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Posted on Jan 7, 2008 in Fish or Seafood, Food Jar, For Kids, Lactose Free, Rice, Soup or Stew, Thermal Lunch Jar, Tofu | 19 comments

Korean hotpot bento dinners

Korean hotpot bento dinners


Once a week I pack bentos to eat for dinner while we’re out at our running club. I started doing this when my son graduated to solid food and I realized that we might have to stop going to this event that happens at Bug’s dinnertime. My son has become so attached to this weekly ritual that even when we’re off schedule and I offer him dinner at home beforehand, he tells me that he’d rather have a bento there instead. Of course, his eating alone isn’t much fun for any of us, so I started packing meals for myself and my husband too. Our friends are always curious to see what this week’s meal is, and it’s always more satisfying and better for us than the chips and cheese puffs that are there (okay, okay, I eat some of the snacks too).

Korean soup bento lunch

Contents of my husband’s dinner: Korean vegetable hotpot (with carrots, daikon, zucchini, bell pepper and greens), white rice with wasabi furikake and seasoned Korean seaweed, yellow plum tomatoes, assorted banchan (ggakdugi daikon kimchi, spicy fish cake, sweet/spicy tiny crabs) and daikon and spinach namul (Korean seasoned vegetables served as a side dish). This meal was an antidote to all of the barbecue and fried food we’d been eating in Oklahoma when we were on vacation in December — I came back with a serious craving for fish, vegetables, and rice (nothing oily). Kukje Market’s big panchan bar and fish hotpot packs saved the day when we were still unpacking.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using all leftovers from a previous dinner. In the morning I preheated the thermal lunch jar with hot tap water while I microwaved the soup and frozen rice.

Packing: I chose a thermal lunch jar (mine’s a Nissan Stainless, often cheaper than the Mr. Bento) because of its ability to effectively hold warm soup, but left out one inner container because it was just a bit too large for this meal. The soup was originally a fish hotpot at dinner, but I left out the actual fish when packing as I was concerned that the fish would become hard and rubbery when held at higher temperatures over time. Draining the side dishes helped keep flavors from mingling, and packing the daikon kimchi in an aluminum food cup kept it from staining the inner container. I added extra hot pepper paste to the soup, basically giving up on containing strong smells, and the whole family reveled in the garlicky spice (food smells are less noticeable if you all eat the same thing, right?). (Click to read the full post with two additional meals…)

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Korean soup bento lunch for preschooler

Preschooler dinner: I cut up everything in the soup small so that my son could easily eat it with a spoon, reducing eating frustration. Tofu is one of Bug’s favorite foods, so I went heavy on that and didn’t include kim chi or wasabi furikake that’s too spicy for him (hello salmon furikake!). I had made hotpot with less spicy chili paste so that Bug would be able to eat it. I packed the meal in a little thermal bento set (similar collapsible ones sold here in green and blue metallic), using only one of the two side dish containers.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Bug dug into the soup first, cherry picking the tofu first, then moving on to the rest. I wasn’t sure if he’d actually eat yellow tomatoes or not, but happily he did (maybe because he helped choose them at the store?).

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Korean soup bento lunch

My dinner is very similar to Bug’s, with everything in the stew cut up smaller for easy eating. I added extra hot pepper paste to my soup, and included my favorite panchan (daikon kimchi and spicy fishcake). This lunch is packed in the extra side dish container from Bug’s insulated bento kit and a separate thermal food jar. I’ve had good luck with my Nissan Thermos food jar; it’s pretty indestructible and keeps food warmer than any of my thermal lunch jars.



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  1. You did this Bento just for me huh? (grin). I LOVE it all! I do have a question about furikake.

    Ifound some at the store and wanted to try it before actually trying my hand at making it. We were all so excited and I had 4 different jars. Nori, shrimp, wasabi, and bonito. I was telling DD and hubby about them and explained to just sprinkle over the rice and eat it that way. Of course we all thought it would be fairly salty, but were very surprised to find it to be quite sweet. After trying all four flavours, we all decided we are not fans of the sweet. Do they make some that are more salty? I was planning on trying to make some and thus I can keep the sugar low or completely out, but I liked the idea of just being able to buy a jar and keeping it on hand.

    You had mentioned the wasabi furikake being too spicy for bug, what kind did you use. The wasabi furikake that we have is so sweet, there was no heat.

  2. I’m so surprised that your little one likes veggies ! It’s hard to get children to eat veggies sometimes, especially if the parent refuses to eat them to begin with.

    I stumbled on your site friday evening and I just couldn’t stop looking at your bento boxes. I wish I had so much patience to wake up and do all that, usually my mornings consists of dragging myself out of bed lols I also love how you show what you pack for your little one and the verdicts. Love the site, keep up the great work!!

  3. Salmon furikake?! I neeed some of that! I’ve never seen it at the local japanese store…

  4. Kim- the (seaweed, crunchy rice ball, and… sesame seed?) furikake I have is really, really salty… but I do kind of have a question about furikake I’ve been wondering for a while… Mine is really crunchy in the jar, but if you sprinkle it in the rice, it softens up by the time I eat it. Is that the desired effect, or am I meant to keep mine separate? I know I CAN keep it separate using a jar or something, but I notice you (Biggie) tend to sprinkle it on in the morning or even mix it into onigiri… What am I missing here? Thanks!

    PS Methinks I need to go pick up more furikake, even though I don’t really eat rice in my bento… hehe :)

  5. Hi! I’ve been lurking for a while and have had your blog on my blog roll for a while now. My first time commenting. I just wanted to say I get such inspiration from your blog. I need to get me some bento boxes for lunch now!! Thanks!

  6. @3 from Neveth: This is the salmon furikake I get from my local market for about the same price — I just put a link in the main post as well. It’s Bug’s favorite furikake.

  7. Oh, that hotpot looks so yummy! I’ve had one of those thermal pots on my wishlist for a long time…one of these days…

  8. @1 from Kim: What brand of furikake did you buy? I used the JFC wasabi furikake — I don’t find it spicy at all, but for some reason Bug can’t handle it. I’ve got a jar that has no salt at all, others are a little saltier — check the labels when you’re buying. Hey, you can always just add a little salt to your jar if that’s what you’re looking for…

  9. @2 from wonders: Thanks for the kind comment, wonders! I’m not much of a morning person either, which is why you find a lot of leftovers a FAST stuff in our bentos. On the days when I’m making a dinner bento, I have a little more time (and inclination) to do a little extra with our food… On that topic, I’ve got a segment coming up that I think you’ll enjoy, BTW — stay tuned.

  10. @4 from Yvo: It’s just a matter of personal preference. If you like the crunchy, dry aspect of furikake with your rice, keep it separate until just before you eat (using the little furikake dispensers, individual packets, etc.). If you’re looking for just the flavor, go ahead and mix it in ahead of time or sprinkle it on top when packing. There’s no wrong answer here! :-)

  11. @5 from greg: Thanks for the shout out (and kind words), greg! The bread and brined chicken on your blog look fantastic — I’d happily eat your cooking!

  12. @7 from Amber: The little thermal bento sets are pretty handy, but don’t keep hot foods hot as long as the food jar or thermal lunch jars. Still, they’re nifty and expand my lunch packing options when I want to pack a combination of hot and cold foods…

  13. Thanks. Yes, I found some bento boxes that my wife bought a while ago stored away in our cupboards. I used them for lunch today. Nice way to eat. :)

  14. I think this lunch box won’t really actually last me until “lunch time.”
    It looks so good, I might just finish it all during breakfast!

  15. @14 from Darryl: Ooh, ooh! I totally know that Korean shotengai in Osaka! Small world…

  16. @15 from Cindy: I was concerned after reading just the first sentence of your comment (“Oh no, did I do something wrong?”). Happy to hear it appeals to you! :-)

  17. @18 from Darryl: I absolutely do! Brings back memories! (natsukashii) Now I want to visit Osaka and buy bottles and bottles of Asahi Ponzu…

  18. FYI, Korean have their own word for bento. It’s pronounced doe-shi-rak.