Once a year, volunteer language teachers come from Japan to help out at my son’s school, and do a month’s homestay with families from the school. Part of the homestay deal is that the host family is to pack the teacher a daily lunch to eat at school. So that means that I’m back to making adult and child versions of the same lunch while “A-sensei” is with us — I’m finding it stimulating.
It was initially a little weird to be making bentos for a Japanese person. (You know, will she like our food? I don’t want them to look so thrown-together that the other senseis at school wind up gossiping about it.) But we’ve gotten used to each other over the past couple weeks, so I’m less self-conscious now and am learning her food likes and dislikes. The result? I’ve slipped back into my regular old speed bento habits for both lunches.
For this meal I fell back on pasta frittata, a simple egg dish that incorporates leftover spaghetti from the night before. Now whenever I make pasta I just go ahead and make extra, knowing that leftovers will get remade into breakfast or lunch the next day.
Contents of adult bento lunch: Pasta frittata made with leftover spaghetti, shrimp & tomato sauce (see the full pasta frittata tutorial). Sauteed orange bell pepper with garlic & soy sauce, and green grapes.
Morning prep time: 20 minutes for the two bentos, using leftover pasta for the frittata and including prep/cooling time for the frittata and peppers. Thoroughly cooling all foods before closing them up inside a bento box reduces the amount of condensation inside of the box, improving food safety and making it easier to remove the lid of the bento box. (Click for lunch details and a kid-sized version of the same lunch.)
Packing: I cut the frittata into large bite-sized pieces to make it easy to eat on the go. The peppers are packed in a removable food cup that’s part of the bento box, keeping them separate from the grapes. The lunch is packed in a Hakoya 600ml two-tiered bento box (300ml lower tier, 300ml upper tier) that I picked up last year at Soko Hardware in San Francisco’s Japantown (see my bento gear shopping guide for the San Francisco Bay Area). This make it the right size box for an average adult woman, according to the bento box size guidelines.
Verdict: Well, the box came back empty and I got a thumbs up on the frittata as an interesting way to use up extra pasta. I hesitate to read too much into it, though — our teacher’s very polite.
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Contents of kindergartener’s bento lunch: Same as the adult lunch above: pasta frittata, sauteed orange bell pepper, and green grapes.
Morning prep time: 20 minutes to make and pack the two bentos, which includes time to cook and cool both the pasta frittata and the peppers.
Packing: I cut the frittata into small pieces to make them easier to eat without struggling with a knife in a small container, and packed them in two layers inside the box. The peppers went into a reusable silicone baking cup, and I separated the frittata from the rest of the lunch with a removable divider that came with the bento box. The lunch is packed in a 450ml Disney Cars bento box: Bug’s favorite and the appropriate size for him according to the bento box size guidelines.
Verdict: Thumbs up. Got back an empty box.
- Pasta frittata bento using leftover spaghetti carbonara
- Pasta frittata recipe and tutorial
- All Recipes on Lunch in a Box
- Bento FAQ and Biggie’s top speed bento tips