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Posted on Apr 29, 2008 in Bento, Fish or Seafood, For Kids, Pasta or Noodles | 26 comments

Green tea zarusoba noodle “nest” bento

Green tea zarusoba noodle “nest” bento


One drawback to packing pasta that’s already coated with a liquidy sauce is that the noodles absorb the sauce over time and the texture can suffer. Take advantage of the tendency of unsauced noodles to clump together, and make little bite-sized “nests” out of cold zarusoba noodles. This allows you to easily grab a bite-sized portion and dunk it in a separate container of dipping sauce, reviving each bunch of noodles just before you eat them. The important thing is to use a truly watertight container for the dipping sauce; these earlier zarusoba lunches for adults show how thermal lunch jar innards or even GladWare can be used for the dipping sauce.

Spinach zarusoba bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Green tea & spinach zarusoba noodle “nests” (Korean nockcha gooksoo noodles, similar to green tea soba noodles on Amazon), kizami nori julienned seaweed and chopped green onions for the noodle dipping sauce (soba tsuyu). The smaller containers have strawberries, sweet pickles, and a garlic & herb cheese triangle.

Making a Morning prep time: 15 minutes, mostly spent boiling water for the noodles and making the little noodle nests (and my three-year-old “helped” me curl the nests, adding a few minutes). To save time, I used bottled dipping sauce instead of making my own out of dashi bonito broth, soy sauce and mirin sweetened cooking sake. Once the noodles were cooked, rinsed in cold water and drained, I curled them into bite-sized nests on chopsticks for easy eating. This also works well with somen and any other cold noodles for dipping. To make looser nests, twirl the noodles around your fingers or a fork instead of chopsticks. This whole lunch could be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. The noodles perk right up when swirled around in the dipping sauce. (Read on for packing details and an additional preschooler lunch.)

Nesting bento boxes with bandPacking: When zarusoba is eaten fresh, it’s often topped with kizami nori and dipped into the tsuyu dipping sauce mixed with chopped green onions and a bit of wasabi. My three-year-old can’t take the spiciness of wasabi but is okay with green onions, so I put them in a separate little paper condiment cup so that he could dump them into the sauce just before eating. (Putting the chopped green onions into the sauce hours before eating them would adversely affect their texture and give the sauce an oniony taste.) Packing the kizami nori in a reusable silicone baking cup kept it dry until Bug was ready to eat. The lunch is packed in two tiers of a 4-tier nesting and stacking Thomas the Tank Engine bento box set, and the dipping sauce went into a watertight 100ml Lock & Lock round container (be sure to use a watertight container for liquids like this — the soup container from a Mr. Bento-style thermal lunch jar is also ideal).

Verdict: Thumbs mostly up. Bug had requested sweet pickles in the morning when I was packing his lunch, so I humored him. But when he bit into them at school he decided that they were too karai (spicy), and left them. He also dropped one of the strawberries on the floor during lunch, so thankfully he didn’t eat that. He did eat a fair amount of the noodles, though, and was excited about having them in his bento after we had them for lunch over the weekend. His teacher reported being impressed that Bug was able to eat the zarusoba skillfully, putting the green onions into the sauce, topping the noodles with nori, and using chopsticks to eat the noodles. That’s my boy!

* * * * *

Fried fish bento lunch for preschoolerContents of preschooler bento lunch: Fish filet, zucchini and red bell pepper with Korean barbecue sauce, lemon slices, cheese triangle, and mini cornbread muffins.

Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using frozen mini muffins I made earlier with a mix (see my mini review of the Marie Callender’s mix) and the last of the frozen Akebono Nichiro fish fillets (see my earlier review). In the morning I warmed the frozen fish in the microwave, and multi-cooked the zucchini and bell peppers in my microwave mini steamer.

Frozen fish for microwavePacking: Lemon slices act as food separators that my three-year-old actually likes to suck on (ack)! The lunch is packed in a single subdivided 350ml box from an insulated Lock & Lock lunch set.

Verdict: So so. Bug ate the fish, the cheese, and half of the vegetables and mini muffins at preschool. After school he finished up everything else as a snack at the playground.



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  1. Looks so good! Such great ideas for lunch!

  2. My 2 year old nephew LOVES lemons. He eats/sucks on them and if he sees any on the table, he immediately HAS to have them. It’s cute but I’m not his mom and only see him a few times a month.

  3. Lemon juice can cause tooth-enamel damage, so watch for that.

    Mmm, soba! Those nests look delicious.

    I’m planning my very first airplane bento- flying from Oakland to Boston later this week, and I think I’m more excited about doing up a fab bento box than the trip itself!

  4. @1 from Katy: Thanks for the kind words, Katy!

  5. @2 from Yvo: Bug has just started that with lemons. I think it’s yucky, but remember back when I was little I used to do the exact same thing.

  6. @3 from KittyPants: Thanks for the warning about lemon juice & tooth enamel, KittyPants — I wasn’t aware of that. Enjoy your trip and your FAB airplane bento!!! :-)

  7. Man, you could totally start a cottage industry making lunches for kids of all ages.

  8. What a wonderful idea! These noodle nests not only sounds creative but also sounds very efficient

  9. Another GREAT looking lunch!

    I can’t wait to try out the “nests” for my 5 y/o ds this week…he is going to love eating it this way. He eats like a bird, but simple ways of switching things up and making it more fun for him always help! :)

  10. Oh, these look so yummy!!

    Would these nests work well with rice noodles? And could you recommend a gluten-free sauce (or recipe) to go with them?

    Thanks so much!! (again!)

  11. Can you explain the best way to wrap the noodles? Just wrap around the chopsticks, or over-under, or both? I keep thinking of I try to make noodle nests I will do something wrong and my noodles will fall apart all over the place.

  12. @7 from Kitt: It doesn’t scale, though — I’d have no time for blogging or writing!

  13. @9 from vampyra1: So happy to hear that others are actually using this tip; the noodle nest technique has opened up a whole new set of dishes for our bento lunches.

  14. @10 from kylo: Fingers crossed that this appeals to your 5yo — it is like playing with your food, after all!

  15. @12 from Alison: Grab a few noodles with the chopsticks and hold them up. With your (clean) other hand, grasp the dangling bunch of noodles and twist around the chopsticks in one direction. The bunch doesn’t have to be very stable, just enough to get it neatly into the bento box. Once it sits in transit it’ll clump up and be easy to remove one nest at a time when you’re ready to eat. Hope that helps…

  16. Oh,soba,kizaminori,Bento!I am interested in the food culture of your country so that you are so. And I support your site. If there is time, please come in my site. From Japan

  17. Brilliant!!! love the noodle nests!

  18. Hey, I did the same wit my noodle but using my fingers…and I stuff some sauce in the middle. The idea to use chopstick is quite good.

  19. @20 from edamame: Thanks for stopping by, edamame!

  20. @21 from NoL: Glad you liked the noodle nests — they really make things easier at lunch.

  21. @22 from Emily: Zarusoba is meant to be dipped in the watery sauce instead of a thicker sauce, so I just go ahead and let them clump up as is — works fine.

  22. bento is such a nice art I can express myself through bento zarusoba is awesome

  23. This is a great idea. I remember seeing this some time back and this morning I was thinking: “Hn, what’s something quick I could make for my bento?” since I didn’t have a lot of time, and remembered these! I’m getting ready to go make some now, hopefully they’ll turn out as pretty as yours.

  24. @27 from Kiptripsyc: Yeah, zarusoba is a simple option for when I don’t have anything already made and ready to go. How did yours turn out?

  25. Biggie: I couldn’t get the nests to work, but it was the noodles I had used. I live in a small town and had to resort using the noodles out of a “yakisoba” packet. They had been slicked with some sort of oil (I guess to promote having them evenly browned when you stir-fried them) so they kept sliding off my chopsticks!

    Next time I’m in the big city I’ll stop by the Asian grocer and get some proper soba noodles.

    It WAS still delicious, though… I had actually never tried zarusoba before and it tasted great. I made the sauce myself and it was delicious! Do you know of any other uses for that sauce?

  26. I love all of these! I’ve spent the past few hours reading up on all of your ideas and techniques. They’ve geven me so many of my own! :)
    I’m still in high school and have gotten myself and my boyfriend bento boxes because I thought they’d be fun, and since then I’ve been surprising him with my own twists. My local food store just got about half of an isle dedicated to asian foods, so I’ve been lucky to be able to get more to work with ^^

    Just wanted to let you know I’m a big fan, and to keep doing what your doing :) hopefully one day I can become almost as good as you =D