The Yomiuri ShimbunThis series introduces everyday techniques to make bento lunches.
Cooking expert Yuko Musashi offers tips on making meat-based bento lunch dishes for parents with growing children.
Musashi has twin boys. For six years when they were junior high school and high school students, making bento lunches was part of her daily routine.
“When they were teenagers with big appetites, they liked bento lunches that included large portions of meat dishes,” Musashi said.
It is hard to cook bento from scratch in the morning, so it is good to prepare the night before, such as by cutting ingredients and seasoning them.
For example, when making bulgogi, a popular Korean marinated beef dish, you should put the meat and vegetables in a plastic bag together with the seasoning the day before. All you have to do the next morning is cook the ingredients.
Dishes with strong flavors taste great when they get cold. You can put the bulgogi over cooked rice like a donburi bowl so that the rice absorbs the delicious flavor of the marinated meat dish.
When using meat in bento lunches, it is important to ensure it is cooked through. To make teriyaki grilled chicken or deep-fried chicken, Musashi recommends using breasts rather than thighs because the meat cooks through more easily.
If you want to make dishes that taste better with chicken thighs, such as tandoori or grilled chicken marinated with miso, you can cook them on a gas grill. Cook both sides over high heat, thoroughly enough that excess fat comes off and the meat becomes crisp on the outside. Using a grill is convenient when all the burners on the stove are occupied making breakfast.
“When you cook chicken in a pan, use a lid to cover the meat so it cooks through,” Musashi said.
The meat will be softer using this method for teriyaki or other chicken dishes.
“To shorten the cooking time, cut large pieces of meat into bite-size pieces before frying,” Musashi said, adding that you should cut through a piece to check if the chicken is cooked.
Hearty meat dishes make bento lunches look more appetizing. As a side dish for bulgogi bento, Musashi recommends potatoes with cheese and mayonnaise.
“Change the seasonings for side dishes to achieve a good balance,” Musashi said.
■ Marinate meat in seasoning sauce overnight to shorten cooking time the next morning.
■ Use a gas grill or a pan covered with a lid when cooking to ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked.
■ Cut large pieces of meat into bite-size pieces before cooking. After cooking, check if the meat is cooked through by cutting a piece to see if the middle is still raw.
Ingredients and directions
:Bulgogi marinated beef:
80-100 grams sliced beef
50 grams komatsuna
Seasoning sauce (½ tbsp each of soy sauce, sake and oyster sauce, 1 tsp honey, 1 tbsp ground white sesame, plus 1 tsp gochujang, if available)
½ tbsp sesame oil
150-200 grams cooked rice
1. Trim the ends of the komatsuna, rinse in water and cut into 2-centimeter pieces. Slice carrot diagonally and then julienne. Thinly slice the onion. If the sliced beef is large, cut it into bite-size pieces.
2. Put all the ingredients of the seasoning sauce in a plastic bag to blend well. Add the meat and vegetables, hold the bag closed, and knead the contents.
3. Heat sesame oil in a pan over medium heat, then add the ingredients and stir-fry. When the meat is thoroughly cooked, put the contents of the pan on a cooking tray to cool.
4. Put cooked rice in a bento lunch box and then add the bulgogi.
Potatoes with cheese, mayonnaise:
½ potato (60 grams) / ½ tbsp mayonnaise / 1 tsp powdered cheese
Dice potato into 2-centimeter pieces, put them in a heatproof bowl, loosely place plastic wrap over it and heat in a microwave (600W) for 90 seconds.
Leave the potato to cool and then mix it well with mayonnaise and powdered cheese.
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