Bento cooking contest 2015 – Part 2 Sandwich in a bento box

No.167

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There are so many kinds of bento boxes available and probably you have quite a selection of them in your kitchen. Have you chosen “the box” for the contest yet? When I take part in a bento contest, I usually start by choosing “the box” that inspires me to make a creative creation in the given theme of the contest. The more bento boxes you have, the tougher it will be to choose only one box. The grass is always greener on the other side, they say. Every bento box has pros and cons, I think.

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When we talk about a sandwich bento in particular, I think the choice of container should come after the choice of bread. In this contest I imagine there will be many different kinds of breads presented in different ways. I am so looking forward to seeing your creations! Many may choose regular white bread, some may like to use french baguettes, there are butter rolls, English muffins, bagels, flat bread and many more types of bread than I can name.  I am sure they all can make delicious sandwiches and they will look great if they are put in a right bento box and they together make a good balance.  I think the shape and the size of your sandwich will help you choose “the box” and I hope you can let it inspire you further to make a great creation. If you a bread baker like I am, it is very fun to tailor-bake bread for the contest. I will make a sandwich bento next week when I come back to Norway with the bread I bake!

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It seems I often choose this Nagabako bento box for my finger sandwich bento but I probably do not recommend a long and slim bento box like this for an English muffin or a bagel sandwich bento because I think round or oval shaped rolls not only do not fit well in a slim box they will look most scrumptious when they are cut in half and placed on a plate and we are looking at the layers of bread and savory filling from the side.

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Yeah, don’t put too much filling. You can of course cut the sandwich in half and put it in a bento box the cut face up but I guess the round bottom may not sit still in the box. Maybe you can then wrap it with a sheet of pretty wax paper before you put it in a bento box. The wax paper will hold the sandwich together and will help stand straight. It will look very pretty!

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This is a bad balanced example of sandwiches, I think I was very hungry when I made it. As you see, the box is too small and it looks so cramped. There is no space for your fingers to go in and grab and take out the sandwich of the box, it will be very difficult to eat this bento. As I often say to you, bento is love, you need to think about the person who is going to eat your bento, be nice and considerate, that should be also an important part of a good bento.

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I lined the inside of this round bento box with lace paper as the box was made of natural bamboo and I did not want to stain it with the mayonnaise in the egg filling in the sandwich. Firm and hard type bread like baguettes or ciabatta will probably stand up better than white sandwich bread and you do not need to line or wrap with paper.

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Use the box well, try to find a good balance between your sandwich and your box. I repeat it here again:

Bento&co says :
The sandwich packed in your box has to be the main dish and serve as the focus point of your contribution

If you are using 2-tier bento box, make sure the 2nd box does not take the focus away from your sandwich. Last but not least it is my tips for you!

xxx Rie

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Bento cooking contest 2015 – Part 1 Sandwich Bento

No.166

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It is time for a bento contest!!
As many of you have known already Bento&co announced last week the theme and the rules of this year’s bento contest: “Chef Bento Contest – Sandwich bento” and I hope the news have reached you with much excitement! Yay! If you are reading this wondering what the heck is Rie talking about, I would like to lead you to this site the theme and the rules for this year’s bento contest. In short, it is a bento contest of sandwiches and I recommend all the participants to read the rules well (at least 5 times!) and make sure your submission will comply with all the requirements. It is no fun to get disqualified because of a careless mistake and misunderstanding, right? If you are a first time bento contest participant, don’t get scared, it is not meant to cause a mental health break. Take it easy and have fun making a sandwich bento!

A sandwich is a simple food consisting of only 2 parts – bread and fillings. But how many types of bread are there in the world? I am a bread baker and my bread baking text book can list different types of bread over 9 pages. Let alone fillings.

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I am writing this post in Japan and will go back to Norway next week. When I compare Japanese sandwiches and Norwegian sandwiches, there is a clear difference. Japanese sandwiches are more delicate and use often white bread while Norwegian sandwiches are more robust and use healthier variety of bread. Only your imagination will set a limit on choosing fillings for your sandwiches. My favorite sandwich fillings are rather classic, I love hard boiled egg with mayonnaise and cucumber, tuna with onion, thinly sliced tomatoes and ham and cucumber, brie cheese and crisp bacon, watercress and roast beef, I can just go on listing up what I like in sandwiches.. but yes new fillings I have never tried before do tickle my curiosity!! Norwegian sandwiches use a lot of seafood like smoked salmon or boiled and peeled shrimps. They are local food ingredients that we can get hold of very fresh and the taste is 100% guaranteed delicious. I think combining local ingredients by your cooking sense will be a strong factor in any of cooking contests. It will show your cooking knowledge to the judges and people who organize a cooking contest are usually very food-oriented people. New food ingredients and unique types are surely interesting. When I come to Vietnam one day I like to try their sandwich called “bánh mì”. I saw it on TV the other day and it looked very delicious and yummy. It is an interesting combination of french food and local Vietnamese food, you use a french baguettes and spread liver pate and sandwich asian herbs, European cured ham and pickled carrot and daikon, season with Vietnamese soy sauce!! I really wonder how it will taste like!

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When you consider sandwich fillings for a bento contest, don’t forget you will have to take a photo of it. Colorful ingredients like red tomatoes, green cucumbers and yellow eggs may look more appealing than a dark and boring colored food item on your photo. I would not recommend juicy ingredients as it is easily imaginable from the photo that the sandwiches will be soggy. When you make your contest bento of sandwich, remove well excess water from the ingredients and cool it very well in your fridge before you take a photo. Soggy sandwiches are nothing but a disaster. If you really like to use an ingredient of high liquid content, place it in the very center of the sandwich. You can place dry food item directly on the bread so that the moisture from the center will not be soaked up in the bread so easily. This rule is not only handy for a contest but also useful for making your everyday bento!

Looking at photos of great looking sandwiches is helpful and inspiring. Instagram has many good ones but do choose to look at sandwiches in a box and not on an open plate because they are totally different from each other. Please note :

Bento&co says :
The sandwich packed in your box has to be the main dish and serve as the focus point of your contribution.

We’ll pay special attention to the culinary and cooking qualities of the submitted bento. This year’s challenge is: how will you cook a great looking sandwich so it fits in a bento box?!

It is a bento contest after all. Your sandwich must be packed in a bento box. If you are aiming at winning this contest and dreaming of your trip to Kyoto already, you have to think very thoroughly. Packing sandwiches in a bento box and making it look yummy and appealing at the same time needs planning. I had a bento class on Internett 2 years ago and one of the lessons was a sandwich bento. If you were one of the participants and are reading this post, thank you for your participation in my course and I hope you will make a contest bento this year! I remember my students did not have any problem of cooking delicious sandwiches but most of them struggle with packing.

So how can we pack a sandwich bento well?
I will continue in Part 2.

xxx Rie

PS … maybe these blog posts which I wrote in connection with Bento&co’s previous bento contests may be also helpful :

● Bento Contest 2012 How o Interpret the Rules  

● Bento Contest 2014 Choice of yours 

● Bento Contest 2014 Winner’s bento 

Please note that I am not serving as a judge nor taking any organizing part of this year’s contest. What I write here is totally my own personal view.

Onigiri contest in May 2015

No.163

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【Onigiri 
おにぎり
Japanese rice balls. They are also called Omusubi おむすび.
Cooked rice is seasoned with salt and pressed by hands into a round or triangle or oval shape. They usually have stuffing inside, many different kinds of fillings are available n Japan, UME is pickled plum, OKAKA is dried bonito flakes mixed with soy sauce and SHAKE is salted and grilled salmon.

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2 years ago I was at Tokyo Station at a very early hour to catch a train to Akita.  In spite of the early time of the day many Onigiris were lining up and waiting for someone to pick them up at a bento shop. The variety of fillings was fantastic and it was almost impossible to decide, I wanted to try each every one of the fillings!

Expo Milano 2015 will open its door on May 1 in the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. Japan will participate in the Expo and will exhibit many aspects of Japanese food and food culture from May 1 to October 31. I saw the Japanese pavilions schedule to check what kind of Japanese food had been chosen to be exhibited and I was so happy to see Onigiri was on the list. Our comfort food Onigiri rice ball will be exhibited to the world from May 21 to 23 in Milan, Italy. If you are living close to Milan, you have a good chance to experience food from the world.

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To support this wonderful opportunity of internationalization of Onigiri, there will be an Onigiri contest in May.  The exhibitor of Onigiri in Milan, Onigiri Society in Tokyo, is kindly supporting this contest. I am so thankful for their cooperation. More detailed information will be coming here on my blog in the 2nd or 3rd week of April. It is open for everybody,  I hope you can consider and take part in the contest!!

 

xxx Rie