Spice Up Your Life With a Taste of Japan

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


New Year's Character Bento

Do you know about Japan Up! Magazine?
It's a free monthly English publication introducing authentic Japanese cuisine, trend, culture and more!
I just picked up their January issue at Marukai market in Costa Mesa.

If you live around LA, please pick it up and see p.43....

Yes!This is my bento:) From this issue, I'm introducing character bento every month on Japan Up! Magazine.

Also I will be teaching classes at one of Japanese grocery store.
Dates and Detail coming soon!!!!


Big Hero 6 BAYMAX Bento

We were going to watch Big Hero 6 last night, but ended up not going....
I've heard a lot of good reviews about this movie.
Hopefully next weekend! Looking forward to it<3

Chicken with Sweet Chili Mayo sauce

1 Chicken breast
1bs Soy sauce
2tbs Sake
Potato starch, enough to coat chicken
3tbs Mayonnaise
1tbs Ketchup
1tbs Sweet chili sauce

1. Cut chicken into small pieces and marinade with sake and soy sauce for about 30mins.
2. Coat chicken with potato starch and pan fry.
3. Let it cool.
4. Mix mayo, ketchup and sweet chili sauce. Coat the chicken with the sauce.


Turkey Cupcakes with Cranberry Mashed Potato Frosting

Happy Thanksgiving!!! Time flies so fast...
In Japan, we do celebrate Halloween and Xmas, but not much Thanksgiving...
I had never had turkey until I moved to the US about 6 years ago!

I like this time of the year because I see fresh cranberries everywhere.
Love the tartness and the color so much.
I made cranberry sauce and mixed in white mashed potatoes...and see what I got!
This cute and bright color potatoes! love it.
It was so cute that I wanted to make something cute with it.

This turkey cupcake is full of holiday flavors.
Great finger-food for holiday picnic.
I wanted to make some side dishes to pack in the bento box, but I didn't have time....
However this cupcake itself has protein, carb and vegetables. Great one-dish picnic bento food:)

Mushroom and Leek Stuffing
Recipe here

Turkey Cupcakes
Recipe here

Shape into cupcake pan. Put the stuffing in the middle. Cover with the meat mix and bake.

Cranberry Mashed Potatoes

Steam Russell potatoes until very soft.
Mash with butter,salt,  mayo and some cranberry sauce to your taste.


Ramen Rice Balls

I finally had a chance to try ramen burger last weekend!
We went to Asian Night Market in Costa Mesa and tried a couple of different food there.
My husband had a lobster roll ( nothing to do with asian food...) and it was super yummy!
And ramen burger.....I know it's been popular for a while, but I was so excited when I saw their booth! There was a line, but it wasn't too bad. Ramen burger was really good too.

Today, I made Ramen Rice Balls. Yes, these are rice balls!
I saw Japanese moms making this and wanted to try:)

I didn't have naruto (fish cake with a pink swirl) at home so made with a slice of cheese and cut hum.
You just need to carve the cheese with a toothpick as shown.

One of the popular toppings of ramen is chashu (braised pork). 
I made chashu with chicken breast for this rice balls.
It's very easy! 

Chicken Chashu ( braised chicken breast)

1 Chicken breast
50ml  Soy sauce
50ml Sake
50ml Mirin (If you don't have mirin, you can substitute with sake and sugar. Sake3 : Sugar1 ratio)  
1/2tbs Sugar
1tbs Vinegar
1tsp Grated ginger

1. Tie chicken with string. Heat oil in a pan and brown both sides.
2. Mix all the seasonings and pour over the chicken. Simmer for about 30mins over low heat.
3. Let cook and slice. Marinate in the mixture over night.

How to assemble ramen rice balls: 

 Line a rice bowl with plastic wrap.
 Place a piece of nori seaweed, chopped green onion, chicken chashu and the cut cheese.
Make a thin egg sheet ( see this post). Roll up and cut to create the "noodle". Put over the toppings.

 Add rice and gather up the ends of plastic wrap.


Ice Cream Ghost

Made an apple pie with apples that we picked from trees yesterday!
I tried this recipe. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/apple-pie-by-grandma-ople/

I made the crust from scratch. I used only 80g butter for 200g flour.
It's much less butter compared to the amount in regular pie crust.
It wasn't as flaky as my husband likes, but it wan't heavy and I liked it!


Halloween Picnic Bento

Went to apple pick in Oak Glen yesterday.
It was crazy hot but we had a great time!
Made chicken bento for our picnic lunch.
I cooked rice, chicken, tomato cup salad in the morning, but it took me only 1 hour to finish this Halloween lunch box, including the decoration.
I marinated and froze chicken last week. Thawed the night before and just put them in a oven in the morning. I wanted to make Japanese fried chicken, karaage..HoweverI have to keep an eye on them while frying, so it's not great choice for the busy morning!
For the side dished, I packed tomato cup salad and edamame.
Since it was really hot yesterday, I didn't defrost edamame completely to keep the bento cool.
I also packed a lot of ice packs in the cooler box.


Bento ~Lion~

Love pulled pork sandwiches but feel bad when you eat it because of its greasy fat?
Then try this bbq pulled chicken breast!
Although canola oil is added, it's not animal fat, so much healthier I believe!
It turned our really good. You won't miss pulled pork.
The recipe calls for Italian dressing... Interesting, huh?!
I made bbq sauce as well as Italian dressing.
I like making everything from scratch!

Italian Dressing Mix 
Zesty Slow Cooker Chicken Barbecue

Bento Menu
Lion: Mashed potatoes, BBQ Pulled chicken, Nori seaweed, Sliced cheese, Fried pasta
Peach&Kale salad

We made pizza with the leftover chicken. It was super yummy!


Chicken Shabu Shabu Salad

Awww so hot today....
This cold chicken shabu sahbu salad is perfect for the day like today.
My husband really liked this dish!
I found this recipe on a popular Japanese cooking site.
I used only ingredients I have, but it still came out great.
Shabu shabu usually calls for pork, but this salad is made with chicken.
Dusted with potato starch, chicken has unique and smooth texture.
This dressing is amazingly good too!
Great summer dinner.

Cold Chicken Shabu Shabu Salad

1 Chicken breast
Potato Starch, enough to coat chicken
3 Oba ( Shiso Leaves) optional

100ml Soy sauce
4tbs Vinegar
4tbs Sugar
2tsp Sesame oil
1tbs Ginger, minced
Black pepper, a little

1. Cut chicken in half lengthwise. Thinly slice them.
2. Lay the chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound out to get thinner slices of chicken.
3. Dust with potato starch. Put the chicken in boiling water and cook through.
4. Dip them into a bowl of ice cold water.
5. Mix all the ingredients for dressing.
6. Serve on a bed of lettuce. Garnish with oba shiso leaves.


Japanese "Lunch Pack" Sandwiches Bento

I remember that I was so excited to grab lunch at a convenience store (conbini) when I was in junior high school.
My mom used to make bento for me and my sister almost every day before going to work, but sometimes she overslept and we had to buy lunch at a convenience store. ( I don't blame her, she usually left home 6am and came home around 9pm..What a tough woman.)
I loved her bento, but it was nice to try something different from time to time.
FYI, Japanese convenience stores are way better than the ones in the U.S. Yes, we have seven eleven in Japan too, but so different from the ones here.
Very clean, well organized and have hi-quality and unique food.
Going to conbini is a must do thing when I visit Japan! It's very exciting and fun to find new items there.

One of the popular items at conbini was and still is "Lunch Pack".
They put a layer of filling between 2 pieces of crust-less soft bread and seal the edges.
It has more than 30? 40? filling flavors including their seasonal and local limited flavors.

You can't go to Japan to try it!? No worries, I will show you how to make it at home!
I made it for my football-lover husband;)

Egg and Mayo Lunch Pack Sandwiches

2 Slices of dense bread
2 Eggs
1tbs~to your taste  Mayonnaise
Salt, Pepper

1. Boil eggs and mash with a fork and season with mayo, salt and pepper.

2. Steam bread. or wrap with plastic wrap and put in a microwave about 10 seconds. (Adjust the time to your microwave) This is very important! if the bread is dry, it will be ripped.

3. Place one of the slices on a cutting board and put the egg in the middle. (Adjust the amount to the size of the bowl you use. Don't put too much)
                                         I put tomatoes too.

4. Place the other slice on top and cut with a small rice bowl or soup bowl. Edges are sealed if you do this right! (do this process while bread is still warm)
                                         Push hard!

* I used a football shaped cookie cutter for the football. It's dessert sandwiches! Grain bread + strawberry and soy whipped cream inside;)


Beach Picnic Bento

 I will be doing Japanese character bento workshop at Whole Foods Market on September 6th. (For moms and kids I think) I will post more details when I know:)!

You'd like to make cute bento, but have no time in the morning?
 How about trying to make it on weekends and going to a park to have picnic bento!?
My husband and I love parks and enjoy having bento outside.

For picnic bento, I try to make food that is good even when it's cold.
The tofu/chicken teriyaki slider  is one of my favorite picnic menu.

I wanted to use up pasta I bought in Italy, so have been cooking a lot of pasta!
This cold tomato/basil pasta is one of my husband's favorite!
I put pasta and sauce in a separate container so that pasta won't get soggy.

Enjoy a picnic before summer is over!!

Cold Pasta
3 Roma tomatoes
3tbs Basil dressing (Recipe below)
1tbs Shio Koji  or salt to taste ( See "Shio Koji Hamburger" if you are not familiar with it )
about 160g Capellini pasta

1. Peel tomatoes. (See "How to")
2. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces.

3. Place the tomatoes in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until you don't see big tomato chunks.

4. Turn off the heat and add shio koji. Let it cool.
5. Add the basil dressing.Cool in a fridge.
6. Cook pasta. Drain and cool with ice cubes. Drizzle a little olive oil to avoid them from sticking.

Basil Dressing
10 Large basil leaves
3 Garlic Cloves
1/2cup Olive oil
1tbs Lemon juice
1/2tsp Salt
1/2tsp Pepper

Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix well.

Making yachts with masking tape & toothpicks

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and insert this picks.

Making fishes with carrot 

1. Slice carrot and cook (boil, steam, microwave or however you like)
2. Draw fish on carrot with a toothpick
3. Cut along the line with a knife

I got a lot of cute picnic items at Daiso^^!!


Mitsuwa Summer Bento

I made a summer bento for a Mitsuwa market ad! Inari sushi.
This cute character is called "Mi-Taro", their new mascot!
It's Mochi, they said...

I just realized that......I forgot to add seed on the "watermelon"..... Oh well.
It still looks like watermelon, right?

Please see "Rillakuma Inari Sushi Bento" for inari recipe.
I put a little rice in the edges of inari to make his ears.

I forgot to take process pitures for Hamburg steak sunflower, but it's on my book.
Or I will remember to take pics next time I make it!


旦那「ベイビー!!!!!(怒)どうしてそんなことするの!だったら洗ってまた使えるタッパを   使いなさい!!」



Kinpira Gobo - Burdock Root Recipe-

One of the popular Japanese side dishes, Kinpira Gobo, Braised Burdock.
Burdock looks like wood...I know it doesn't look that tasty but it actually is good! and very healthy.
It has unique flavor and a lot of nutrients like fiber.
It prevents blood sugar spikes too!

This braised burdock is salty and sweet.
A lot of Japanese side dishes are highly seasoned to prevent food from spoiling.
Also to compliment with plain rice!

I cooked a big batch and froze the rest for the next bento.
I might put it in a oven to defrost it since I and my husband decided to stop using microwave for a health reason. I'm a little too sensitive to radiation now....
 I don't know how long it lasts, but no microwave for now!!!!


1 Burdock
1/3 Carrot
40ml Sake
1.5tbs Sugar
1.5tbs Soy sauce
2tbs Mirin
Sesame oil

 This is how burdock looks like.
 1. Wash burdock and peel by rubbing the back side of knife against the skin. You don't need to peel completely since a lot of nutrients are in the skin.
2. Slice diagonally and cut into thin strips as shown. Soak in water for a couple minutes and drain.
3. Cut carrot like burdock.
4. Heat sesame oil in a pan and cook burdock and carrot until soft.
5. Pour over sake and stir.
6. Add sugar, soy sauce and mirin and mix well.
7. Simmer until it absorb all the liquid.
8. Shift to a plate and sprinkle sesame.

Reicpe adapted from フライパンで簡単~✿きんぴらごぼう✿~ (This recipe has about 4000 Japanese reviews!) 

I put the leftover in paper cups and froze for the bento.