Tag Archives: Age Kama

Second week of January 2012, Monday and Tuesday bento

10 Jan

My mother left me a copy of my favorite magazine, Esse, during her visit last year, and I finally had time to carefully read, and re-read the recipes included.

This week’s bento includes several ideas gleaned from the magazine.  The magazine focused on seasonal ingredients (cabbage, mushrooms) as well as dishes that are good to have that can be used creatively (soboro).

Monday included:

Baked chicken drumette and wingette, seasoned with poultry seasoning and a drizzle of soy sauce, cooked at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

Multi-grain rice, topped with a turkey soboro, made by braising ground turkey in 1 cup water, 2 tbs shiitake powder, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp mirin until cooked.  I mashed the turkey as it braised, to ensure the pieces didn’t clump up, then cooked over low heat until all the liquid cooked away.  I adjusted the flavor at the end with a pinch of salt and sugar, and a quick sprinkle of shichimi (seven flavor) red pepper flakes.

Roasted beets in heart shapes

Julienned cabbage, abura age (deep fried tofu slices) slices cut into 1/4 inch stripes, sasakama fish cakes in 1/4 inch pieces sautéed in canola oil, seasoned with soy sauce, salt, white pepper and tossed over medium heat until well coated.  I then added 1/2 cup water + ground shiitake powder, 1 tsp mirin into the pan, and cooked away the liquid.  The cooked cabbage exudes a sweetness accentuated by the savory, slightly nutty flavor of soy sauce, while the abura age soaks up the liquid.

Tuesday’s lunch included:

Baked chicken drumette and wingette

Sautéed three types of mushrooms – sliced eringi, maitake, shimeji sautéed over medium heat (I use a small dab of butter), seasoned with soy sauce, squeeze of lemon juice and a quick twist of the pepper grinder.  I added 1/2 cup of water, and over medium-low heat, cooked away the liquid.

Carrot sticks

Roasted beets in star shapes




Fall eggplant bento

28 Sep

Growing up, my favorite soup was my mother’s eggplant miso soup.  She would take thinly sliced Japanese eggplant, saute in a little sesame oil until the cut surfaces were slightly brown, and then add them to the miso broth.  There was something very comforting about the fragrant miso soup punctuated by the aromatic edge of sesame oil, the meltingly soft eggplant… Recently, I’ve been trying to make this miso soup as often as possible with the bounty of Japanese eggplant available at Makinajian’s – they have deep purple, light purple, and a gorgeous chartreuse variety in eye-level bins to purchase.  They are the perfect size for my girls to pick out and add to the shopping basket – keeps them occupied long enough for me to try to quickly pick up my items for the week.

I usually slice them diagonally into 1/8 inch slices (skin on), and saute them over medium heat in a little sesame oil.  The slices tend to absorb a lot of oil, so I try to use just enough to keep them from sticking to my beloved cast-iron pan, flipping them often.  (I use chopsticks, or a spatula)

I then put them into a bowl, and use them for various items, including miso soup, or as a simple side dish by seasoning with either soy sauce + lemon juice, ponzu, or a little Worcestershire sauce.

Today’s lunch:

Multigrain onigiri with okaka filling, sesame seeds mixed with the rice

Cherry tomatoes and grapes

Agekama cut into cat shapes

Roasted beets in star shapes

Sautéed Japanese eggplant slices (in a little sesame oil), seasoned with soy sauce and lemon juice

Rogue Matt’s Wild Cherry, beets, quail eggs for lunch

12 Sep

As you may recall, last year, I made the newbie mistake of planting 10 cherry and grape tomato plants.

Needless to say, after being overwhelmed by red, yellow and orange marble-sized tomatoes that proliferated until the first frost, I swore up and down, I would only plant two cherry tomato plants. 

On the other hand, I’d plant countless pole beans this year, as these would probably be a bit more manageable.

A blog of how to avoid the “Jack and the Beanstalk” syndrome will soon follow.

This year, I was poking around the garden with my head-lamp lighting a little conical way through the dusky garden, I discovered I had pockets of tomato breeds I had not planted in the garden THIS year. 

One of them was a random Matt’s Wild Cherry plant that had deliciously red fruit clusters, perfect for picking.  Most likely this plant had regenerated itself from a rogue tomato dropped in a random patch between the herb pots LAST  year.

The issue I had with these adorable tomatoes were their inability to keep fresh for longer than a day.  The sweet and intense fruit have very delicate skin that split once they are picked off of the stem – so they were very difficult to store until I stopped at Makinajian Farm to see they simply clipped the tomatoes, including the stems, and packed them into containers.

For Saturday school, I packed a cluster of these rogue tomatoes (including the stem), and expanded from there:

Boiled quail eggs (conventional)

Roasted beets

Onigiri (1:1 mix of white and multi-grain rice) with okaka filling, the rice pre-seasoned with sesame seeds, and some unseasoned flakes of katsuobushi, wrapped in nori

Sliced Armenian cucumbers

Age-kama with burdock from Miyagi Prefecture – my little attempts to try to support the regional economies devastated by the tsunami caused by the 3/11 Tohoku region earthquakeAge-kama is surimi or fish that has been pounded and processed into a paste, and then cooked – whether extruded, or molded into shapes and steamed – and then deep-fried.  Many times, MSG is used as an ingredient – fortunately, the age-kama I bought did not include it in their ingredient list.  Is it a healthy item?  I think in small quantities, it’s a nice treat to have as a side in bento on occasion.  These were cut into cat shapes.

Onigiri = Sushi?

17 May

 As I picked up my girls from daycare last night, my older daughter put on her serious face and told me, “Mama.  I tried a little bit of everything in my lunch.”

“Did you like what was in your bento?” I asked.  I was a little worried about what she might say about her lunch-mates’ comments.

“My friend said, ‘You have sushi for lunch!'” she beamed.

I was amazed.  I don’t recall knowing many 4-year olds who knew what sushi was… I figured this wasn’t the time to open up the debate over vinegared rice roll = sushi, regular rice ball = onigiri, but I was amused.

She added, “I want another ballie for tomorrow!”

I gently corrected her.  “It’s an onigiri, ok?”

“Ballie?” asked the little one.

“No, it’s an onigiri,” I repeated.

Both furrowed their eyebrows.  Ballie, no ballie or onigiri, they wanted one again.

When I got home, my daughter brought out her lunchbox and said, “Mama, can you help me open my bento box so I can finish it?”

The bento box seemed extremely light – but I unlatched the cover and gave my daughter the bento box.

“Mama, ZEEEEEEEN-BU Owatta-yo! (Mama I finished eeeeeverything!)” she beamed, as she proudly held open her bento box.  She held up her empty lunchbox on Skype to show Jiji and Baba in Japan as well.

“Good job!” they both said.  Jiji, I believe, is beaming because his onigiri idea has been so successful. 

Today’s lunch included:

Age kama (fried Kamaboko, or fish-cakes) cut into cat shapes

Grilled salmon fillet (conventional, wild)

Blanched asparagus

Sprouted brown rice onigiri mixed with furikake with sesame seeds and katsuobushi

Boiled quail eggs (conventional)

Sliced red peppers

Whirly Wednesday

11 May

At daycare pick-up last night, my older daughter greeted me with a forlorn look, saying, “Mama.  I didn’t have time to finish my bento.”  “That’s OK,” I told her.  “Did you at least like what I packed?”  Her face broke out into a beaming smile.  “Yeeeees Mama, and I finished ALLLLL my lunch!!”  She then ran over and gave me a huge hug.

The little one came running after her, and screamed, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLL finished! ZEEEEEN-BU (all, in Japanese)!”

Wednesday lunch included:

Steamed multi-grain rice, topped with age-kama or fried fish cakes, cut into cat shapes.  The green is the blanched broccoli stems cut into small pieces, and seasoned lightly with a little soy sauce.

Blanched broccoli with a drop of soy sauce

Grape tomatoes

Roasted beets in heart shapes


My girls love to play dress-up, every chance they have.  They have little tulle dresses and skirts in pink and in purple, and they like to spin around, little ballerinas, twirling around the living room. 

They also have a pair of dress up slippers – a little pair of kitten-heel plastic slip-ons with a wisp of pink feathers on the front.  The girls take turns putting on these little shoes, and I hear clip-clop-clip-clop at varying speeds (depending on who’s wearing the shoes) down the hall.  A  pause.  Then, little socked feet running into the kitchen where I’m getting dinner ready, a flash of tulle, and my girls hugging my legs.