared at my bento for several seconds before uttering with disbelief, "Did you actually MAKE all of this?!". She was seriously impressed!

The large tier has a chicken, cheese and asparagus sandwich rolled up to look like sushi, edamame and a chocolate hedgehog slice. The very colourful second tier has blood orange and strawberry salad, cucumber, cherry tomato & bocconcini kebabs and asparagus spears. Even I was impressed! :)

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