Spice Up Your Life With a Taste of Japan

*Fun Bento Box**Cute and Natural Food From California*


Santa Claus Rice Ball Bento Box

Have you seen these tiny red babies called "Sweety Drops"?
Whole Foods Market sells this cutie at their olive bar.
I don't know what this really is, but they look like micro cherry tomatoes.
I've seen some bento with micro tomatoes before and wanted to try them ever since.
I was so happy when I found this sweety drops at Whole Foods!
Especially Christmas season, these are very useful;
Use 2 pieces and make a ribbon-> See my GINGERBREAD TOFU MEN BENTO
Use as ornaments -> SNOWMAN RICE BALLS BENTO
And like today's post, it can be used as a red nose!!
You could use a cherry tomato too, but I think their sweet and sour taste goes better with rice.

Here is simple steps to make this Santa Claus rice ball.

1. Just place a rice ball in a bento box. (Short grain brown rice)
2. Make white suhi rice into beard, fur trim and a pompom shape in plastic wrap.
Just place on the brown rice ball in the bento box.
Hat: Red pepper
Nose: Sweety drop


Snowman Rice Balls Bento

Snowman Rice Balls:
Place a slice of carrot between 2 rice balls and create a hat and scarf with leftover carrot.

Easy-quick bento today♪


Gingerbread Tofu Man Christmas Bento

Made a batch of gingerbread tofu men last night.
Just drained/pressed tofu and cut out with a gingerbread cookie cutter.
Marinated them in bbq sauce and just baked.

Xmas wreath is made with broccoli.
Ornaments are little rice crackers that I introduced on my last post.

I know these gingerbread tofu men will appear on a lot of my bento this man :)


Healthy Christmas Bento with Radish Santa

Made a Christmas bento with leftover mashed sweet potato from thanksgiving!
I roasted a turkey for the first time in my life last week.
It came out really good, but the bird was a little too big for two of us.
We've been eating turkey for about 5 days in a row...

Now time to go back to a healthy eating life.
Today's bento is vegan: tofu and shiitake mushroom dumplings, pickled purple cabbage, rice ball with carrot top furikake inside.
I made xmas tree with a Japanese oba leaf. Ornaments are Japanese rice crackers. I used vegan mayonnaise as glue.
Went to visit my family in Japan early this month and purchased a lot of bento items including this cute colorful rice crackers (bubu arare). They are naturally colored too!

For the santa, I carved radish and added vegan cheese beard. (I love CHAO cheese!)

I added a piece of red rice cracker  to create his nose.


Halloween Curry Bento

Curry for bento! again...
Yes, I made too much curry......

I cut a piece of nori seaweed and cut a ghost shape with a scissors.
Then wrapped a rice ball with the seaweed.

The skeleton is just a round rice ball....
If you have some seaweed puncher, you can make this cute bento really easy and quick!
Otherwise it might take some time to cut out the face parts.

For the Jack O Lantern, I just cooked carrots in a microwave and carved by hands.

Have a happy Halloween!!!!


Pumpkin Curry Bento for Halloween ~Vegan~

Japanese curry is one of my hubby's favorite food.
I make from scratch instead of using store-bought curry roux.

I didn't want to stain my white container into yellow so layered with rice and put curry in the middle.
Made a hole in the middle so that the curry stays in the middle.

The ghost in the picture is vegan chao cheese.
It tastes really good and I really like it:)


Pokemon Go Pikachu Lunch Bento

I haven't played Pokemon Go, but I grew up watching pokemon on TV!
Happy to see that it's still loved by many people around the world.

Today' bento is Pokemon Go theme mashed poteto salad.
Open a lid and you will find Pikachu in lettuce! :p

Mashed potato + Curry powder
Mini totamto (cheekes)
Yellow carrot (ears)

Poke Ball
Mashed potato
Pickled mini red pepper
Pickled daikon radish (middle white round)

I've made poke ball made with imitation crab and rice.
This time I had pickled mini peppers in my pickles jar so used it instead.
Great substitute for vegan friends.

Add protein of your choice :)


Star Wars Lunch Box

My husband just came back from Taiwan trip and brought me this round tin bento box.
He purchased this at a train station there.
Like Japan, it seems common(?) to buy bento at train stations and get ready for a long train ride in Taiwan.
This bento box is nice and big. Great for adult's lunch! ( I eat a lot, so I need a big lunch box.....)

I created a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader.
They are just white and black, so perfect character to make with rice and seaweed!

For a Stormtrooper, you just need to cut a piece of seaweed and make

a long strip
2 loose triangles
a big V shape
4 or more short strips
2 small and one bigger rounds

For Darth Vader, just cut a piece of nori seaweed and make 2 round holes and a triangle shape.
Wrap the seaweed around a rice ball and strips of nori seaweed to create mouth (?).

Great bento for any star wars fun like my husband!!


Rice balls with celery miso
Chickpeas and sweet potato nuggets


Summer Theme Lunch Bento

I've been making summer theme bento! I picked some and put them together below.
Mostly vegan but I use eggs or seafood some time:)

1. Sea-turtle bento: Made tofu soboro and put on a layer of rice so that it looks like sand. Created turtle with tofu and carrot.
2. Watermelon bento: Created watermelon with cherry tomato and cucumber.
3. Pineapple bento: Cut yellow mini pepper and sugar peas for pineapple, Cut seaweed and applied to create pineapple design,
4.Seal bento: Mixed rice and black sesame to color rice for its nose(?). 
5 Octopus Bento: Cut pickled red mini pepper. 
Summer Theme Lunch Bento Collection

My favorite is watermelon bento:)
I like the color and the simpleness.
I used to make a little complicated character bento (kyaraben), but have shifted to simple and easy but still cute bento recently..

Which one is your favorite? :)


Vegan Bento Recipe: Tofu Soboro

Vegan Sunflower Bento with Tofu Soboro

One of my favorite tofu recipes for bento is Tofu Soboro.
Soboro is usually made with ground meat and seasoned with soy sauce, sake and sugar.
The mixture of these seasonings creates great flavor that goes very well with rice!!
I like substitute the recipe with tofu for my meatless bento.
It's also great with pasta, salad and fried rice.

Tofu Soboro Furikake
1/2pack Firm tofu (about 220g)
2tbs Soy Sauce
1tbs Sake
2tsp  Sugar
1.Crumble tofu into a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat until liquid evaporates.
2.Add soy sauce, sake and sugar and cook until tofu absorb the sauce.

Vegan Apple Bento with Tofu Soboro

Vegetarian 2 Colors Bento and Tofu Soboro Rice Ball Bento


Cute Vegan Bento Box

I'm posting some pictures of my bento from last week.
Last Sunday, I prepared some food below for my bento for the week.
I froze leftover food from the previous week so  I used that for the last week bento too.

I cut rainbow carrots, pickled radishes with a variety of cookie cutters so that I can decorate my bento.


Bento Photos

More bento from last week.

Smoked mussel
Okara shu-mai
Rice with farro and couscous sushi salad

Okara vege burger
Rice with green onion miso
Vegetables marinated with Moroccan preserved lemon


Smile Face Lunch Bento Box

I usually assemble bento every morning.
I really don't have much time to play with my food in the morning.
When I want to make cute bento when in hurry, this smile face bento is my go-to kyaraben.
Use the shape of the bento box to make a face.
For the hair, it could be anything.....
I used Japanese hearb, Oba leave this time. Lettuce would be good too, but oba leave has a good flavor and great with rice. I like the shape of this herb too.

Here is other ideas for hair.

Seaweed salad, Curry and Hijiki&Quinoa salad.


Pickled Radish Pig Character bento

Pickled Radish Pig Character bento
One of the bentos from last week.
Made a pig with pickled radish:)

Braised octopus in white wine
Okara "meat" balls
Broccoli marinated with Moroccan preserved lemon


Bento Preparation

I mentioned it before, but I prepare my bento food on Sunday for a week. (bento making tips)

I went to a Japanese grocery store yesterday and got Okara  (leftover soy pulp from tofu making)
It's really cheap and rich in protein, calcium and fiber. I often used it as a substitute of meat,

-Okara shu-mai  (vegetarian)
-Okara vege burger (vegan)
-Okara "meat" ball  (vegan)

I pickled veges and am ready for another week of bento making!


Easter Tofu Bunny Bento

A popular mommy blogger, Funky Frugal Mommy posted about my Easter Bento!!
I created bunny with tofu stuffed mushroom and place it on curry scrambled tofu tofu bed,

I like using tofu for my bento. Great source of protein and it absorb flavors well.

The key is to drain tofu well to make a good tofu dish!
Please see my post How to Press and Drain Tofu for the tips.

Tofu Stuffed Mushroom 

Please visit her blog for tofu stuffed mushroom recipe. (→Click Here)

Scrambled Curry Tofu: 
1/2 pkg House Foods tofu Frim, drained  
1/4 –1/2tsp Curry powder (optional) 3/4 tsp soy sauce salt to taste

Crumble tofu into a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the curry powder and soy sauce and stir.  Cook until tofu is completely crumbled.
To assemble the Charaben Bunny Bento:
Add the rice to a bento box. Top with the scrambled tofu.  Place the bunny face inside the bento box where you’d like to create the bunny.  Place two slices of radish above the bunny’s face.  This will be its ears. Garnish with your choice of spring vegetables.  Repeat to make second bento


Bento Making Tips

Today's menu
Fried tofu with sweet peppers
Lemon pickled Chinese green
Roasted cauliflower
Spicy yam noodle
Brown rice
Vegetable soup

When I make bento, I try to prepare these 3 parts in a good balance.

1. Grain
2. Vegetables
3. Protein

For the grain, I often use short grain brown rice.
When I eat bento, I try not to use microwave. I feel like microwave destroy the nutrients of food.
The wooden bento box I like can't be used in a microwave anyway.
Found an interesting article about eating cold rice online:
"Eat Rice Cold for Fewer Calories"

I usually cook rice at night for the next day. After 2 days, rice starts to get dry, so you might want to freeze if you know you are not going to eat soon.
Please see my Rice Making page for how to cook rice. You really should soak rice if you are eating rice cold like I do. It helps cook soft and moist rice.

If you use microwave, go a head and make a big batch of rice, divide and freeze on a weekend.
You want to freeze rice  right after it's cooled down to keep the freshness and moisture of rice.
Don't wait to freeze until next day!

I usually prepare bento food on Sundays after shopping at my local farmers market.
My bento preparation starts with pickling the vegetables enough for a week.
If you like to make your bento a little cute, I recommend cut some veges with flower cookie cutters before pickle. It helps you save time to decorate bento in the morning.
To minimize waste,  I make a big batch of vegetables soup with leaves and stems from the vegetables.

Don't throw away the cut out carrots. Put them in soup too.

Love my new soup container<3<3

I found this vegetable at a farmer's market. This is Chinese green called Yu Choi.
I had never heard, seen and tried before, but it looked so cute with little yellow flower!
When it's cooked, it kinda tastes like asparagus.  I really love this green and have been using a lot lately.

This is my pickling jar. My favorites are radish and sweet mini peppers.
They add nice colors in a bento box.

Pickles Recipe
1cup white  vinegar
1cup water
6tablespoons sugar
2teaspoons salt
a little  chili flakes to your taste 
1 baby leaf
3 cloves
2 peppercorns
1 garlic clove

Mix all the ingredients in a pot. Bring it to boil. Cool it down and then pour in a jar. Put your favorite vegetables in it.

For protein, I often use tofu, tempeh and okara (Leftover soy pulp from tofu making. Available at Japanese grocery stores.).
I try not to eat meat that often for a health reason. I love seafood so I'm not vegan though:P

This is okara mini hamburgers. I made a lot and freeze them to save time in the morning.
I just put them in a bento box while it's still frozen. It will be defrosted by lunch time. This helps keep a bento box nice and cool too.


Vegetarian Bento

I've been making bento for myself almost everyday for the last couple of months,
My new company is Japanese and a lot of co-workers bring Japanese style bento for lunch.

I have a lot of bento boxes. One of my favorites is this wooden one. My husband bought this for me when we visited Japan. It's a little hard to take care, but it keeps rice fresh and yummy I think.

I love making character bento, but I also like Japanese traditional bento.

Today's menu

Brown Rice with Yukari Furikake
Vegan Okara (soy pulp) Hamburger Steak
Tofu egg omelet
Pickled Radish


Deco Shiratama dango mochi balls

 I think a lot of Japanese women like to make everything cute.....
Cute bento, cute cread..... and cute mochi!!
Have you seen little white mochi balls in Japanese sweets? It's called Shiratama Dango and often eaten with sweet red bean paste and fruits.

Making cute shiratama dango is very popular in Japan now.
It's super easy to make and fun!
Valentine is coming soon, so I made it look like my husband and me<3

Shiratama dango is usually made with shiratama powder.
However it's a little expensive here in the U.S., so I made with mochi powder.
Not as smooth as the ones made with shiratama powder, but it's still good.

The key ingredients for making deco shiratama dango is silken tofu,
Mixing tofu and mochi powder makes it easy to shape !
It's fun to make with kids;)

Shiratama Dango

50g mochi powder
45~55g Silken Tofu
1/2tbs  Sugar

Black- sesame paste
Blown- Cocoa powder
Beige- Kinako (Japanese soy bean powder)
Pink- Dried strawberries, ground

1. Mix mochi powder, sugar  and 45g tofu. Add more tofu until you can form a ball.
2. Dived the ball into the number of colors you want to make.
3. Color each balls. Just add the coloring (see above) little by little until you get the color you like.
4. Shape the dango. (I draw mouth after cooked with a toothpick and black sesame paste)

5. Boil water in a pot and put the shiratama dango. Cook until they start to float. ( about a couple of mins)
5. Transfer to ice water and cool.