I *say* all of the bento, but the first one of the week was just a box of soup (it’s not often you hear of soup in a box, but it was) and the second one was shop bought, with a little augmentation from the Rock Salt kitchen… but still, I had five days of recorded lunches, which is an improvement on recent weeks. Here is the evidence:
The box of soup was left over from dinner, and was vegetable and noodle soup. It’s certainly not the most appetising of the soup family, but it tasted very clean and nourishing, which is sometimes what you need. Sadly it’s more often the case that I “need” things that taste of fat, salt and carbs, but now and again I do listen to whatever lonely part of me it is that craves more healthy fare. It was a simple mushroom, garlic, ginger and soy stock, to which I added broccoli, cabbage, beansprouts, spring onions, noodles, sesame oil, chili flakes, white pepper and mixed spice. It looks nicer with the lucky fish spoon perched in it than it does in a box, I must admit. If you look at this photo you can see a clove of garlic cunningly disguised as a mushroom, just waiting to give me the kind of surprise that leaves your eyes watering and your breath a powerful weapon.
The second bento, which I freely admit was utter cheating, came from Tesco; the sushi was only a pound. One pound! I added bowls of wasabi and ginger to make it a more complete lunch; I don’t think that sushi without ginger and wasabi is nearly as satisfying. I even like it when I accidentally put too much wasabi on and spend the next five minutes trying to pretend that it hasn’t happened and that the inside of my nose doesn’t feel like it’s caught flame like a nineties shellsuit too near the iron.
It’s nice to have sushi that someone else made, even if the someone else was a big sushi making machine. Or a sushi making robot – that’s cooler. The other part of this day’s lunch was the fruit salad box, which they somewhat optimistically call ‘Red Fruit Delight’. A better name is ‘red fruit nice’, or ‘red fruit and some fruit that is a bit red round the edge’ would be much more accurate since the majority of the box is red apple. Still, the single strawberry that they put in these little boxes does impart some lovely flavour to the rest of the red (and reddish) fruit. I probably still wouldn’t go as far as delight.
Bento 33 was a return to a proper, home-made bento box, and was pretty packed with stuff to make up for the previous two. I had asparagus and tomatoes and some corn on the cob slices, ably pinned down by Messers Elephant and Giraffe. I also had a star shaped boiled egg and some cucumber and melon wedges. Since starting Year of the Bento, I’ve realised just how much I like boiled eggs. I like them really a lot; the taste, the texture, the fact that I can make them into shapes… it’s all part of the liking. I’m not going anywhere with this, I just really like eggs.
The main event in bento 33 (apart from the egg, of course) was the sweet chili noodle salad. I cooked some red pepper and spring onion in a tiny wok and flavoured it with light soy, garlic and sesame oils and little chili, ginger and garlic sauce – I know, CHEATING again. I boiled up some thin egg noodles and mixed it all together, and it was ready to be squished into the bento box. I really like a noodle salad; this one is very simple but I could have added more veg and other flavours to the noodles. For me, the most important thing is the amount of oil, there has to be enough to really coat the noodles and carry the other flavours around, and make the noodles easy to eat, too. The last thing you want is to get your chopsticks in there and pull all those noodles out in one big clump, like a wrong lollipop. Very embarrassing and not at all practical.
Bento 34 had tiny pitta sandwiches in it, which are still making me smile when I look at the photo. I had cheese, tomato and cucumber in them, and for all they did go a bit soggy overnight, they were so cute and I looked forward to them so much that almost didn’t matter. It would have been better to pack the ingredients separately and assemble them on the day, but there’s only so much room in Bennie the Box. The other items in bento 34 were a salad of asparagus, cucumber, tomato and red pepper, a mix of blueberries and melon and some more corn on the cob, this time guarded by the Serious Chicken and the Electrocuted Monkey. Some of you might have thought he was a lion – not so. Look closely. That is a monkey’s face, my friends, have no doubt about it. He’s just had a bit of a shock and his hair’s gone cartoon, that’s all.
The picks are completely unnecessary in practical terms, but in real terms they’re an essential part of the lunch. It wouldn’t be half as much fun without all the accessories, and that’s the truth.
The final lunch of last week was put together very hurriedly, and used things from the freezer. The bento library in there will soon need replenished, it’s been extremely useful for last minute lunch assembly. The box contained more melon and blueberry, more corn on the cob, red pepper and cucumber flowers – this is the thing about having such a small lunchbox, you don’t use things up all in one go, so you better make sure you really like the things you’ve bought for lunches as you’re going to end up having them several times a week. The freezer items are marinated pork (or Super Garlic Pork as I’ve started to think of it) and white rice onigiri, topped off with spring onion rounds. Worried Bear is the accessory of the day. It looks like he’s seen something behind my shoulder that he’s none to pleased about. I hope that wasn’t the case, because it implies that a) Worried Bear is hallucinating or b) there are invisible monsters in my kitchen that only Worried Bear can see. I suppose he’s justified in his worry either way, really.
Thus ends my first full (almost) week of bento in a long while. This week will not follow suit, as I’ve already had some tinned soup for lunch today, but I do have a bento ready for tomorrow, and have done some shopping and preparation for the rest of the week, so I feel quite positive about saving my pennies from the horror of the canteen till for another week. Apart from the days when I crack and have a roll and sausage for breakfast, of course…