My older daughter’s been attending weekend Japanese school for the past two months, and it certainly has been exciting to see her Japanese improve. It is especially noticeable as she communicates with my parents (Jiji and Baba), as well as when she communicates with her younger sister.
I’ve also noticed the little one’s Japanese vocabulary improving leaps and bounds as well, and often, the two are singing the Japanese songs the older one learns in class.
They sometimes get stuck on repeating the same verse over… and over… and over… and after a while, there’s only a few more hundred times I can listen to the “Tulip” song a la “live”-broken-record version.
Each Saturday, I send in a small snack to be eaten mid-morning. In the beginning, I packed little silicon cups of steamed and cut vegetables, and an occasional egg – but with the discovery of the addictive onigiri making, I’ve been sending them in every week.
Prior to eating, the children wash their hands, and do the “Bento Box'” song. The song entails hand motions accompanied by lyrics portraying a bento box, and what’s included. I must obtain the official lyrics, since I only recall the song (VAGUELY) from memory, and it went something like this:
“Kore-kkurai-no / Obento bako ni/ Onigiri /Onigiri /Choito tsumete / Kizamishoga ni goma furikakete / Ninjin san / Gobo san/ Shiitake san / Ana no aita Renkon San/Suji no toh-tta Fuuuuki”
(Literal translation: In a lunchbox this big, add a little onigiri [onigiri], julienned seasoned ginger, and sprinkle some sesame seeds, add carrots, burdock, shiitake mushroom, holey renkon [lotus root] and stringy [similar to celery “stringy”] fuki )
Hand motions: 1) outline a lunchbox with pointed fingers in the air 2) make onigiri making motions with hands (think of making a snowball but forming them as triangles) 3) sprinkling motion 4) Ninjin san = Carrots = “Ni” is two and “San” is three in Japanese, so it’s a play on words – hold up two and three fingers, 5) Gobo san = Burdock = “Go” is five, again, “san” is three – hold up five and three fingers, 6) Shiitake san = Shiitake mushroom = “Shi” is four, “san” is three, hold up four and three fingers, 7) make “holes” with your fingers… and I’ll have to look up the motion for “fuki.” I want to say I blew on my hands, because the Japanese verb, “to blow” is fuku.
I found renkon at the store last week, so I decided to add it to her bento – since she now sings the song, I’d like to remind her what a renkon tastes like. If you recall – I had a very old entry last year where I took on the renkon challenge, but for some reason, I hadn’t thought of making it again until recently.
Here’s today’s lunch:
Chicken drumettes that were baked in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. I then put them into a well heated iron skillet pan, and let them crisp up a little – and then added 2 tbs soy-sauce, 1 tbs mirin, 1/2 tbs lemon juice, and let it reduce in the pan WITH the chicken until it thickened. I removed the chicken, and added, peeled, and thinly sliced renkon and let it cook in the thickened sauce. I kept the heat on medium low, and turned the renkon pieces to coat them, and prevent them from burning. Once they were heated through (very quick, since they are thinly sliced) and removed from the pan. The remaining sauce I spooned over the chicken and allowed it to cool. I wrap aluminum foil on the ends as a “handle” for my daughter to grab the drumettes.
Blanched asparagus shoots
Boiled egg – shaped in a heart
Star shaped roasted beets
A quick photo of the renkon slices, as you can’t really see them in the bento box. I did a test-run at breakfast, and the girls enjoyed the crispy slices – the little one calling them “Yummy! Crackers!” and the older one singing the Bento box song “renkon” section on a loop.
Hopefully another home run lunch – we’re doing well with the onigiri bentos these days.
A note on renkon – depending on length of cooking, as well as preparation, they can be crispy-crunchy like water-chestnuts, to chewy and soft. Either way, it absorbs seasoning very well. You can purchase them at the Japanese or Asian food store whole.