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Posted on May 30, 2007 in Bento, Food Jar, For Kids, Gluten Free, Lactose Free, Meat, Pasta or Noodles, Rice, Soup or Stew, Thermal Lunch Jar, Tips, Tofu | 19 comments

Sukiyaki lunches & preventing fruit from browning

Sukiyaki lunches & preventing fruit from browning


To prevent fruit from browning, Cookwise (Shirley O. Corriher’s respected book on food science) suggests putting the cut fruit into water with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which slows the enzymes that cause browning. Options include lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, cream of tartar, or even a crushed vitamin C tablet dissolved in water. Chili pepper is also high in vitamin C, so dipping fruit in water with ground-up chili pepper will also prevent browning. I like the flavor that orange juice adds to fruit, but often use bottled lemon juice with a little Splenda or sugar for the same effect without the pucker.


Contents: Rice and sukiyaki from dinner the night before. The sukiyaki includes thinly sliced beef, tofu, onions, Napa cabbage, green onions, chrysanthemum leaves, and Malony-brand saifun noodles (made of potato starch and corn starch, they don’t fall apart even when in broth for a long time — glutenfree). Shirataki noodles (from tofu or yam) are the traditional low-calorie, low-carb noodle choice for this dish, but I was out. Kuzukiri noodles (made from arrowroot) are also a good choice.

Morning prep time: 4 minutes, by packing dinner leftovers the night before when cleaning up. In the morning I just microwaved the top container with the sukiyaki, and put in fresh rice from the rice cooker. I could have pre-packed the rice the night before and refrigerated it (nuking it in the morning), but I chose to keep the rice cooker on overnight instead.

Packing: I packed these in a cheap knockoff thermal lunch jar that’s about the same size as the Zojirushi Ms. Bento. I packed the big rice container only about halfway full of rice, so that I was able to pour all of the sukiyaki on top of the rice when it was time to eat (creating a do-it-yourself fresh “gyudon” beef bowl without soggy rice — ta dah!). There’s no Yoshinoya beef bowl chain around here for my gyudon fix, so this’ll have to do. :-)



Contents of Bug’s lunch: Sukiyaki, rice with furikake (nori flavored sprinkles), and slices of watermelon and Asian pear.

Morning prep time: 6 minutes, by preparing dinner leftovers the night before when cleaning up. Because the thermal food jar portion of the insulated bento set is not microwave-safe, after dinner I packed up Bug’s cut-up sukiyaki in a microwave-safe bowl and refrigerated it overnight. In the morning I was able to throw the bowl of sukiyaki right into the microwave, dish out some warm rice from the rice cooker, and slice some fruit.

Packing: I chopped up all of the sukiyaki into child-sized bits the night before, and tossed the sliced Asian pear in orange juice before packing to keep it from turning brown (additional methods to prevent fruit from browning are below). The sukiyaki went into the thermal jar portion of the insulated bento set to keep it warm; we added some rice to the sukiyaki when eating. You can get the same effect as the insulated bento set by using a small side container and a thermal food jar , commonly available from stores like Target or Walmart. (Note to SF Bay Area locals: The Ichiban Kan stores stock four kinds of insulated bento sets for $20 - $25, and Kamei has two Zojirushi-brand sets for $33. Store info at the SF local shopping guide.)

Lunch in a Box is nominated for Best Food Blog in the Blogger’s Choice Awards. If you’d like to cast your vote for speedy lunch packing, click here (you can vote for multiple blogs in the same category).



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  1. Looks yummy, as always.

    You mentioned shirataki noodles, which I like a lot, do those stand up to broth for long periods of time, too? I’ve always used them in place of spaghetti/fettucine, but I want to make a summery noodle soup and might use those.


    P.S. Sorry for the previous comment with the inappropriate icon…I meant this one, but that one is above it and somehow I clicked that one by mistake.

  2. I was wondering, are the fruits in room temperature when you eat them or do you separate packing for fruits and food?

  3. Yes, shirataki does stand up to liquids well — that’s why it’s the traditional noodle choice for sukiyaki (and oden). Malony noodles (from Osaka) and arrowroot noodles also hold up in liquids really well, much better than pasta for hotpot.

  4. I tend to eat fruit at room temperature. With this meal, the watermelon was cold and the Asian pear was room temperature when I packed lunch. I packed the container with the warm rice on top of the fruit container (heat rises). It all wound up being about room temp (except for the sukiyaki in the food jar, which stayed hot).

  5. That’s what I thought. Thanks!

  6. How do you decide which bento box to use?
    I realise that it is easy with a soup and with a sallad etc., but for the rest. Just grab one out of your array?
    Another good dish for bento box, or so I think, is niku-jaga. You might, of course, already done this.
    Read your tip on freezing sandwiches btw. Great tip. They turn out terrific. I’m such a slow starter in the morning that just grabbing one is great. I confess I make them various shapes too and they are just for me (an adult but what the heck, you only live once!)


  7. It does give them a nice flavor, doesn’t it? Same with bananas in orange juice.

  8. Good question, Jessica. Yes, soups and liquidy things call for a food jar or thermal lunch jar. Salads go into a larger container (preferably with an ice pack) like the Fit & Fresh salad thing or the Laptop Lunchbox with the ice pack and insulated case. For the rest, it’s a judgment call according to who’s eating it and what’s in it. Bug’s appetite has outgrown the tiny sub-300ml boxes, so if I use those I need to supplement his meal with another container. If I’m packing something large or bulky I eyeball which boxes can accommodate it (i.e. start with the bento box size guidelines I posted about earlier, and adjust up for bulky/large/odd-shaped foods). Also, if I’m packing something moist that might leak into other food items, I’m likely to reach for a box with built-in dividers (like the Lock & Lock 350ml boxes) or a separate side dish container with secure seal. I pack sandwiches in sandwich boxes or in my deeper boxes.

    So basically I start by looking at the food I want to pack, and figure out what’ll be able to contain it well. I’d much rather have a number of containers and be able to do that than feel restrained by my container (i.e. can’t pack certain foods because it won’t play nicely in the box I have).

  9. I’m for sure going to use this idea soon! Thanks for posting and the site looks great.

    I miss Yoshinoya. :/

  10. Thanks oxygen! I miss Yoshinoya too — I used to eat there once a week (on Tuesdays, I think) and read my new weekly manga… Natsukashii (nostalgic!).

  11. hi.. i know of a way my mom always use to prevent fruits from browning. She slices the fruits and then soaks them in saltwater for a few minutes. It really helps. Cheers!

  12. vanilla extract and Aji-Mirin also holds the fruit up well

  13. but it leaves behind a funky taste

  14. @12 from puppyluv: I’ve read of the saltwater technique in Japanese cookbooks before — thanks for the reminder!

  15. To prevent browning, my Japanese mother always dipped cut pears and apples in salted water. I don’t know if this technique was her invention or some old-school Japanese magic. Whatever. It works without adding a secondary flavor like acidulated water.

  16. @16 from Not Marcia: You’re right, I’ve seen the saltwater method in a number of Japanese cookbooks. Haven’t tested it out vs. citrus juice to see which is more effective, though. Thanks for the tip!

  17. How can saltwater not leave the fruit salty??

  18. nazniiiiinnn is hhhhereeee whhyper ooooo im njdjn whoo

  19. I keep seeing fish in bento boxes and I wanted to know how people keep it from going bad. I know that it is pre-cooked, but wouldn’t it go bad anyway?