Shokado Bento

No.168

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Shokado Bento is a bento served in a classic Shokado-style bento box which is usually square and is divided into 4 sections by a separable cross-grid inset and genuinly or imitatively lacquered in black or red. Now I have 7 Japanese Shokado bento boxes at home, 5 are square that came in a set and the remaining 2 are a bit different, they are rectangular with 3 divided sections. I love these boxes and their differences, I enjoy arranging my food in these boxes for parties and lunches. I once served dinners in these boxes and it made a very memorable evening with our friends. You can maybe easily imagine how my guests looked like when they opened the lid of their Shokado Bento box…. a beginning of food entertainment!

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Shokado Bento boxes are quite larger than our regular bento boxes of daily use. While we try to be very space-effective to pack food rather tightly in a small space of our usual bento box to prevent the food from moving around while carrying to work and school, it seems to me each section of Shokado Bento box is like an individual universe in which we can freely create our own food creation. If you like to fill all 4 sections of Shokado Bento box fully with just food, you will need almost 2-3 times as much food as a regular bento box. It is indeed a big bento box and the volume of the food is much more than a normal adult can eat for a lunch. Just like many of you, I hate to waste food. When trying to pack an usual volume of food in a big box like Shokado Bento box, you will need to deal with extra space.  If you are a very experienced skillful cook and can use the space as a garnish for the food in your presentation, it is fine.  But to most of you beginners or intermediates,  I like to recommend to use small bowls, glasses and plates in Shokado Bento, they are not only helpful to fill the space but also they will make your presentation look more special.

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I have 2 wooden mini bowls with lid, one in black and the other in red. It is very fun to use this bowl to serve a simmered dish and its delicious broth together in it. The lid will keep it warm as well and I just love this little open-the-lid excitement to give my guests.

Shokado Bento was originally created to be served at tea ceremonies in Japan and it has a very close relation to the Japanese culture of tea ceremony. I think Shokado Bento started originally as a humble bento and the portion of the food in each section was usually small as the main feature of Japanese tea ceremony is not the food but something else, even invisible spiritual thing.

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Based on the common rule of Shokado style bento arrangement, I arrange rice in the lower left section and grilled or fried meat or fish in either or both of the upper sections. When I use all 4 sections to serve side dishes for a party dinner, a bowl of rice and a bowl of soup will be served alongside.  I usually prepare different dishes paying attention to the colors and the season. Green, yellow, red, brown, white and orange are represented by seasonal vegetables and savory meat and fish dishes.  As my Shokado Bento box is entirely black in color, I like to brighten up with light-colored plates and bowls. We eat with eyes, and that is more true about Shokado Bento.  Even if the section is not completely filled with food and there is much space around the food, you may not necessarily feel it is scarce. Probably because your eyes were so well fed by the beautiful presentation and you were touched by the cook’s spirit behind the work?

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Shokado Bento is a special bento, it goes beyond cooking a meal and eating it. It is almost so spiritual that I am so sure you will feel the hospitality which the cook has put into the food and the arrangements. When you have a chance to make a Shokado Bento, please take your time to plan the bento well. My advise for you is to use your all creativity and hospitality and make a special Shokado Bento.

xxx Rie

 

Do you like Norwegian Salmon?

No.138

You may never have traveled to Norway yet but maybe you have eaten fresh, delicious and world-famous good quality Norwegian salmon? It has really become a very attractive fish in many countries of the world and many of my readers in France, yes I know your country likes Norwegian salmon very much! To me it is not only a fish I buy at a supermarket to make a dinner for my family but also it is a nostalgic food which brings me many good memories. From 1986 to 1990 I worked in the Trade Department of the Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo and one of the big projects I was engaged in was called “Project Japan” which was a pioneering project aiming at expanding export of Norwegian seafood from Norway to Japan. Now you can buy fresh Norwegian salmon in Japan very easily but back in 1986 it was not so commonly available. Many trade delegations from Norway visited us in Japan and those trips to the world’s largest fish market in Tokyo together with Norwegian fish exporters are my fond memories.

We who live in this clean and beautiful country in Scandinavia eat it very often, too. A very traditional Norwegian salmon dish is actually a very simple dish, we slowly porch salmon with a slice of lemon and dill and serve with boiled potato, melted butter and refreshing cucumber salad. Mmmm.. it is very good! But nowadays more and more Norwegian people eat salmon raw as Sashimi and Sushi just like Japanese people do. I often serve it to my guests at my dinner party and it seems people like the dish very much.

Norwegian Salmon Sashimi for Party
Norwegian Salmon Sashimi for Party

We almost always serve Sashimi together with these fine shredded white radish on the side. Very locally grown chives from my garden and ripe avocado go very well with the Salmon’s beautiful rose pink color and this bright and colorful presentation is really entertaining when you are serving it to your party guests.

Norwegian Salmon Sashimi – garnish tips
– shredded white radish called Daikon (available at Asian food stores)
– avocado, cut into small cubes and put some drops of lemon juice on
– salmon eggs
– lemon or lime slice
– fresh chives (gressløk in Norwegian)
– wasabi, if you like it hot

Easy Roll Sushi with Norwegian Salmon
Easy Hand Roll Sushi with Norwegian Salmon

Easy Hand Roll Sushi (4 people)
Sushi rice 2 cups, water 2 cups
Sushi vinegar   4 table spoons
Norwegian salmon  400g
Cucumber  1/2 – 1
Nori
Chives (gressløk)
Soy sauce, wasabi, white sesame seeds

– Wash sushi rice and cook it with water. Mix with Sushi vinegar while it is hot.
Cool it completely.
– Cut Norwegian salmon and cucumber into thin strips.
– Place a nori sheet (about 9cm x 9cm), put 3 table spoons of sushi rice on, add salmon and cucumber, sprinkle white sesame seeds and chives and wrap it! If you like it hot, dissolve some wasabi in soy sauce and dip.

Norwegian salmons are not only an excellent sashimi fish but also good to cook. Fresh salmons come in different sizes and a small package like this is very handy for my bento cooking and I almost always have one in my fridge.

Salma is the popular brand. It is super fresh, good for Sashimi
Salma is the popular brand. It is super fresh, good for Sashimi

Salmon Teriyaki on white rice is my favorite. The texture is so wonderfully tender and I think that is why both young children and elderly people like this fish. Today I made a festive bento with Salmon Teriyaki for my new boss who just arrived in Norway and we had a welcome party at the office and I served this bento for everyone.

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Salmon Teriyaki (4 people) 
300g Norwegian salmon
Teriyaki Sauce (Japanese sake 2 table spoons. Mirin 1 and 1/3 table spoon, Soy sauce 1 and 1/3 table spoon, Sugar 1 tea spoon. Mirin is available at Asian food stores)

– Slice salmon into 5mm thick slices diagonally with a knife on a bias.

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– Heat a frypan. Add 1/2 table spoon of salad oil.
– Fry salmon on both sides. It does not take any more than 3 minutes as they are thin slices.
– Mix the sauce in a cup. Pour into the frypan and cook. Turn the heat up.
– Try to coat the fish with the sauce. When the sauce is almost all evaporated, it is done.
– Serve as it is or on top of warm rice.

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Bon Appetite!
xx Rie

This post is participating in the contest in Norway “Matstreif fyller 10år, lag et festmåltid med norsk lokalmat”

COLLABORATION BENTO 3

No.103

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
I am writing this post on the very day, February 14, 2014. It has been snowing here last several days and everything I see out of my window is covered by white snow. It is a romantic morning. How about your place? I hope you are having a wonderful day wherever you are and I hope you have someone to share your time and love together with today.

Here I am again sharing my love of bento with 2 of my bento friends in Paris, Marie and Aurelie. We are getting very close friends, we actually have met in person in Paris and had a wonderful dinner at Neo Bento. Both Marie and Aurelie are very nice girls, Aurelie got married recently and I had a chance to meet her husband who had been to Norway for his work (He is involved in the TV program “Top Chef ” which I really like) and it was very interesting to talk with him too.  After the bento dinner, we decided to do another Collaboration Bento in the celebration theme of Velentine’s Day. It was sad to say goodbye to them that evening but I was already looking forward to the project together, I am so glad to present this today on the very Valentine’s Day. So, enjoy!

Here comes Marie’s bento  :

Did you just say WOW? Yes me too. A couple sharing a bento together in a bento box!
As you see, this is another fabulous bento with amazing details. What amazes me each time is her sense of dimension and I believe she must be good at drawing.  Her composition is always dimensional, not flat, and you know how difficult to compose it with food as it has its thickness. If you pile it on each other, the dimension is easily crooked and messed up.  But not only technical skills, her object always has emotions. A story behind it touches our heart. Marie is so wonderfully talented I think.

Marie wrote :
In my Valentine’s day bento I wanted to show a sharing moment : a couple sharing a bento. I thought about the origins of the bento which is made each day by the japanese woman for her husband or her children. She always cook with love and try to create the most beautiful bento. In my bento there is a beetroot and fresh goat cheese risotto with little ham hearts. I made little flowers in cherry tomatoes and goat cheese to show the french tradition to offert flowers on this special day. The couple is en cheese, ham and nori. In the small bento we find the dessert : a little bit of yogourt with an umeboshi of apple. On the left, several hearts in chocolate to show that japanese women used to offert chocolates to their lovers on Valentine’s day.

Dans mon bento à l’occasion de la Saint Valentin j’ai voulu représenter un moment de partage, un couple en train de partager un bento. J’ai pensé aux origines mêmes du bento qui est réalisé au quotidien par la femme japonaise pour son mari ou ses enfants, et à l’amour qu’elle met à cuisiner et à confectionner le plus beau bento possible. Dans ce bento à partager il y a un risotto à la betterave et au chèvre frais, avec de petits cœurs en jambon. J’ai réalisé des petites fleurs en tomate cerise et chèvre avec des graines de lin, pour rappeler la tradition française de s’offrir des fleurs ce jour là. Les personnages sont en fromage (edam et mimolette), jambon et nori. Dans le petit bento il y a la partie sucrée : un peu de fromage blanc avec une umeboshi en pomme et sur la gauche des petits cœurs en chocolat en référence à l’habitude japonaise d’offrir des chocolats pour la fête des amoureux.

And here is another talented bentoist, Aurelie :

Very cute indeed. Very effective use of the color Pink which really goes well with the theme.  Putting a heart shape in a maki sushi is not so easy as the shape has both straight long lines and round lines. If you have made a maki sushi before yourself, you know you have to roll and push, it involves pressure and maintaining the exact shape in the center needs a lot of care and attention.  Aurelie is an inventor and experimenter, and that is what I admire. She always try new things in her original way and we know it is not the easiest way!

Aurelie wrote :

Here is my Saint Valentine’s day bento. I’ve tried to make heart shaped kazari makisushi (is it the right word? I’m working on a video with those maki right now. I hope it will be nice ) The pink heart of the maki is made of sushi rice mixed with my Saint Valentine’s dip (fresh goat cheese, cumin, chickpeas and beetroot ). There’s also green and pink apple, pink radishes, avocado and some chioggia beetroot. Of course everything is heart shaped. In the paper cup, there is some green luobo radish and some more of my saint valentine dip ( to eat with maki). The greens are spinach, arugula and young beetroot leaves. I’ve also added some soy sauce (pink bunny) and two hazelnut chocolates (the golden ones). It’s a bit simple, but I hope it is still cute.

J’ai essayé de faire des kazaro makizushi en forme de coeur. Pour faire le rose, j’ai mélangé du riz à sushi avec du houmos au fromage frais et à la betterave. Dans ce Bento il y a aussi de la pomme (rose et verte), des radis roses, de l’avocat et de la betterave crapaudine. Evidemment tout est en forme de coeur. Dans la caissette en papier il y a des tranches de radis vert « luobo » et un peu plus de houmos (pour plonger les maki dedans). Le tout repose sur un lit de roquette, jeunes pousses d’épinard et de betterave. J’ai aussi ajouté de la sauce soja (bouteille lapin) et deux chocolats.

And here is mine.

As I said today Valentine’s Day is a day to share your love with someone special. Love that exists between you and your boy friend or girl friend is one kind of love, you and your family? you and your dog or cat?  Love exists without boarders. I made this bento for someone I really don’t know so much. She is an old lady who is very alone and usually she does not get flowers nor chocolate from anyone, she is very much forgotten by the society. Why not a bento for her? I wanted her to have a bento today.  I used my small Japanese bowls that have lids. When I serve this bento, the lids will be closed and I want her to have a little moment to guess what is inside! A little excitement on Velentine’s Day.  I hope I see some sparkles in her eyes. One bowl has cooked egg in Japanese sauce and the other bowl has grilled salmon in it. In the small shot glass I have cucumber and red radish salad. Rice has shiso furikake on top and a red radish heart too. Beef roll with green beans in the center, a pink bowl has pasta with tomato sauce and 1 Italian meatball. For dessert I have pears and heart-shaped strawberries. I hope she will like this.

Aurelie translated the original text in french for me (Thank you Aurelie!) :
A la Saint Valentin, il s’agit communiquer votre amour à quelqu’un de cher à votre coeur. J’ai préparé ce Bento pour une Dame d’un certain age qui, en règle générale, ne reçoit aucune fleur, ni aucun chocolat de la part de qui que ce soit. Elle est plutôt oubliée de tous et j’ai pensé « pourquoi ne pas lui préparer un Bento pour la Saint Valentin ? J’ai utilisé ma vaisselle japonaise, y compris deux petits bols avec couvercle. Quand je servirai ce Bento les couvercles seront fermés car je veux que l’ouverture lui procure surprise et excitation. Pour créer un moment de joie le jour de sa saint Valentin. Dans l’un des bols il y a un oeuf cuit dans de la sauce japonaise et dans l’autre il y a du saumon grillé. Dans la petite verrine il y a une salade de concombre et de radis. Sur le riz il y a un furikake au shiso et un petit coeur de radis. Il y a aussi des rouleaux de boeuf avec des haricots verts au milieu et également un bol rose avec des pâtes à la sauce tomate et une boulette de viande à l’italienne. En guise de dessert il y a de la poire et des fraises en forme de coeur. J’espère que ce bento lui fera plaisir !

Have your love.
Share it today.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

xx Rie, Marie and Aurelie.