Homemade tamales

Made tamales with a friend this weekend — so much effort, but so much fun (and the end product was worth it — lighter and fluffier than commercial tamales).

Homemade tamale lunch

* Tamales: Top layer is pork carnitas and mole sauce, bottom layer is fresh corn, Oaxaca cheese and tomatillo sauceAssembled Tamale
* Chontaleño blanco cheese, and tomatoes
* homemade guacamole, salsa verde, and Salvadorean crema
* grilled flap meat finished with a sweet and sour chipotle sauce (recipe from Cook’s Illustrated)
* white cranberry, peach and apple juice cut with water

All packed in my Lock & Lock bento set here and here.

Tamales in the steamer. Corn on the left, carnitas on the right. Yum!

Tamales in the steamer

Covered with the extra corn husks before steaming, aluminum foil loosely wadded and stuffed into the gap between the two sets of tamales:

Tamales in the steamer

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June 27th, 2006 | Categories: bento, corn tortillas or masa, meat | Print This Post Print This Post | Email this post Email this post | Comment now »

Indian curries

I always fall back to the thermal lunch jars to pack curries that’ll stay warm for hours:

Indian curries

Clockwise from upper left:

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June 26th, 2006 | Categories: curry, meat, poultry, rice, thermal lunch jar | Print This Post Print This Post | Email this post Email this post | Comment now »

Williams Sonoma for egg molds?!?!

How did I make this barnyard snack bento for my son without a traditional rice ball mold or egg mold?

Barnyard Snack Bento for Toddler

So my bento fixation is getting worse, and I’ve been browsing shops all over San Francisco looking for bento accessories in unexpected places. I wandered into Williams-Sonoma seeking inspiration. Usually I walk out empty-handed because of their prices, but full of ideas of things to buy somewhere cheaper. And then I saw these ice cream sandwich molds in cute shapes.

Molds

At first I thought, $14 for three molds that you’d only use a few times a year? Uh, pass. Then I realized that they could do quadruple-duty as cookie cutters, onigiri (rice ball) molds and boiled egg shapers for a child’s lunches. Perfect!!! Maybe even Alton Brown would approve — not a uni-tasker!

This is what the finished ice cream sandwiches are supposed to look like with the molds:

Ice cream sandwiches

Each mold consists of three pieces, with a cookie-cutter portion, little cap for the bottom, and a shaped plunger with a raised plastic design to create the pattern (giving you the cow face, etc.).

Molds

I figured they’d work just fine as ice cream sandwich molds, cookie cutters, and onigiri molds, but I was most curious about how they’d do as hard-boiled egg shapers. You may have seen these crazy gadgets before (photo below): you hard-boil an egg, peel it while it’s hot, pop it into a plastic mold while it’s still hot and pliant, and click the lid shut. Dump the whole thing into cold water for 10 minutes, and you’ve got an egg that looks like a rabbit head or a star. Only thing is, they’re hard to come by outside Japan, and they don’t seem to have many other uses. (July 2008 EDIT: You can get the egg molds below cheaply at Ichiban Kan’s online store for US$1.50 per pair (US shipping only), J-List starting at $3.20 per pair (international shipping), and from eBay sellers. Check out my list of online bento stores for additional sources.)

Molds for hard-boiled eggs

I boiled three eggs, peeled them while they were still very hot, and plopped them into the wet molds. But because these molds weren’t originally designed for eggs, they don’t have little latches to keep everything closed tightly around the egg while it chills in water. I improvised by looping a thick rubber band around the plunger & mold to apply even pressure. Here they are taking a cold bath:

Molds

Fresh out of the mold, this is what they look like:

Molded eggs, undyed

The star and pig shapes turned out okay, but the cow shape would have been better had I used extra-large or jumbo eggs instead of large. Had to be careful removing the plunger from the face of the egg. Next time I may spray the face of the plunger with a little Pam (vegetable oil spray) before putting the egg in the mold.

Deciding to dye the star and the pig eggs, I filled a couple of ramekins halfway with cold water and mixed in a little food coloring (blue and red). Left them in for a few minutes until they got to a color I liked.

Molded eggs in dye

Voila! Dyed, molded eggs from an ice cream sandwich maker!!!

Dyed, molded eggs

I looked around on the web for other places to find them, and found Tovolo ice cream sandwich molds on Amazon.com slightly cheaper, and in additional designs. Mission accomplished! (July 2007 EDIT: Evidently WalMart is now selling the cow/pig set for US$5, and Williams Sonoma has the three-piece set back in stores on sale for US$10. Full update here.)

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June 22nd, 2006 | Categories: bento, eggs, equipment, for kids, onigiri or sushi, recipe, rice, tips, tutorial or how to | Print This Post Print This Post | Email this post Email this post | 133 Comments »

Mini-sandwich nibbles

So this morning I had fun with rye cocktail bread — about 2 inches across and very thin. For some reason this lunch is making me very happy! Packed in my large 940ml Dear Label box.

Mini-sandwich bento for adult お弁当

* Six mini-sandwiches, stacked two high. Fillings were: 1) salami, havarti, lettuce and cognac/pepper mustard, 2) cream cheese, green onions and pepper, 3) Marmite and cheese, and 4) Nutella and peanut butter.
* Half a Fuji apple, cut side dipped in lemon juice
* Blueberries
* Leftover Peruvian purple potato salad
* Grape tomatoes
* Hard-boiled egg, shaped with a mold, dyed light blue

I made a smaller version for my son, and packed it in a new snack container.

Mini-sandwich bento for toddler お弁当

Two mini-sandwiches: one is cream cheese, the other is havarti (can you tell he likes cheese?). More grape tomatoes.

Small 260ml side dish bento boxes (”Comment vas-tu?”). With the very Canadian French sub-title of “il fait un temps magnifique, n’est-ce pas?” No metal in the hinges!

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June 22nd, 2006 | Categories: bento, eggs, meat, potatoes, sandwich or wrap | Print This Post Print This Post | Email this post Email this post | 8 Comments »

Shrimp and snow peas, a new way

A new way to pack lunch. Rice packed separately in a 300ml thermal food jar by Thermos Nissan — kept the rice soft and warm for five hours. Shrimp and peas in a 350ml Asvel bento box (with clear lid).

Shrimp and snow peas lunch

* shrimp in chili sauce with onions (recipe from berry_mix’s mom)
* Chinese quick-fried snow peas
* rice

Small Thermal Food Jar

From Thermos Nissan: a 300ml small thermal food jar for hot soups, stews, curries, rice, etc. (or cold items like yogurt, cold soup, salads, etc.). Dishwasher-safe. This has excellent heat retention: better than all thermal lunch jars I’ve tested, and better than all-plastic thermal food jars because it’s metal. They make a larger version as well for bigger appetites, and I’ve seen this sold at big stores like Target.

Shrimp and snow peas, lids closed

The lunch with both lids on.

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June 20th, 2006 | Categories: bento, equipment, fish or seafood, food jar, rice, tips | Print This Post Print This Post | Email this post Email this post | Comment now »

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