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Bento Workshop Q&A Answers

Thank you Amanda Oumiya for such a wonderful presentation at the workshop today, and thank you everyone who attended!


We had a wonderful Q&A session, and in case you missed it, or forgot to take notes, here are all of Amanda's answers with some other handy information shared by those who attended:



Amanda's Answers


If you were to make a fancy bento, what would you do?

Take a piece of salmon or white fish and lightly fry it, maybe in a light tempura batter. Then use lettuce instead of paper or silicone cups, and add some nicely cut vegetables.

What are some kid-friendly bento options?

Karaage, hotdogs/sausages, fried egg with ham, and hard boiled eggs are all great. But the secret is to just take into consideration what your kids like and use it in their bento. When I started making bentos for my kids, I put in the foods I knew they liked and just added one new thing every now and then to mix it up.

What is the best place to get veggie shape cutters?

Amazon, is always great. Just type in "bento accessories" and you'll get all sorts of results. I also have a few at my Etsy shop. (https://www.etsy.com/shop/KLBentos). Japanese people living in the US often sell things on Mercari when they move, so you can find bento boxes and supplies, or even other Japanese-related items.

Other participants shared:

Bentoandco.com has a great selection of items, but their shipping is expensive

($20). Not very practical for one or two things, but it evens out if you decide to stock

up on bento supplies. Amazon.jp actually has pretty fast shipping, so you can shop

and ship directly from Japan (just check that the seller offers international

shipping!).

How can you make tamagoyaki without a tamagoyaki pan?

Use the smallest frying pan you have, even if it's round. Focus most on getting it cooked and folding it, and then you can cut the edges to make it square afterwards.

I don't have an insulated bento, what dishes taste good cold or at room temperature? Any tips for people who can't re-heat their bento?

Don't worry so much about it, just make sure that food is fully cooked when you pack it. You can wrap the bento in aluminum foil to keep the cold in, or you can put it in an insulated lunch bag if you have one. Meatballs and karaage are fine – most of what I've made has always been fine to eat later. If you're concerned with bacteria growth, just make sure your hands are washed and clean when making the food and that everything is thoroughly cooked.

What are good vegan options to include, and what are good vegan substitutes for common additions (ex: tamagoyaki).

Just Eggs has a vegan scrambled egg mixture you can use. Otherwise, just cook what you normally cook and put it in there– it doesn't have to be new. Bento is just lunch after all, so just use what you usually eat. It doesn't have to be Japanese. But you can definitely try out lots of different vegetables and see how they go together. You can find a bunch of Japanese recipes in English on Cookpad.com.

Other participants shared:

Justonecookbook.com (Japanese home cooking)

Elizabeth Andoh has a book called “Kansha” that is all vegan Japanese recipes

JustOneBento.com

Miyoko's Japanese Cookbook (more general Japanese food, but still good recipes)

Can you pre-make anything that can be frozen and thawed for a time to make a bento box?

Pre-frozen meatballs are always great in bentos. If you're going to make a bunch of bentos ahead of time, don't keep it more than 3-5 days in the fridge, but you can freeze most things in a bento for about a month.

What is the best way to include sauced items in a bento without making the other stuff soggy?

You can save condiment containers from restaurants or buy mini sauce containers. You can also use paper divider cups or dividers.

Other participants shared:

1 oz sauce containers from Sistema (Amazon)

What ingredients in your opinion make the best bento box?

It's all about balance. Rice, protein, vegetables, fruits – a nice balance of all of the food groups. Take color into consideration when you're planning – as they say, "feed the rainbow." Adding rice seasoning, fruits or vegetables add a nice pop of color.

What as the first bento dish you made?

On the first day after getting married, I wanted to be all "housewife", so I made him a bento. It wasn't anything special– I think it was just a bagel sandwich and a package of crackers, or just the previous night's leftovers.

What's your favorite item to cook for a bento?

Karaage –I make it so often that I can practically do it blindfolded. It's so easy to make and such a typical bento item.

About

The Portland Chapter of JETAA (The JET Program Alumni Association) was created to serve the bonds of friendship developed by the program participants.  JETAA’s purpose is to achieve, through its  activities, a broader and deeper understanding between Japan and the other countries participating in the program.

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