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Posted on Oct 7, 2007 in Bento, Fish or Seafood, For Kids, Lactose Free, Pasta or Noodles | 18 comments

Tarako spaghetti lunches

Tarako spaghetti lunches


Making bento lunches for preschool five days a week is no problem so far, but keeping up with the blogging is! I may have to rethink how many of Bug’s lunches I blog about — not all of them are necessarily photo-worthy, and I’d like to keep quality high and focused on speedy lunch packing. I may write in-depth about three or so a week, and then do a roundup post with the remainder for people just looking for quick visual ideas. The jury’s still out, but it’s something I’m weighing.

Tarako spaghetti lunch

Contents of my lunch: Tarako spaghetti with onions, red bell peppers and kaiware (daikon sprouts). The top tier holds a section of corn on the cob, plum tomatoes, broccoli with red wine vinaigrette, black Mission fig, and grapes. Tarako is salted cod roe, but I often use jarred Greek tarama for this dish instead.

Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover pasta and corn. I pre-packed the pasta when cleaning up from dinner. In the morning I briefly microwaved the pasta to restore texture, garnished with fresh kaiware, steamed the broccoli in my microwave mini steamer (speeding up cooking time by 50%), and arranged food in the the top tier.

Packing: I used tongs to twist the spaghetti into two large loose nests, making the pasta tier a little nicer looking. Nothing in the top tier was particularly wet, so I didn’t use food dividers (edible or otherwise). Packed in a 580ml two-tier Urara Dragonfly box.

Tarako spaghetti lunch for toddler

Cooking: Here’s a tarako spaghetti recipe with good notes. I start by sauteing an onion and bell pepper if I have some on hand for color contrast. In Osaka I often had it with a little Kewpie mayonnaise stirred into it. Other variations omit the cream in favor of sauteing in butter and tossing in mirin/tarako/mayo (that’s what I did here). However you vary it, it’s bound to be good — just get the sauce loose enough to lightly coat the noodles.

Preschooler lunch: Contents are the same as mine. For packing, I used kitchen scissors to cut up the spaghetti into smaller bits (right in the box) that are easier for little hands to manage. Packed in a 270ml one-tier Thomas the Tank Engine box with one hard plastic sub-container removed to fit more pasta, and a 150ml Anpanman side dish container for the fruit. After taking the photo I tucked in a little Anpanman pick for the fruit. Verdict: 5 stars. Bug ate all of this at preschool, nothing left over. Success!

(Cross-posted to The Daily Tiffin parenting and lifestyle blog’s Tiffin Tuesday column.)



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  1. believe me, I know how demanding schedules can get, which can mean less blogging. even if you begin not to post as often as in the past, I will still be a faithful reader of your blog - your bento box lunches are always so innovative, and beautifully presented!! :0)

  2. Nice presentation… Looks yummy, can’t wait to try making that spaghetti…

    Question: Do you have a “Rice Cooker” & if so what brand do you use? I’m interested in getting one & I’m trying to ask around…

  3. @1 from VeggieGirl: Thanks for the kind words, VeggieGirl! I’d like to continue to post often, but still have enough time to devote at least one post a week to a good speed tip/technique, shopping tip, magazine review, etc. I think the trick is going to be picking and choosing which lunches I go into detail about.

  4. @2 from TyR: Tarako spa is pretty easy to make and a favorite among non-Japanese as well. It’s something I oddly found myself craving after moving back from Japan.

    I use this rice cooker (affiliate link) from Sanyo. It’s big, has the same fuzzy logic & timer bells and whistles of the popular Zojirushi model, but is much cheaper. They’ve got smaller models as well, but I like having the larger model for when I cook for crowds (and the timer is proving convenient so that I can have fresh rice ready when I wake up, for packing in that day’s lunches).

  5. I love reading your daily lunch posts but understand the time constraints. I will take any posts I can and drool! Thanks for sharing your tips and new lunch ideas. My boys thank you as well.

  6. I always love your (cutely colorful) bentos, Biggie. Too bad some bento materials (antibacterial dividers/ containers and such) can’t be found here.

  7. Love to have you post all of them but I understand the time constraints (that’s mostly why I barely post any instructions, just details of what’s in it)- I do like seeing the pictures for inspiration though!

    And, omg! I was just looking up a recipe for taramasalata (probably not for bento, though) last night and wondering where I could get tarama, and was thinking I could try using masago instead (which I’d rather not since it’s not quite the same). Where do you get tarama? Can I find it, as the recipe stated, “in any Greek deli” (where would I find that?)?

  8. Biggie - I am so relieved! I was beginning to think you of you as Superwoman whipping out these incredible lunches everyday and then blogging about them and doing all the other day to day stuff.

    Your 3x a week plan sounds great.


  9. @5 from suneeta: Thank you for the nice comment, suneeta! I’ll work out a plan in time; thanks for the vote of confidence!

  10. @6 from Manggy: I see you’re in Manila — I’m surprised that you can’t find the dividers and boxes if you’re looking for them! Have you asked Kaoko Cow ( for store tips?

  11. @7 from Yvo: Actually, you CAN usually find jarred tarama in any Greek or Mediterranean deli or market in the refrigerated section, next to ready-made taramosalata. It’s usually quite reasonable and keeps a reasonable time in the refrigerator. Very convenient!

  12. @8 from Kelly: Oh man, Superwoman I am NOT! I spend way too much time doing this — what’s wrong with me?!?! :-) Must be my bento blogging obsession…

  13. I love tarako pasta! When we went to Japan my sister-in-law made us a lovely pasta meal with tarako, Ikura and salmon with halved grape tomatoes. Yumm!

    My favorite breakfast was tarako and rice. Haven’t found anyplace to buy it in the Midwest, so we make do with the tiny tarako and ikura pasta-sauce packages :(

  14. I’ll have to try the taramasalata, that looks delicious.

  15. @13 from TyR: Hmm, the instant tarako spa at the link doesn’t look all that appetizing. Good luck finding a source!

  16. @15 from Darryl Papa-sensei: What do you think of the little tarako/ikura pasta-sauce packages? I’ve been using fresh, so haven’t really explored all of the little dried package options out there. Any brand recommendations or warnings of ones to avoid?

  17. @19 from Biggie:

    I’m sure you count yourself lucky to have the fresh stuff! We did have one ikura packet that tasted really good but you could count the individual ikura roe in the packet. If I can count them, it’s not enough! But it did certainly have the nice flavor that I was craving. We usually make do with the tiny tarako sauce packet, with a little packet of nori, that don’t need refrigeration.

    These were all, uhh, hand-carried from Japan. I could try to figure out the package name but I don’t do so well with Kanji, it’s my wife who’s the native speaker! Sorry.

  18. @20 from Darryl Papa-sensei: Thanks for the feedback, Darryl! If your wife knows the name of your favorite, I think we’d all be interested. Yoroshiku if she’s game, if not don’t sweat it.