"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Japanese lunch…on the sly

by Julie Tilsner on September 12, 2008

in Adventures in Parenting

I bought the drama ‘tween her own bento lunch box at Marukai the other day. The next morning I filled it with two onigiri and some small pieces of grilled salmon. The look on her face when she came home that afternoon told me she’d been the belle of the ball. “All my friends wanted a taste,” she said proudly. “They thought it was so cool.”

I can wring significant jollies out of my daughter’s experiences these days. Especially when they stem from some successful food stuff I’ve made for her. It makes me feel like my plan is working. My kids are gonna grow up thinking their mom was a boffo cook. They’re falling for it!

That could explain why, in the middle of a terrifically crazy day, I made her another Japanese lunch, this one for after-school, complete with grilled salmon, rice, nori and miso soup. Home made miso soup.

It’s like I’m manic or something.

Making a Japanese lunch is fairly straightforward, although I did manage to use just about every pot I own in the straining and restraining of first and second dashi. I’ll have to sit down and think through my needs in this regard next time. But it is time-consuming. Or it is if you’re used to opening a can of soup for lunch.

Buy sushi rice and follow the directions on the back of the bag. Except for the part about not having to rinse the rice first. Always rinse the rice.

I grilled up a salmon fillet on the grill, rubbing it first with some olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. I splashed some soy sauce on there after a bit. I wanted them a bit overcooked so I left them on for ten minutes. I think subconsciously I’m after the dry, rather tough, but savory salmon bits I ate for breakfast in Japan.

For miso soup, I used four cups dashi and two and a half tablespoons of miso. Which turned out to be way too salty. Next time I’ll try one and a half tablespoons. The kids didn’t seem to notice. They both drank their bowls.

They fell on the nori. Now I’ll have to go get more from Marukai, which is just as well, because I realize I’ve lost almost all my chopsticks and I need actual rice bowls if I’m going to try this sort of thing at home again.

And I will, since I am a new believer in the bento lifestyle. And here’s a gal after my own heart. Check it out! Itadu-kimasu!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Señor Sumotori Itamae-san September 13, 2008 at 1:17 pm

I am sooo happy for you! The bento box technology and systems sold at the Japanese markets are sooo great. It’s too bad most Americans haven’t caught on yet. They don’t know what they are missing out on.
Keep it up girl, and keep on keepin’ on! As your kids get older, so do their tastes in foods. Their tastes are “maturing”
If you go to http://www.melindalee.com she has an excellent recipe and technique for making Dashi and Miso Soup. I recommend you invest in a Chinois/China Cap, or one of those steel fine meshed rice strainers (at the Japanese Markets) which will make your dashi making easier. And Alton Brown tip would be just purchase a set of handled strainers (can be found at your local Bed,Bath,& Beyond) to skim the stuff off the dashi.)
Try GRILLED onigiri for a change of pace. Also a Miso/Mirin glaze for your salmon.
Only thing missing is fermented japanese pickles to bring it all together! But don’t expose that to you kids just yet!


"Mister J" September 13, 2008 at 1:27 pm

If you go to CHINESE supermarkets, you will see a wide array of rice bowls.
You can even go to Cost Plus World Market to see that they have on sale. Sometimes you’ll get a steal of a price.


Bentoist September 13, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Great story! My husband who takes my bento to work has made quite a few friends at work and in school with his bento lunches. It happens in the adult setting too, I tell you. And I’ve just started packing extras since he started telling me about people stealing bites of his food over lunch.


"Mister J" September 13, 2008 at 1:51 pm

If you go to CHINESE supermarkets, you will see a wide array of rice bowls.
You can even go to Cost Plus World Market to see that they have on sale. Sometimes you’ll get a steal of a price.


maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) September 15, 2008 at 8:16 pm

what a great story. mine isn’t yet two but I love hearing about other moms feeding their kids.


Seraphine September 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm

i love japanese style cooking. not only is it made fresh, it’s also generally low in fats.
one little trick i do with steamed rice is pour a tablespoon of soy sauce richly mixed with wasabi over the top. the rice stays sticky enough for chopsticks, and the wasabi packs a delicious wallop.


Mrs. Sewn'sew October 22, 2008 at 8:43 am

Julie, I prepare my salmon the same way, don’t care to have that little wiggly part that seems slightly gelatin in the middle. Nice dry, definitely-cooked-all-the- way-through salmon is what I prefer. You can see why I have a little problem with sushi.


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