The infamous “Octodog,” or Takodog (literally octopus dogs) if you prefer an engrish version, is a staple in a lot of Japanese kids’ bento boxes. They are dead easy to make in the simplest form, but like most things Japanese you can go a little crazy using specialized cutters and adding touches such as black sesame seed eyes. I opt for the simple version as my kids are past the point when the extras mean anything to them.
- Cut hot dog into three equal sections
- Using a sharp paring knife make three 1/2″ slits in a pie shape at each exposed hot dog end
- Boil cut pieces in a small pot (better) of water for a minute, or microwave (faster) on high for about 40 seconds
- Transfer cooked hot dogs to a piece of paper towel to drain, dry and cool
- Use as required
Notes: It really doesn’t any easier. It’s almost embarrassing to provide a recipe, but I had to look it it up when I first started.
As an aside, I was first shown a version of these by a friend during a fishing trip. He made deeper slits on either end of a whole hot dog (about a third of the length deep), skewered them in the middle, roasted them over an open fire until the legs curled, and called them squid-dogs. They tasted really good and made a great campfire treat for the kids.
Okay, the last bento post for a while… I promise.
This is the bento box I ordered from Japan as a birthday gift for my wife. Since I do the cooking for the family I suppose this is as much a gift for me as for her, but they say you should always give something you wish to receive (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
Before getting into the contents, I should write a bit about the box itself. I first came across it a month ago while surfing for information on bentos and just fell in love with it. Unlike the classic multi-tiered bento boxes with their loose fitting lids, this one is actually made for carting a lunch to work. It’s a two tiered unit with a sliding inner tray on the top tier. The top tier also comes with a snug fitting clear clear plastic lid (not shown) to keep moist dishes from drying out. The finishing touch is an elasticized band to keep the unit together when carrying. The graphic lettering on the box says “nokorimono desuga” or “I’m afraid it’s just leftovers”–gotta love Japanese humour.
First impressions… It’s a very sexy lunch box. The two tiers, sliding section and snap lid are very functional. The only downside is that it’s not dishwasher or microwave safe. The box can be purchased from Bento&Co in Japan and currently retails for $19.56 CDN or $19.50 US.
On to the ingredients. Fitting with the lettering on the box it contains mostly leftovers with a few extra ingredients for it’s inaugural flight.
- Cal-rose extra fancy short grain rice
- Fried tofu and prawn in sauce
- Edamame, boiled and salted
- 1/2 Campari tomato
- Tomagoyaki rolls (sweetened egg sushi)
- Tamari and sushiza in little fish bottles
In addition to the box contents I added two clementines, an apple and a small container of yogurt. As far as bento lunches go this one is a little over the top, but it needed to be in order to accent the birthday theme of the meal. I made the tomagoyaki the night before, while the tofu and prawns are really leftovers.
Itadakimasu! (Bon appetit!)
More bento fun.
Again a quick lunch for the kids, this time featuring boiled and salted edamame as the main dish. Rice drizzled with a little teriyaki sauce (for moisture) then topped with furikake fills the role of starch for the meal, while octodogs provide a little extra needed protien. The small clementine and grape tomatoes add colour and a serving of fruit/vegetables. Yogurt, a small granola bar (for an after-school snack) and an apple round out the lunch.
The octodogs are probably the closest I get to a kawaii (cute) bento. I’ll post separately how to make these fun extras for a kid’s lunch in the near future.
Weekday meals are a time to apply the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). Today’s post is a Japanese inspired KISS menu. The only time consuming element of the meal is the miso pork, which really needs from four to twenty-four hours to marinate. Not being sufficiently prepared I cut it down to two hours, but it really needed a bit more. That said, it was still a nice flavourful dish and suited the simple theme of the meal.
Weekday Japanese Menu:
- Extra Fancy Short Grain Rice (Cal-Rose)
- Miso Marinated Pork
- Stir-fried Broccoli
- Sliced and Skinned Manila Mangoes
- Milk for the kids, Red wine for the adults
The miso pork recipe I used was taken from the Just Bento blog and is available here: (butaniku no misozuke). I increase the sugar content a little and add mirin and sambal oelek to jazz it up a bit. One thing I’ve found with this recipe is to make sure the pork is pounded nice and thin and to get it out of the pan the moment it’s cooked. Leftovers are great in Bentos the next day, so always make a little extra.
I don’t know if my kids really appreciate it, but I’ve been on the Bento bandwagon for the past year or so. It’s a great way to add interest and variety to otherwise dull schoolyard lunch.
The Bento, or a single serving meal usually prepared in an enclosed container, comes to North America by way of Japan. It can be found commercially prepared almost anywhere food is sold in Japan–from convenience stores to train stations–but it is very commonly prepared by homemakers and those on the go as a healthy alternative to fast food and restaurant meals.
While perusing the local Korean market sometime ago I found these handy divided snap lid containers and began my Bento explorations at home. For today’s post I’ve taken a shot of a somewhat typical kids’ bento that I prepare daily. While many bentos found online fall into the kawaii (cute) category–complete with cut-out animal shapes and flowers created from shaved carrot pieces–my early morning preparations often involve just repackaged leftovers from the previous evening or when I’m short on time, preparing neatly cut sandwiches or something like today’s bento–burrito, fruit, crackers and vegetables. To this I will add a container of milk or yogurt and usually a piece of easy to store and eat fruit such as an apple. A relatively healthy meal consisting of a protien, a carbohydrate, two or more servings of fruit and vegetables, a dairy product and usually a little treat.
I’ll add more bento creations here as time goes on, some very cool and some very simple. In the meantime do checkout some of the bento oriented blogs listed in the “Blogs I Follow” section to the right of my posts.
I’m not usually one to cross post other blog articles, but this one is definitely worth it for the newbie Bento maker. It contains a bunch of elements that I was going to cover in future, but why recreate the wheel?
Cooking Cute: Bento Equipment
Worth checking out!