I love eggs. They are quick to cook, nutritious, and add an instant splash of sunny yellow to a bento box. While many egg dishes, including crepes, omelettes, and hard-boiled eggs. can be made in advance and kept in your bento stash, some egg dishes don’t keep well. For this reason, you’ll find some single-portion recipes in this section for egg dishes that can be made quickly in the morning.
- Chicken Omu-Rice
- Stir-fried Kale with Sesame Seeds
- Marinated Broccoli-and-Cauliflower Salad
- Glazed Carrot Flowers
This popular rice-stuffed omelette is known as omuraisu in Japan. For a bento, make sure to cook the egg through. You can use any leftover cooked meat instead of the chicken.
- 3/4 cup (150g) cooked white rice
- 2 large eggs
- salt and pepper (use white pepper if you want the omelette without black specks)
- olive oil for frying
- 1/4 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 oz (60g) cooked chicken, chopped
- 2 tablespoons ketchup, for the rice
- ketchup for decoration, optional
- If you are using pre-frozen rice, defrost it before using.
- Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Put in the onion and sauté until it starts to turn translucent. Add the chopped bell pepper and sauté until softened. Add the rice and butter, and sauté until the rice is well coated with oil and butter. Add the chicken and ketchup, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the rice from the pan and wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add a little more oil and heat the pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the eggs and spread it around rapidly. Turn the heat down to low, and leave the eggs to cook through completely. Remove from the heat until ready to pack.
Stir-Fried Kale with Sesame Seeds
I usually make this quick stir-fry for dinner and set aside a portion for next day’s bento.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2-inch (1cm) piece ginger, finely minced
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 8 oz (225g) kale, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (120ml) water
- 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- salt and black pepper
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. Put in the ginger and garlic, stir-fry briefly, then add the kale. Toss to coat the kale in the oil.
- Add the water and raise the heat to high until the water boils. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for another 5–6 minutes until the kale has wilted but is still crisp-tender.
- Add the soy sauce and the oyster sauce, and stir to coat the kale. Add the sesame seeds and stir-fry for another 1–2 minutes. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
- This keeps in the refrigerator for 2–3 days. I don’t bother to make it in big batches since it cooks so fast.
Marinated Broccoli-and-Cauliflower Salad
Cauliflower and broccoli are both great bento vegetables: they are usually available year round, keep well, and are very versatile. I usually make a large batch of this so that it can be served at dinner, as well as using it for bentos.
- 1 medium head cauliflower
- 1 medium head broccoli
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup (120ml) cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt, for the marinade
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 10–12 black peppercorns
- 1/2 tablespoon red chili flakes
- Cut the florets off the cauliflower and broccoli. Peel the broccoli stalks and slice into rounds or sticks.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Put in the broccoli stalks first, then a minute later add the broccoli and cauliflower florets. Cook for 2 further minutes, then drain. Run cold water over the vegetables to cool them rapidly.
- Combine all the other ingredients in a nonreactive container (I use a glass mixing bowl) and mix until the salt and honey have dissolved. Add the well-drained vegetables, and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Leave to marinate for several hours before using. This salad keeps for a week in the refrigerator.
Glazed Carrot Flowers
Makes 20–24 flowers or slices.
These carrot slices are as delicious as they are decorative. You can add them frozen to your bento in the morning—they’ll defrost by lunchtime.
- 3 large carrots
- 1 cup (240ml) orange juice
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- You will need a small decorative bento cutter to make the cutouts. A tiny cookie cutter or aspic cutter would work too.
- Peel and slice the thick parts of the carrots into rounds approximately 1/4 inch (0.5cm) thick, reserving the tapering ends of the carrots to use in another dish. Use the cutter to cut out a shape from each carrot round.
- Place the carrots in a saucepan and add the orange juice, plus water to cover if needed. Add the sugar and salt. Bring a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots are just tender. Add the butter, and simmer until the liquid in the pan has reduced to about half its original volume.
- Drain the carrots and use as decorative toppings in your bento. The slices can be frozen for up to a month.
How to Pack
- Fill the bottom of a fairly deep bento box with the kale.
- Put the chicken rice in a small bowl (such as a rice bowl). Press lightly on the rice, then invert the bowl onto the bed of kale. Form the rice into the shape of an American football with a spoon.
- Drape the omelette over the rice, and tuck the ends in under the rice. If you like, you can make decorative cutouts on the top side of the omelette.
- Put the Broccoli-and-Cauliflower Salad in a bento cup, and tuck into one side of the bento, making space for it by pushing the kale aside. Scatter the bento with some carrot flowers, and fill gaps with cherry tomatoes. I’ve added some fun bento picks for decoration.
More from The Just Bento Cookbook 2:
Cover courtesy of Kodansha
Excerpted with permission from The Just Bento Cookbook 2 by Makiko Itoh (Kodansha, 2018).