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Posted on Nov 1, 2007 in Bento, For Kids, Lactose Free, Meat, Recipe, Rice, Tofu | 6 comments

Bento lunch with ma po tofu

Bento lunch with ma po tofu



Ma po tofu bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Ma po tofu, stir-fried snow peas and roasted bell pepper with Thai oyster sauce, white rice with Shinkansen pre-cut nori (full nori details here) and a side packet of individually wrapped Shinkansen furikake rice seasoning (bonito flavor). Asian markets often sell assortments of furikake packets in a variety of flavors, in either adult designs or cartoon character like Hello Kitty, Shinkansen, Anpanman, etc. (click on the photo below for flavor translations). A greener alternative would be to pack extra furikake in a little shaker, and refill it from a larger container of furikake (Amazon sources) when empty. In any case, adding furikake to rice at the last minute adds a little fun to a lunch (and some prefer the texture of fresh furikake). Furikake packets (rice seasoning sprinkles)

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using leftover ma po tofu and rice leftover from dinner. In the morning I quickly made the vegetables, and packed the lunch.

Cooking: To make the vegetables with oyster sauce, remove the strings from about 10 snow peas, cut them diagonally in half, and chopped a rinsed, roasted bell pepper (ready-made, from a jar). Heat a mini fry pan , spray with vegetable oil, and fry the snow peas until slightly softened (about 2 minutes). Add the bell pepper, 1 tsp oyster sauce and 1 Tb water, saute for an additional 30 seconds (or until the sauce has thickened). Let cool before packing in a bento lunch. I used Mae Krua brand oyster sauce, which I adore over Chinese or Japanese oyster sauces (my earlier rant on Thai oyster sauce is here).

Packing: I actually got five natural food colors into today’s lunch, so I was happy about the color/nutrition balance. My first step was to pack the warm rice in the bento box so that it could cool while I worked on the rest of the lunch (letting the lunch cool before putting the lid on reduces condensation inside the box, helps avoid food spoilage, and avoids creating a vacuum inside the box that makes it hard for a child to open). Tofu spoils easily because of its high water content, so I didn’t want to warm it before packing, and I tucked in frozen ice packs (cut from a flexible ice blanket) next to the bento box in Bug’s insulated lunch bag . Lunch packed in a 360ml Disney Cars bento box with one sub-container removed; veggies packed in a regular cupcake liner (Wilton brand) to keep the oyster sauce away from the rice and mapo tofu.

Verdict: Bug ate all of the ma po tofu and half of the rice at preschool, finishing the snow peas and rice in the car afterwards. For some reason the bell peppers didn’t go over well with my three-year-old. Oh well, at least he ate the other veggie, gleefully squeezing the snow peas until they surrendered their inner peas to his little teeth.



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  1. I absolutetly love MaPoTofu! I’m so glad you used it, I guess since it is tofu, it can be eaten room temp. Is that true of other tofu items?

  2. @1 from Kim: Well, I think it depends how you pack the tofu and what kind of tofu it is. If it’s fried tofu, tofu skins, etc. I think it’d be better than uncooked tofu that’d shed water into your lunch. But in general uncooked tofu spoils easily, so best to use ice packs if the weather is warm, etc. I’m not sure if that answers your question or not, though…

  3. Hi Biggie !
    日本の新幹線の海苔 すごくカワイイし本当に便利だね。 さすが 日本やわ~ :-)
    本当においしそー >_

  4. Hey mami!!! (mom of one of my son’s friends) Thanks for writing your first comment here, saying the Shinkansen nori is cute and convenient, and matches the Shinkansen furikake. The pre-cut nori really gave maximum fun for minimal effort — perfect for crazy mornings! Feel free to write comments in Japanese if you don’t feel like English; I’ll summarize in my response.

    先週の金曜日にまたSanrioストアに行って新しい新幹線のクーラーランチバッグを買ってしまったのよ。最近はBugくんの気に入ったかわいい物に私もはまってどうしよう? :-)

  5. Biggie!
    What recipe do you use for your ma po tofu? I spent a month in China last year and absolutly loved it, but I cannot sucessfully recreate it for my self. Do you have any tips?

  6. @5 from micki: I base it on a recipe from an old cookbook I got in college (Kenneth Lo’s New Chinese Cooking School) but make some adjustments (triple the amount of chicken stock to make more of a sauce, reduce the chiles so my son can get it down, etc.). Make sure you simmer the cubed tofu before you stir-fry it with the pork and any other veggies you might add (sliced mushrooms are a nice touch), and using a firmer tofu helps it retain its shape in the wok.