Living in Hawaii, bento box style lunches and dinners are very popular. They come in all shapes and sizes and are sold at convenience stores, grocery markets, and many small and large restaurants. Bento box foods can be very simple or fancy but all in all, the main thing is that it tastes good.
Growing up, my cousins and I would spend summers at my grandparents house in Hilo and I have fond memories of them cooking Japanese bento box lunches for us. Each bento would include rice or musubi with nori, some kind of vegetable, egg, and a fried chicken or fish. It was perfect for picnics, beach outings, or anytime we were going somewhere and needed a meal.
Today's simple bento recipe will include Tonkatsu (Fried pork loin), Namasu (Pickled Vegetables), and Horenso No Tamago Maki.
Click here to see how we made this delicious bento!
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First, we are going to prepare our pickled vegetables, also known as Namasu! Today, we are going to be adding cucumber, daikon radish, and carrots.
4 small carrots
1 Japanese cucumbers
1 small daikon
1/2 C. rice vinegar (this is the one that we buy- https://amzn.to/36jlUXv)
1/4 C. sugar
2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
Cut the cucumber in half and take out all the seeds.
Cut all the vegetables in to diagonal slices. Grandma uses a technique where she cuts 2 half slices (so it doesn't go all the way through) and 1 full. She explains that this helps the juices get into the vegetables.
After all the vegetables are cut, prepare the sauce. In a mixing bowl, add in the vinegar, sugar, salt, ginger and mix together. Add in the vegetables and mix! Leave in the refrigerator for about 30 min-1 hour and serve. These vegetables will have a nice sweet and savory taste to them!
Horenso No Tamago Maki
3 T. shoyu (this is what we buy- https://amzn.to/3hhKkam)
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. rice vinegar https://amzn.to/36jlUXv
2 C. fresh spinach
Square pan (similar to what we used- https://amzn.to/3hmDReo)
*Also, if you do not have a square pan, you can also use a round pan as well! Just to be fully transparent, the square pan that you see in these photos belong to my mother. We chose to use this today because it gives a more "authentic" feel when making a Japanese egg roll. However when I am at home, I use a round pan to make tamagoyaki or recipes like this and it works great!
First, blanche the spinach so it becomes soft. While you are doing that, mix the shoyu, sugar, and rice vinegar together. Soak the spinach in the shoyu mixture.
After the spinach is soaked, prepare your eggs. Beat eggs and add to the pan. You can add the egg mixture in little by little if it is easier to manage.
After the bottom of the egg mixture hardens, add a thin layer of spinach to the egg.
Gently roll one side of the egg on top of the middle portion of the egg. Take your time with this process. You will get better with this technique the more that you do this.
After you do this once, repeat the same gesture and roll again.
If the liquid egg mixture seeps onto the pan, use your spatula to add it back to the tamago yaki. Flip over again to make sure all sides are cooked.
Once it is done, it should look something like this!
Tonkatsu (Pork Fried Cutlet)
Thinly sliced pork (Season with salt and pepper and dry with a paper towel.)
1-2 eggs (beaten)
1 C. flour
1-2 C Panko (https://amzn.to/3xoCXmS)
(Depending on how many pieces of pork you are frying, you may need more egg or panko)
If you have a chance to go to an Asian market, sometime they have pork that is sliced for tonkatsu (it just means that it's thinner)
We bought ours at marukaihawaii.com
Salt, pepper, and dry out the pork. I let the pork get to room temperature before frying.
Get the frying ingredients together. Flour, egg, and panko. First, coat the pork with flour, then egg, and lastly, the panko.
*Tip- for the flour and panko use flat and square dishes. This will make it easier when covering the pork.
Get the frying pan ready. Heat oil to medium heat. Test the oil first by dipping in chopsticks with some of the panko batter on it. If it sizzles, the oil is ready.
When the oil is hot, add the tonkatsu to the pan. Check each piece after a couple minutes. When you notice that one side is getting golden brown, turn over. When both sides are nicely golden brown, gently poke one of the pieces of pork all the way through with your chopstick. If your chopstick goes through easily, your tonkatsu is ready!
In this bento box, I also added rice and Ume!
My favorite tonkatsu sauce!- https://amzn.to/2UwkvKs
Here is the Japanese bento box that we purchased! https://amzn.to/3hh5mG2
I hope you enjoyed this simple bento box idea. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Thank you so much for reading this through. Till the next one, see you soon!
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