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Posted on Oct 17, 2008 in Bento | 25 comments

Leftover dim sum bento lunches

Leftover dim sum bento lunches


My son recently turned four, and at his birthday I served dim sum from a local dim sum take-out place. This was the meal that kept on giving, as the leftovers gave us dinner and two speedy bento lunches, below. If your family overeats because they finish everything that’s put out on the table, try holding a little bit back in the kitchen for lunch the next day instead of counting on them to leave leftovers on the table. This has been helping us with portion control lately, and consequently saves a little money.

Dim sum bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of bento lunch for preschooler: Pork potsticker dumplings, shrimp har gow dumplings & dipping sauce, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, little carrots & broccoli with ranch dipping sauce, and a strawberry. The dim sum is from Clement BBQ in San Francisco, a cheap take-out dim sum place with very nice baked goods. Try picking up a package of buns from the counter to steam at home; my favorite is their steamed pork buns. (Disclaimer: I have no affiliations with Clement BBQ.) If you have time, try your hand at making your own gyoza, using even leftover stew or curry as the filling.

Morning prep time: 6 minutes, using all leftovers from the birthday party (including a tray of assorted vegetables and dip). In the morning I quickly re-steamed the dumplings in the microwave to restore the texture of the wrappers, let them cool a little, and filled the dressing container. (Read on for details, an additional lunch, and cool Ultraman cupcakes.)

Condiment cups for bento lunchesPacking: I put the dipping sauce for the dumplings into a small sauce bottle shaped like a tomato, and put the ranch into a little lidded container with wide opening for easy dipping. My four-year-old has complained before that the smaller containers make it hard for him to dip big vegetables like the broccoli, so this was good feedback. Bug doesn’t like the strings on celery, so I tried stripping the strings off before packing to encourage him to give celery another shot. Because all of the dumplings were in a separate tier of the bento box, Bug was able to just squirt the dipping sauce all over the dumplings and not worry about it getting on any other food. The lunch is packed in a 415ml two-tier Hakoya-brand bento box that I picked up at Kamei in San Francisco.

Verdict: I thought this would be about the right size for a four-year-old according to the bento box size guidelines, but Bug wound up just eating the dim sum and leaving the entire top tier for an after-school snack. He wound up eating the celery! :-)

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Baked chicken roll bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of bento lunch for preschooler: Baked rolled filled with chicken, egg and onions. Corn on the cob segment, sauteed red bell peppers with soba broth flavoring, grapes, and a wrapped cheese triangle.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using leftover dim sum and corn. In the morning I sliced a bit of bell pepper, sauteed it briefly, and added a dash of bottled soba noodle soup base (tsuyu) for flavor, letting it reduce down to coat the peppers. Very simple way to add vegetables and a hit of red color to the lunch (see my packing by color links for the 5-color guideline).

Packing: I had a full ear of corn leftover from dinner the night before, so I sliced off a small segment that would fit into the space remaining in the box once the peppers were packed. I briefly toasted the chicken roll in my convection toaster oven to crisp up the outside, and let it cool on a small rack while I worked on the peppers. The peppers went into a reusable silicone baking cup, and the grapes and cheese act as gap fillers to stabilize the lunch during transit. The whole lunch is packed in a 360ml Disney Cars bento box with one subcontainer removed to accommodate the chicken roll.

Verdict: Big thumbs up; Bug demolished the whole lunch at preschool without leftovers. He said that he was still hungry after eating this, so I’m going to start bumping up the size of his lunches slightly to 400ml or so. I can still use this bento box (his favorite), but will supplement it with a little side dish container of fruit or something. Growing boy!

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Ultraman mini-cupcakes

Cup-a-Cake individual cupcake containerOkay, so it’s not bento-related, but I couldn’t resist these mini cupcakes that my friend Berni served at her daughter’s Ultraman-themed fourth birthday party. A busy mom, Berni combined speed with a little attention to detail to create something special. She picked up some plain mini cupcakes that were already frosted from a supermarket (Andronico’s), and topped them with simple Ultraman faces that she made out of fondant. Simple yet striking — way to go, Berni! They were too small to fit stably into my Cup-a-Cake single cupcake container, but they were the perfect size for giving the kids a little bite of something sweet.



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  1. Hello! I am absolutely ecstatic I stumbled upon your flickr photostream and your blog. My partner and I are also from the Bay Area, and we’re trying to eat healthy and eat smaller portions, and you’re just the best source for it all. Thank you so much for doing what you do! :)

  2. haha, im 37 and i still hate those strings on celery!

    thanks for your postings!

  3. quick celery tip: my father and i used to hate the strings on celery so we wouldn’t eat it.

    one day we tried just peeling off the outer layer. just take a peeler and lightly go down the celery and it will remove all the stringy bits. after i started doing this i realized how much i love celery and would actually get celery cravings (yes, I’m weird). then once I loved the taste of celery i no longer had to peel it because the strings stopped bothering me.

  4. LOOOOVE that yellow monkey container!! :0)

    Cute cupcakes!!

  5. As a child, I had an issue with strings if the celery was cut into sticks that I had to bite with my front teeth, getting strings stuck in my teeth. I found that cutting the celery into shorter lengths eliminated the string problem because the pieces were 1-bite sized.

  6. cupcakes are so cute!

    And I do the same thing with dinner - I either hold some back in the kitchen, or I state at the beginning of dinner that I am hoping that we will have X left over for the next day. Really helps with portion control and meal planning.

  7. The last time we had Chinese take-out, we order some steam buns that I froze for lunches. I just let them thaw in the bento box and they’re good to go by lunchtime.

    I love the ultraman cupcakes! I grew up watching ultraman and a whole bunch of other japanese action shows (i.e., Kikaida, Kamen Raider, Rainbow man, …). Ahhh, those were the days.

  8. Hi!

    When I make gyoza, I use the store bought wraps, and I chop up carrots, cucumber, water chestnut, and whatever else I have handy, and mix it with shrimp, chicken, or meat, depending on who I’m cooking for. I get the thing to seal by wiping it down with mixed egg. We’ve found that the texture gives the gyoza a richer flavor, if that makes sense.

    I’ll have to go into my local dim sum place, and see if I can purchase some to steam at home, I’d never thought of doing that!

  9. ooh… super nifty ultraman cupcakes!

  10. Is there a secret name those steamed buns go by? I had them in Australia and fell in love with them, but I CANNOT get them here in the states. I have tried asking for the steamed buns, even describing the filling, and I keep getting potstickers. What should I be asking for? They’d be perfect buns for my lunch jar bento…

  11. What a great idea! I always try not to serve all food I cooked, but somehow all is disappearing anyway… but yesterday I made our favourite roasted carrots and beetroots in balsamic maple dressing, there is still some more in the fridge for sandwiches… delicious, especially with cheese ;)

    Anyway, enjoy your weekend, Margot

  12. Ultraman cupcakes are so cute! I really like those cup-a-cake containers. The linens&gthings in my area is closing down and I snatched a few of them for half price.

    I also didn’t like eating celery all the time when I was little. But it came and went over and over. I think it was because of teeth falling out and bigger ones coming in. The spaces were different and it got stuck more.

  13. At the Chinese restaurant that we frequent here in Hawaii, they have steamed buns that go with their Pot Roast Pork (Kau Yuk) or with their Peking Duck. I just asked if I could just order the buns and they were fine with that. Hope this helps.

  14. Happy birthday to your son. It is nearly one year that i discovered bento’s world with your blog….. thank’s Biggie!

  15. Very cute, and happy belated bday to Bug! I did wonder about the smaller containers for dipping, I have trouble with them unless I use something to hold the small cherry/grape tomatoes (like a pick) or my big adult fingers totally get in the way, or I drop it in and that’s it, hahaha.
    It’s actually in the 30s here so food safety issues during my commute to work are at an awkward place (it’s cold while walking, so the food is fine, but once I get into the bus, it gets a bit warm…). And those cupcakes are so adorable! I’m going to see if Cupcakes Take the Cake wants to post them, if that’s okay :)

  16. Oh! I had a celery story. My mom says that’s where all the fiber is that helps you um… go. Which makes sense because I bet your body can’t digest that. Anyway, when my dog was a year or two old, my mom and sister both liked to give her food often which annoyed me to no end. They would “drop” stuff while they chopped/cooked, and one time, they gave her about a 2 inch piece of celery. An hour or so later, my mom looked over to where the dog had been eating the celery and said “What’s that? She didn’t want it?” and walked over to see what this green thing on the floor was. Oddly enough, I don’t know how she did this, but she ate all of the celery save the strings, which she’d left, laid out exactly in a row, lined up, like it was still on the celery (close together). So. weird.

  17. @3 from allison: Yesterday we went to a birthday party and before I knew it I noticed Bug chomping down on some celery. But he got partway through and handed it to me, saying he didn’t like the strings. So I think he’s good with the taste of celery — I’ll try your peeler trick next time I give it to him. I had just been using a small paring knife to trim the ends and get the strings off, which worked fine on a small segment of celery. I could see how a peeler would be more efficient if I were working with an entire stalk, though.

  18. @5 from Amy: Interesting concept — cutting celery into one-bite morsels. I’ll give that a spin and see what Bug makes of it. Thanks for the comment!

  19. @10 from Elizabeth: In Chinese places, try asking for “bao” (or “baozi”). The ones filled with barbecued pork are “char siu bao” — they might ask you if you want steamed or baked. In Japanese, the regular steamed pork buns are “nikuman” or sometimes “butaman” depending on region. Check out the Wikipedia entry for LOTS more info on these kinds of steamed buns:

  20. @11 from Coffee & Vanilla: Ooh, roasted carrots and beets in a balsamic maple dressing? Sounds delicious!!! Now I have a craving… Where do you live again? ;-)

  21. @14 from fossettes: Time really flies, doesn’t it? I’m starting to tour kindergartens for Bug; it’s hard to believe.

  22. @15 from Yvo: If in doubt about the food safety issue, use an insulated lunch bag and a little ice pack to buffer your lunch from temperature extremes during your commute. Don’t want you to get sick!

    Thanks on the cupcakes — don’t know if Cupcakes Take the Cake would be interested or not, but it would certainly make Berni’s day!

    I had to laugh reading about the dog who was skilled at extracting celery strings; thanks for the giggle. :-)

  23. hi biggie! it’s my first time to leave a comment but i’ve been a fan since i discovered the wonderful world of bento lunches a couple of weeks ago.

    my daughter, abby, loooooves dimsum! it’s my ticket to an empty food container come pick-up time at school. abby is four, goes to school for half the day but eats her lunch there. i’m slowly weaning her from too much dimsum by introducing new food varieties/choices for lunch.

    i still have so much to learn when it comes to bento lunches and your website has been very helpful. :)

    thank you and more power!

  24. Happy 4th birthday!

  25. These bento box meals have really been inspiring!!!

    Question-why do you heat up some of the meal if it will get cold anyways??