Monday, 30 July 2007

Sushi and hotpot

While waiting for dinner out, I made some sushi for today's lunch (had to use up the inari pouches leftover from the last batch). I bought some smoked salmon and remembered to use the avocado this time (although the latter has gone slightly over ripe, meh).

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Lunch for me and Andy. Identical ones this time.

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Still too much for two lunch boxes, heh. So I had a third one for Tuesday's lunch.

Then we met Siau Wei, Andrew, Jason and Boon for dinner at Nosh. The plan was so a bbq at my house if it's sunny and hotpot if it's raining. When I checked the weather forecast earlier in the week it said rain so we made plans for hotpot. And then it turned out bright, sunny and beautiful yesterday... Anyway, we had a lovely time catching up, especially with Siau Wei moving to Lincoln. She got a gorgeous house with 2 other girls and I know exactly where she lives! I can't believe they manage to get a house smack in the centre of the Cathedral Quarter. They are neighbours with the Tourist Information Centre, that's how central it is. I've been there twice now and it is a gorgeous part of town where all the restaurants and tea rooms are. We'll be sure to visit, especially during the annual christmas market (to seek refuge from the crowds).

We went half-and-half on the hotpot: half normal broth and half super-spicy soup:

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Yes, look at the amount of chilli oil on top. And well the other half wasn't much better either with oil! The hot soup is called ma la hot pot (麻辣火锅), ma means numbing and la means hot/spicy. Very apt description. We ate so much, it was like a buffet. Seafood, veg, poultry, tofu... Better have healthy things for dinners this week.

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Thursday, 26 July 2007

Two-month anniversary and sushi

Andy and I are going to Yun's for dinner tonight, in celebration of our two-month wedding anniversary. I was in Beijing during the one-month date so it's to make up for that. We're not going to do this every month! We've promised Helen (the lady-boss at Yun's) to give her some photos from our wedding for her wall so I'll need to note which ones when I collect the photos later.

Dinner last night was a bit of a rush because I was anxious to have the meal finished by 7pm (book club at 7.30pm). So on hindsight I probably shouldn't have chosen something that requires as much work as sushi but I thought since I was staying at home for the day... Anyway, it turned out well, although my mum did call me in the middle of food preparation, as usual. (The last time she called me I ended up holding a half-peeled potato in my hand for 30 minutes, heh.) It was the first time I made tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled egg-omelette) and I'm glad it turned out rather well. The taste was exactly what I remember from the restaurants/sushi bars, even if it didn't look quite so perfect (done with a normal round pan instead of sqaure tamagoyaki pan).

I made a load of sushi for dinner, with the intention of having the leftovers for lunch. Even so, I still ended up with both of us stuffed for dinner, two big lunch boxes and one small container of sushi left in the fridge!

Loaded table, with sushi platters, miso soup, a bowl of broccoli and carrots (initially for tempura veg but I ran out of time so just tossed them in sesame oil and soy sauce) and green tea.

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Futomaki and inari sushi (topped with crab mayo). I was really pleased when I found inari pouches at Hanson's.

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More futomaki and maki. Andy loves cucumber maki.

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Inari sushi and nigiri sushi, topped with tamagoyaki and crabsticks

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Leftovers after dinner

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Various types of futomaki, maki and inari sushi across the bottom. Edamame in the smaller section along with soy sauce in small container. Some strawberries on the side in small compartment. Along the right hand side where cutlery usually goes, I've put in extra tamagoyaki on skewers. Mine is the same except with cherries.

This is the third time that I've made sushi and they have turned out better and better. Practice makes perfect :)

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Friday, 20 July 2007

Why bento?

I was initially inspired by the lovely ladies over at Bento Lunches (and they continue to do so). Bento is commonly associated with Japanese cuisine but it is essentially a takeout (from a restaurant or convenience shop) or home-packed meal. It does not have to be ‘cute’ (although aesthetics such as colour and different ways of cutting and presenting food are important in traditional bento) or consist of ‘Japanese food’ like rice, sushi, noodles or onigiri. Sandwiches and salads in a box are bento too!

Here are some of the reasons why I do it:

1. Balanced and healthy meals
Traditional guidelines for packing bento results in healthy lunches in good portions and balanced meals. Packing food in advance means not overeating (or undereating/skipping meals!) and having a balanced meal packed avoids the canteen or cafeteria junk that one could end up with sometimes.

2. Saves money
Unlike in most parts of Asia where prepared food is readily and cheaply available, eating out in the UK (not just dining but even getting a sandwich from shops) can be expensive. The cost of buying lunches at work everyday really adds up! By using leftovers from dinners or buying a little bit more of food that I usually use in cooking, I can put together healthy and delicious lunches for me and the husband at much, much lower cost.

3. Reduce waste
As mentioned, leftovers are great for bento and avoids food going into the bin. Using reusable containers for lunches everyday also reduce the amount of waste generated by disposable packing when buying packed lunches from cafeterias or shops.

4. Makes for interesting lunches at work
It makes us look forward to lunch time. Andy’s colleagues are intrigued by what he might bring in for lunch everyday and they look forward to his lunches!

5. Old-fashion love
It’s a way for me to show my love and affection for the husband by putting in the thought and efforts to pack his lunch everyday and making sure that he has healthy and delicious meals. And love for myself too!

And finally…

6. Another way to indulge my passion for food
As if I need another excuse ;)

Related articles:
Choosing a container for bento
Different types of bento boxes
Bento accessories

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Thursday, 19 July 2007

New obsession


I've been inspired to get onto the bento-wagon (more on bento from Wiki and bentobox). I like the philosophy behind it: healthy lunches in good portions, balanced meals, reduce waste through using reusable containers, visually appealing textures and colours for food that feeds the stomach as well as the heart, and the love and thought that goes into preparing every lunch box.

I've been making some in normal plastic containers, incorporating different food groups and colours etc but really wanted a 'proper' bento-style box. I then saw some Laptop Lunches boxes which looked pretty good with useful sealed containers and utensils and so on. So I ordered two for Andy and myself. Packed them last night (as I usually do with our normal sandwiches, given that Andy leaves the house before I get up) and here's the result:

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His and Hers bento: cold soba noodles with some sesame seeds, tiger prawns, broccoli and shitake mushrooms sauteed in some teriyaki marinade, blueberries and strawberries, sauce container with soy and ginger dressing for the noodles and some carrots as fillers. Andy's had strawberries only because he doesn't like blueberries, strange man.

Recipe for the dressing:
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp chilli oil

These Laptop Lunches hold more food than I expected. I was full before I got onto the fruit, which I'm saving for later in the afternoon. Maybe not a problem for him but a bit much for me! Now I'm really wanting to get a proper Japanese bento box. They are significantly smaller and I think they will fit into my work bag a bit better as well. I've been looking at online stores for them and kicking myself for not buying them when I was at Japantown in San Francisco (so cheap). I even picked up one but wasn't sure I had enough luggage space. *Kick kick* Now I wish I am back in Singapore to go to Daiso...

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