Fried Shrimp Bentos: Simple vs. Fancy
Today I’ve got two lunches that represent both ends of the bento spectrum: one is fast and simple, the other is time-consuming decorative food art. My usual preference is for the fast and easy bento made through speedy prep techniques and leftovers, but once or twice a year I go the extra mile for a holiday lunch. Think of it like a birthday cake: even if you make cake regularly, you probably don’t put as much effort into decorating each unless it’s for a special occasion.
I have to admit that although I get a feeling of accomplishment once I finish an elaborate creation like the one above, I do feel time pressure while I’m making it and wonder, “Why bother?” Am I a bad attitude mom? Guilty as charged! The simpler lunch below was made quickly with the leftovers from the fancier one above, and is much more my pace for an average school day.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Fried shrimp (recipe forthcoming), steamed broccoli with vinaigrette dressing, round onigiri rice balls (stuffed with Gohan Desu Yo! seaweed paste and decorated with strips of nori seaweed), wrapped triangle cheese, grapes, and kiwifruit.
Morning prep time: 15 minutes, using frozen rice and fried shrimp left over from the shrimp rolls the day before. In the morning I assembled the rice balls, nuked a couple florets of broccoli in my microwave mini steamer, and peeled/sliced the kiwifruit. (Read on for the full post. with details on the fish-shaped sushi lunch..)
Verdict: Surprisingly, my four-year-old ate everything but the fried shrimp, which I know he likes. I realize that I’d forgotten to include sauce for the shrimp, but no biggie. He ate the shrimp after school as a snack.
* * * * *
This is one of my rare food art bento lunches for the Japanese Children’s Day holiday (“Kodomo no Hi” on May 5). It’s one of those few occasions when I’ll actually spend more than 10-15 minutes on a lunch, as a special treat to thrill my son. In the weeks around Children’s Day, people hang carp-shaped streamers (koi-nobori) on poles outside their homes, representing each member of the family. Thus the fish-shaped sushi rolls!
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Carp-shaped inside-out sushi roll filled with fried shrimp (eyes: sliced quail eggs, carrot or zucchini, and nori roasted seaweed. Scales: carrots or zucchini. Gills: nori roasted seaweed. Rice flavored with pink sakura denbu fish powder and green aonori seaweed flakes.). Steamed zucchini and carrots with Korean barbecue sauce, grapes, and a bed of lettuce round out the lunch. Stay tuned for a full tutorial on the shrimp sushi rolls, which I found in the Japanese-language cookbook Okosama Lunch to Obento “Children’s Lunches and Bentos”.
Morning prep time: 70 minutes — ARGH!!! This took so long as I didn’t have any frozen fried shrimp on hand, so I made my own from scratch. I could have sped this up slightly by using frozen shrimp tempura and frozen rice. Once I finished decorating the shrimp sushi rolls I ran out of steam for the rest of the lunch, so I just used zucchini and carrots that were left over from the sushi garnish.
Verdict: Big thumbs up from Bug, who demolished both rolls and half of the grapes/veggies.