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Bento 130: The LAST ever bento (here)!

March 27, 2011

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Hello dear readers, and welcome to the LAST post here at notabrownbag!! No, I am not stopping bentoing, but I am moving here! After a long drama of sorting out hosting, I then had to learn to manually install wordpress. And you think that was it? My lovely host then proceeded to have a meltdown the day after I finally sort out my installation. Whoa. And then I must’ve changed themes about 10 times before finding one that I can customize to my liking. It has been a week filled with drama, but at least it’s sorted out now! I still need to sort out my header; but at least it is up and running now.

So please pop by at my new home here and say hello!!

Other than me having drama issues with my hosting ect, I have also been very sleepy this weekend. I have had afternoon naps of 3 hours on both saturday and sunday – I don’t usually sleep that much! It has been pretty much a lost weekend with the amount of sleep that I have been banking. Anyway, tomorrow’s lunch is looking very lame indeed. Fried rice made with leftover soy sauce pork and rice; brocollini, strawberry and a mini tangerine pretty much sums up what I’m having. Not entirely creative or ingenious; guess all my brainpower have been either hibernating in a sleep state or dealing with my ‘syntax error’ issues. I was going to do some cheese & ham cutout for the rice; but I was chasing the sunlight; it is getitng easier to use daylight to take my pictures but as I have been asleep nearly all day it was 7pm by the time I thought about bento :). The good thing is; this bento, including rice-frying; took me less than 10 minutes. Speed bento rocks!

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You know that I have been banging on about bento4Japan for a while now right? There are a few days left to the EU raffle that you can donate to; and there is a constant refresh of new bento goods for grab up at our ebay auctions. Please bid/give generously; fundraising can be fun as well!

On a more serious matter, as mentioned on Just Bento’s forum, there has been a recent scare on foodstuff from Japan. You can read more about it here. The way I see it, there is nothing worse than ignorance, and it is ignorance that I seek to dispell. Japanese foodstuff that we usually use; i.e. takuan, ume ect have been packed and transported months ago; and the likelihood of fresh veg & dairy being imported from affected areas in the past two weeks is so extremely slim. Sensationalism journalism of contaminated water and produce across Japan is simply untrue. Imagined scenes of three headed fish and octupus-legged animals are impressions that these irresponsible reporting want to plant in your mind – please be vigilant and do not allow the journalists to continue scare-mongering.

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Remember, please update your bookmarks and blogroll to my new home here!

Bento 129: Ume mouse

March 22, 2011

Yes, yes; not only am I obsessed with smoked saba recently I’ve also been obsessed with ume. It is probably because Japan have been on the forefront of my mind in recent weeks – an ume on plain white rice reminds me of Japan more than anything else – except maybe miso. Or nori. Or miso+nori+rice+ume. heh. In the past week I had seen quite a few hinomaru-styled bentos; bento bloggers showing solidarity with the people of Japan.

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Tomorrow’s lunch contain an ume on rice – with takuan for ears, eyes and nose to turn it into a mouse. Heh. To go with it is some chicken stew I copied from my grandma. It is tasty and filled with umami – and goes extremely well with plain rice. On the other layer I added some brocollini with sliced cherry tomatoes – was totally going to use the brocollini as a baran but accidentally left it out. To finish, I added 1/2 sliced mini apple. Lunch is served – from leftover dinner :). I packed it all in my microwavable pink double-layer bento box, which is one of my favourite box ever.

Not to mention; as these are all leftovers, start to end (including photography) only took 10 minutes! Win!

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PS: Please check out Bento4Japan‘s auctions regularly!!! We are constantly putting up new items and you really do NOT want to miss out! Some of our items are shipping worldwide as well, so please bid generously! Charity through Bento – what can be better??

Bento 128: Saba(again!) with rice

March 21, 2011

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In case you’ve not noticed, I am hooked on hot smoked saba. Truly I am. It is simple, easily available (in all supermarkets), healthy and super duper tasty. The problem is each time I buy saba, there is enough there for 2-3 portions. It does not last forever (after all it IS cooked fish); so I usually have to eat them fairly close to each other. It is also one of the most perfect food eaten cold – mmm.

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Tomorrow’s bento consist of rice, hot smoked peppered saba; steamed brocollini, cherry tomato and carrot ‘bouquet’ over rice with chives as stalks. Spring is definately arriving – flowers are springing up everywhere !! It is getting noticeably warmer as well; which is wonderful. The garden is being prepped to bring another bountiful harvest in the summer; and I can hardly wait. I do love edible gardens :).

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PS: Have you seen the amount of stuff that is currently up on ebay supporting the bento4Japan cause? It is amazing how generous people are!! Please bid away – we have raised close to $1,000 already; which was our initial goal. All in under 1 week. How amazing is this?

You can also join in the raffle here. There is currently only 5 donors; and with 4 prizes this is a no-brainer!! Join in the fun; donate and bento!!

The Bento4Japan European raffle

March 17, 2011

As part of our ongoing efforts for bento4Japan (please read my post on why am I doing this) ,there is also a fundraising page on JustGiving to raise money for the disaster relief efforts. Our nominated charity is the British Red Cross, which is rallying resources to help the people in Japan.

If you are a UK taxpayer,JustGiving will reclaim 28% of your total donation and the Red Cross will end up with 123% of what you donated. JustGiving & FirstGiving takes 5% off all donations to help pay for continuous innovation in online fundraising to help more charities raise funds online. This is the most effective way of donating as the charities gets 23% more than what you donate!

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To try and boost our JustGiving collections slightly and make it easy for people in the UK and the rest of EU who want to participate; me and my friend karaimame have joined forces to set up a teeny raffle! We have four items up for grabs for anyone who donates, no matter how small. The raffle prizes are….drumroll please….

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Set 1

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> – 1 onigiri mold, Pikachu shape
> – onigiri mold set : faces ( bear, girl and boy)
> – oshibori and case (little towel with a case)
> – small forks
> – small spoons
> – Chinese Zodiac animals picks
> – Animal themed baran
> – 2 sauce containers, pig shaped

(all of the above are NEW and have been sent directly from Japan)

and

Thermal Bento Set

> – a Thermal bento set! It consists of two inner containers, the bigger holds 300ml and the other 220ml. The smaller one has a permanent compartment division. This is a very popular option for those who prefers a hot lunch.

(the box was opened for photo purposes. It is new and unused.

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Set 2

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> – 1 double-layer bento box (cars design)
> – 1 pack of oversized picks
> – 3 nori punches – bunny, car & bear shape
> – 3 sauce containers – pig-shape,bottle-shape & tomato cover
> – 1 mini-cutter – butterfly
> – 2 blue silicon food cups – heart and star

(all of the above are NEW and have been sourced by me on a variety of bentogear shopping trips)

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Bonus prize (x2)

picks

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Oversized food picks

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Anyone can donate, you only need a debit or credit card to do so – or paypal account. We will randomly select the recipient (using http://www.random.org/) from the list of people who donate on bento4Japan‘s Justgiving site before 3 April 2011 (2359h GMT). We will select four people, the first person can choose between my set or karaimame’s; the second will get the other set and the third and fourth person will receive a packet of picks each.

I hope that this will boost numbers a little and make the event worthwhile. We will announce the winners here and also on bento4Japan HQ – and obviously email the winners as well.

Please note that whilst I am not allowed to publicise this raffle on my JustGiving page (as I am bound by terms and conditions), anyone who donates on bento4Japan’s JustGiving page, with a valid email address, will be eligible for this raffle. In order for us to contact you, please make sure you make your email address available to us on the JustGiving fundraising page.

Thank you for your help and please dig deep and give as much as you can. Please also spread the word around, the success of this fundraising event relies on our collective effort.

P/S: The fundraising page will be active till 2016, but only donors who contributed to this page before 3rd April 2011 (2359h GMT) will be considered for the raffle. I am doing this because I am trying to encourage as many people to donate soon as the relief efforts are ongoing and urgently needed. Please donate here! If you want to find out more about why are we doing this or if you want to help, please visit our bento4Japan HQ.

#bento4Japan

March 16, 2011

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It is a little known fact that I was in the Christmas tsunami in 2004. I ran down 28 flights of stairs and bore witness to a number of ruined buildings and structure. Not knowing it was a tsunami, I even looked out the window pensively to the sea below and commented that it was a perfect weather to surf. Thankfully I was not in the worst hit areas around Sri Lanka…but the level of ignorance is apparent. I even went on a BOAT that afternoon; before my mom called me in a panic and commanded that I get OFF the boat right this moment. Well, too late, we were already drifting slowly into sea.

I escaped that tsunami unharmed; not realizing how lucky I was, since I was in a seafront apartment 28 floors up. Ever since last Friday, I have been questioning myself why then do I feel so much more devastated at what happened recently. I despair about what happened to Japan. The level of destruction is so absolute – but the Japanese are coping so wonderfully well its pretty amazing and awe-inspiring. One of my favourite stories is from a twitter friend, lindababinda. Her sister called their dad in Japan who lived pretty close to one of the nuclear plants; crying and upset. The dad replied that there is no point worrying, he is so well in fact that he is ‘glowing’. That for me just epitomizes the type of people the Japanese are. Quietly strong and glass half-full, soildering on for the greater good. Like Maki said; the Japanese are ‘ganbaru’ – grin and bear it.

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In the past year I had derived so much enjoyment from the Japanese culture, from my main bento-ing hobby to using more Japanese ingredients and cooking more Japanese food. I had met so many great people across the globe thorugh this blog, people that I dare call my virtual friends even. My bento making skills have improved tremendously, so has my cooking and have reinstilled in me my love of photography. I was even planning a trip to Tokyo at the end of April to meet up with some bento friends – which I had to cancel due to a family trip.

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It is time to give back to the country that had given me so much.

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A few of us over on twitter were chatting on Sunday and bemoaned how helpless we felt sitting on the sidelines whilst waves of devastation continued to sweep across Japan. I decided that just praying for Japan was not enough anymore. I am not stinking rich and cannot donate a large amount of money; but with what I know and love, I know I can make a difference, no matter what small. Or at least try to. Many in the bento making community feels the same. So an idea was born; and that idea was #bento4Japan.

Inspired by the one-woman-newstream that is Makiko Itoh ; the international bento community is getting together to run a variety of fundraising activites. Currently we are running auctions via ebay; but I will be setting up a small raffle for the EU here shortly – as soon as I can get good pictures of my items! There are also links to various ways where you can donate, so please be sure to check them out.

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Please remember to click here to visit the bento4Japan HQ!! Ganbatte Japan!!

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Bento 127 : Soba salad with edamame & roast beef

March 15, 2011

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I love soba – especially in a salad form. I still haven’t quite got used to the hot soupy form of soba yet; preferring udon if it was going to be served hot in a soup. I remember the first time I purchased soba – thinking that it was udon. Uh. Yeah. In my defense, I was 18 and had no idea what was what. Thank god I had a Japanese roomate and she schooled me in the difference and how soba was really only popular in the summer (not too sure how true is this?).

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My go-to soba dish is probably not authentic but it is pretty darn tasty and dare I say a great use of soba. It is also a clever way of using up leftover roast beef – I concotted this dish as a starter once when bacon’s parents dropped by without notice for lunch and I wanted to serve a starter with our mains. They appreciated the cold roast beef more than the noodles; but I fell in love with this tangy, salty and sweet dish. Wonderful in summers; or when you just need a quick meal that just so happens to be bento friendly as well.

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Soba salad with edamame & roast beef strips

Cooked soba noodles, thoroughly rinsed in cold water to get rid of the starchy residue
thinly sliced leftover roast beef slices (or chicken)
cooked edamame (I chuck mine in towards the end of the soba cooking time)

dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vineger
1 tbs mirin
1 tsp sugar

garnish
toasted sesame seeds
nanami togarashi (japanese mixed pepper powder)

Instructions? Mix it all up!! Yes, it really is that easy. Not only is it simple, it keeps well cold and room temperature too, making this a perfect SPEEDY bento dish. I take mine out of the fridge in the morning before I leave for work and then just leave it on my desk until lunchtime. I hate it straight-from-the-fridge cold, so this is perfect for me.

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In my bento I included some pickles as well to eat with my noodles – the pickles enhances the flavours of the noodles. Two carrot flower sticks, a brocolli and some oranges completes the bento. I love the colours in this one; purple, yellow, orange – and most importantly, all the colorful flavours blends well with each other. I did not realize how fragant this is as well – people could smell the wonderful intermingling of rice vineger and soy sauce with mirin when I opened it up during lunch time. In a good way of course – not like when I decided to bring kimchi jjigae for lunch. heh.

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Bento 126: Rice with smoked saba & veggies

March 14, 2011

I have started to realise that my recent bentos have been super protein-packed. I tend to get hungry on my way back from work, and find that protein packed bentos keep my hunger at bay for longer. Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea for me to actually get more veggies in my system after some heavy protein lunches; so today’s bento is packed tight with steamed brocollini and snap peas (my fave veggies)

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Tomorrow’s lunch highlights one of my two bento staple; saba with rice. My other, chicken with rice, is also a very popular combo with my tastebuds. I get my saba from a pack; hot-smoked saba is ridicullously delicious. I padded the bento out with brocollini, sliced takuan and again, an ume sitting atop my white rice. No guesses of why the ume is there (other than for flavour). My other layer contains more brocollini and snap peas, two veggie gyozas and a small clementine. I tucked in a defrosted sweet potato ‘leaf’ between the veggies for some color.

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This bento took me about 5 minutes to put together with frozen rice. How simple is that? No decoration whatsoever, but with a little bit of planning, speed bento is a reality. 12 months ago I would never dreamt that speed bentos can be done in less than 30 minutes. I was a slowpoke, and most of my bentos turned out to be car crashes even after working at for an hour sometimes – the key is preserverance!! With this bento, I wasted more time photographing it than making it – can’t wait for the days to continue getting longer so I can at last catch some daylight when photographing my bentos!

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