Nokori Bentō

Although it undisputedly takes time to prepare vegetables and cook a meal, if you cook abundantly on weekends for example, the leftovers make great ingredients for your lunch box on the following working or school days. As I actually prepared all of the four bentō down below to bring with me on working days, I didn’t have the time and patience for anything fancy or elaborate. Using the leftovers from the past days, I just added a few new ingredients what made the preparation really quick and easy.
The hako (箱 box) is a little on the smallish side but if it’s packed tightly and there’s enough of the filling stuff like rice or noodles it’s actually just the right size for a decent meal. I got the box in Kyūshū I think and it was super cheap. The original magewappa (曲げわっぱ bent woodware) are actually much prettier as they’re completely made out of wood and without any plastic parts but then again, they’re much more expensive and not as practical as those with a plastic container I think.

On the left side of the paper lined container there’s some tsukemono (漬物 pickled vegetables), garnished with bonito flakes

The leftovers I used in this bentō are basic Japanese side dishes which can last up to a week if properly kept in the fridge. To make hijiki no nimono (ひじきの煮物 simmered seaweed) the dried hijiki seaweed is rehydrated and then simmered in soy sauce, mirin (みりん sweet rice wine), sake, sugar and a little water. Finely sliced aburaage (油揚げ deep fried tofu), carrots, edamame or konnyaku can be added optionally. The glossy black next to the rice seasoned with dried red shiso (シソ perilla) is konbu no tsukudani (kelp tsukudani) and goes well with plain rice as it has an intense flavour. I like it a lot though and even eat it just like that out of the fridge. Konbu no tsukudani is usually made with kelp that has been used for soup stock. After soaking the kelp in water and vinegar it is simmered in soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. The seasoning is basically the same as for many other Japanese dishes but here the konbu is simmered until the sauce thickens and covers the kelp in thick gloss. The strong seasoning makes it difficult for bacteria or fungus to grow so it’s a practical side dish especially for bentō.

If you split the edamame in half, the two parts look a little like butterflies or sprouts

For this bentō I had a lye roll filled with cream cheese and dreid meat from an opening event at my work place the day before, leftover soba and homegrown chard to which I added some fish tofu. The soba is simply seasoned with some tsuyu (つゆ dipping sauce), white sesame and edamame. Cold soba tastes great I think, especially during summer. Although the set above doesn’t contain a lot of flashing colors it somehow doesn’t bother me.

Soba goes well with something deep fried, typically ebiten (エビ天 prawn tempura) or another kind of tempura. As I didn’t have the nerve to make tempura in the morning I chose the lesser evil and made two solitary fishsticks in a frying pan. As long as it’s oily and crispy anything will work for me and fish sticks aren’t a bad option. That was the only thing I had to prepare that morning, since the chard and soba were still leftovers. To give it some color, I added some fresh vegetables and lemon for the fish sticks and sprinkled some shichimi (七味唐辛子 seven flavor chili pepper) over the soba. In the fresh vegetables corner there’s also some shredded shiokonbu (塩こんぶ salty kelp) which I bought at Yumihana, a store in Zurich with Korean and Japanese specialties.

This furoshiki (風呂敷 wrapping cloth) has a typical Okinawa print and is one of my favorite!

Last but not least the most colorful and weirdest composition of all, still featuring leftover chard complemented with leftover pasta and some grana padano cheese and …ketchup, oh my..! The other side has baked cauliflower with chili and roasted fennel from the night before and as usual for the eye, the fresh vegetable for some color. I went all out and even incorporated some purple by adding something very German, or Swiss if you will, namely red cabbage which you can get ready-to-eat at the normal supermarket and is supposed to be quite healthy. To round it up there’s half an egg which usually hits the spot. The other half I ate immediately. Oh, and you guessed it, the Japanese word “nokori” (残り) simply translates to “leftover”, hence this entry’s title “Nokori Bentō“.

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