Tag Archives: Mentaiko

Stuffed pepper and savory omelette bento

22 Sep

We were spared from any power outages during Hurricane Irene – and the only damage we suffered were my pole beans being toppled over.  I leaned them against the trellis since the poles were too heavy for me to try to make them upright again.

The tomatoes (planned and rogue), shiso, kale, and peppers managed to survive unscathed, and we are enjoying them as the summer winds down.

Today’s lunch is:

Stuffed pepper – essentially, I took the ground turkey-carrot-celery-onion-ginger-garlic-oatmeal mixture from the meatballs, and stuffed them in pepper halves from our garden.  I baked them in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes – I added a topping of 1:1 ketchup and HP Sauce (with a drizzle of Worcestershire) in the last 5 minutes.  Shelled edamame made the face, and I called it a “teddy bear.”  My older daughter was convinced.

Savory omelette – Two beaten eggs, seasoned with 1 tbs mirin, 1 tsp soy sauce.  I poured the mixture into a preheated, lightly greased cast iron pan, and stirred occasionally while the egg set.  I used two chopsticks, pulling the cooked edges of egg into the center, allowing more surface area to cook for the raw egg, and adding air into the egg making it fluffier.  When the edges cooked, I added cooked watercress (liquid squeezed out, cut into 1/2 inch pieces) and 1 heaping tbs of the turkey soboro.  I folded half of the omelette over the filling, and continued cooking until all the egg was cooked.  I continually flipped the omelette – I find this to help create a more rectangular shape so it’s easier to manage and to cut.  Normally, if we are eating an omelette at home, I will allow the omelette to be a bit more moist; however, I didn’t want any excess liquid in the bento box, so I cooked this omelette well.  Once done, I removed it from heat, and cut them into bite sized pieces.  I packed two slices for my daughter’s bento – and the rest the girls ate for breakfast.  (one slice was cut into at an angle)

Onigiri with mentaiko filling – this might be a strike-out, since mentaiko, or marinated pollack row is salty, and also may be a bit spicy.  We’ll see if this is the case – but I had wanted to provide some variety with the fillings this week….

Red Grapes

Tomorrow is pizza lunch day!


Bento for June 2011 Undokai (Sports Day)

13 Jun

For my daughter’s Japanese School Field Day (Undokai) on Saturday, I packed four types of onigiri, vegetable sticks and hummus, mini sausages with patterns, boiled eggs, fresh fruit – and for my non-onigiri eater, ham-Jarlsberg-Mayo-lettuce on brioche.

Saturday’s weather was a bit gray, chilly, and drizzly.  We met up with my daughter’s classmates at Cunningham Park, where in my childhood, I had also attended Field and Softball Day.

It was fun to watch the children, split up between red and white teams, and participate in Rajio Taiso (literally, Radio Exercise).  When I attended weekend school, we would all gather in the school gymnasium, listen to the familiar piano-introduction for the tape-recorded music signaling the start of the routines.  It was nostalgic hearing the slightly warble-y tune, and watching the children exercise – many of them simply imitating the older students – to warm up for the event.

My daughter participated in a group dance wearing a helmet which the mother’s made with cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil, with little metallic pipe cleaners curling outward, as well as a running race, an obstacle race where the children ran to a clothes-line with anpan clipped to the string – they grab the anpan and race to a parent waiting for them with a hula hoop.  The parent-child team hops into the hoop, and then run to the finish line.

I packed:

Four types of onigiri – center of umeboshi, okaka (katsuobushi + soy sauce), mentaiko, and a filling made with sauteed blanched and chopped kohlrabi leaves mixed with katsuobushi (shaved bonito), seasoned with soy sauce, mirin and sesame seeds.  The umeboshi onigiri rice was pre-seasoned with red shiso (perilla) Yukari seasoning.  Normally, one wouldn’t use mentaiko for a filling, but I was too busy to grill the shiozake (salted salmon) so I decided to improvise.  Each flavor had a different shape – the umeboshi was easy to identify with the rice mixed with the purple-y shiso flakes; the okaka was tawara (rice barrel) shaped; the mentaiko was shaped like a disk, and the kohlrabi leaves were triangular.  Each one was wrapped with a strip of nori.

Mini sausages – I scored several, as well as attempted to make gerbera shapes that Makiko Itoh presents beautifully in her blog – but I forgot to split the sausages lengthwise, so the flowers did not come out right.  I explained to my family, they were improvised – and just to pretend they were pretty pattered sausages… (they looked like accordions).  I boiled the sausages to heat through, and allowed them to cool.

As for home-made items … my boiled egg menagerie.  I was happy to see they molded well. (from top left to right: Star, heart, rabbit, car, fish, bear)


The other bento items were easy – carrots, celery, green pepper and cucumber sliced and served with hummus, and fresh fruit – grapes and watermelon.

Papa didn’t fancy onigiri for lunch, so I made ham and Jarlsberg and mayo on a delicious brioche with some lettuce leaves, fresh from our garden. 

My brother and his wife braved the chilly drizzle to cheer on their niece – and to spoil the little one with hugs and kisses. 

An interesting experience – the parents had received an email from the school regarding reminders for attending Undokai.  One interesting point was stated in a vague, but direct sentence. 

“There may be ice cream trucks that arrive during the event.  Please remember, this event is considered a class event, and we appreciate you keeping this in mind.”

There was a Mister Softee truck that circled the area, slowly, in hopes the approximately 100 children and family members would be drawn in by its jingle.

Amazingly, not a single person broke out of the event to buy his wares. 

I must say, (and I think my husband secretly must agree) I was pretty impressed…


16 May

In Hayao Miyazaki’sSen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)” there is a scene where Haku, offers Sen, an onigiri (rice ball) , and tells her to eat so she can keep up her spirits.  As Sen eats them, she starts crying – and although this is an animated film, it brought me to tears.  There’s something comforting about the weight and feel of an onigiri, as well as a very familiar smell of rice, nori (seaweed) and depending on the seasoning, the fragrant smells of ume-shiso (pickled plum and perilla leaves) powder, or nutty sesame seeds.  My mother packed triangular ones – and we often took onigiri and boiled eggs on road trips as a quick meal.  I still remember the weight of the onigiri in my hands, a palpable souvenir of mother’s love in the form of a simple rice ball – portable sustenance and a reflection of Japanese culinary, cultural, and  historic reverence for rice.

Jiji and Baba suggested I start making onigiri for my older daughter’s mini-lunch at Japanese school, so I took on the challenge.  I bought a small bag of sprouted brown rice at the Japanese store, and had a fresh batch of steamed rice ready on Saturday morning.

I made two types.  One type had a pre-mixed onigiri seasoning I received in a care package – and the other one had a center of mentaiko or seasoned pollack roe.  I mixed the onigiri seasoning into some fresh rice, and after it was well incorporated, I wet my hands, took a deep breath, and started making the onigiri.

Based on the photo of my first try – I don’t think I did too poorly.  Perhaps a bit misshapen – and a little lopsided… but it tasted fine!  My older daughter had one for breakfast, and took one for lunch – I did the same.

On our ride home, she told me, “Mama, can you make the rice-ballie again?”

I’ll have to figure out how to increase other grains while retaining the rice’s stickiness.  Practice will make perfect… I just have to prepare to eat a lot of my mistakes!