Family Meal: Bento Box Dinner From a complete bento box to Japanese table manners, we give you a great family eating experience. BY CHERYL TALLMAN
Japanese have long known that bento boxes make perfect family meals.
“ Slurping tells the chef that you are enjoying the meal. (Kids will love this!).”
A bento is a divided box that originated in Japan. Bento boxes are made from a wide variety of materials, including lacquer, bamboo, plastic and stainless steel. A traditional bento meal includes carbohydrates (rice or noodles), protein (fish, chicken, meat or tofu), vegetables and fruit. Foods are arranged in the box to display a colorful, healthy meal with a wonderful variety of flavors and tastes.
We've developed a family-friendly Bento Box dinner to prepare and enjoy. The recipes are infused with the Japanese ingredients that you can find in the "Asian Foods" section of your grocery store.
The Menu Edamame
Yakisoba (Stir-Fried Soba Noodles)
Grilled Salmon with Red Miso Sauce
If you can boil water, you can make edamame. While these are traditionally served in the pods, the pods are not edible. To eat, simply squeeze the pod with your thumb and forefinger and the edamame beans pop right out.
Frozen edamame (about 10 pods per person)
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
Bring about 3-4 quarts of water to a boil and place the edamame in the boiling water. Cook 3-5 minutes. Drain. When plating sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Have another bowl at the table to put the empty pods in.
Grilled Salmon with Red Miso Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup red miso paste
1/3 cup sake
3 tbsp. chicken stock (or Dashi)
1 tbsp. soy sauce
4 6-ounce salmon fillets, skinned
To make the sauce, combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and stir to a smooth sauce. Place saucepan on the stove over medium heat and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens. Set aside and let cool.
Brush both sides of salmon fillets with miso sauce. Lightly oil and heat a grill pan over medium heat. Place salmon on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes. Brush with sauce, turn fillets over and brush with sauce again. Cook 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and let stand 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Yakisoba (Stir-Fried Soba Noodles)
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour and have a unique brown color. Yakisoba is a popular dish of stir-fried soba noodles and a variety of meats and vegetables. You can use any type of meat or seafood and any types of vegetables, including bean sprouts, green peppers, mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, celery and broccoli.
8-ounce soba noodles
1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed
8-10 Shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
8 cooked shrimp, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp. vegetable or peanut oil
Prepare Yakisoba sauce. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add soba noodles, stirring to separate them. Boil soba noodles for 6-8 minutes, until tender. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
In wok or large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add shitake mushrooms and stir fry 2 minutes. Add soba noodles and stir fry 3 minutes. Add the Yakisoba Sauce, shrimp and bean sprouts and stir fry for 2 more minutes. Serve warm.
Fun with Japanese Table Manners
Certain table manners are observed during meal times in Japan. Include these practices as a fun way to help teach your kids about etiquette in other countries.
* Add a warm, wet towel at each person's plate to wipe hands before eating.
* Eat with chop sticks. Kid-size chopsticks and chopstick helpers can be found in specialty stores or online.
* Before you start eating, put your palms together and say "Itadakimasu." This translates to "I gratefully receive."
* Soup can be sipped straight from the bowl—no spoons necessary!
* It is okay to make slurping sounds when eating soup and noodles from a bowl, as long as it's not excessive. Slurping tells the chef that you are enjoying the meal. (Kids will love this!).
* When you are done using chopsticks, lay them in front of you with the tips pointing to the left. It is considered bad manners to leave them pointing upright stuck in a bowl.
* When you are finished your meal, say "Gochisosama," which means, "Thank you for the meal."
Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the "So Easy Baby Food" and the new book "So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years." Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.