Number 40: Noriben on the Steps

(Barley noriben, carrot tamagoyaki, garlicky stir-fried shrimps, steamed broccoli with sesame dressing, and chicken wings braised in oyster sauce)

This Wednesday, I had prep class in the evening. Since I was travelling to downtown anyways, I went a few hours early to visit the gallery and to window-shop. With the gorgeous weather outside, I could not resist packing a bento for an alfresco supper on the staircase to the gallery’s entrance. It was nice just to go out and do my own thing.

I also bought two cookbooks at a second-hand bookstore that I stumbled upon on my way to the gallery. The first book talks about 15-minute bentos, with sections on donburis, onigiris, and etc.  Its bentos are simple but well-balanced in both taste and colour.  The second book dedicates itself to bar cookies and any sweets rectangular shaped. While it has the usual brownie bar or chai bar, it also includes some Japanese-inspired creations like “mille-feuilles à la crème de lait de soja.” Printed in full colour, lovely art direction, interesting recipes… Both books are from Shufu-to-seikatusha, one of my favourite publishing houses. I am especially in love with the images from the second book: the choice of backdrops, the mix of colours and patterns, and the placement of lines. Very “zakka,” very nice.

(clockwise from top left: bâton de cake, bâton de fromage à la banane, mille-feuilles à la crème de lait de soja, shortbread au sucre noir et poivre japonais)

The sweetest bit is that I got each book for $4.50 each (!!). Even though they are “second-hand,” they are in fact in pristine condition: no marks nor tears. Fifty percent less than the original listed price on Amazon Japan, and a fifth of the price at the import bookstore. Just thinking about this makes me ecstatic: nothing beats finding something you love by chance and at low prices.

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I made a simple noriben (海苔弁), which basically is layers of rice and nori seasoned with soy sauce. The method I used was from a random bento book that I flipped through at a bookstore a while back (it may have been this). It is simple to make: spread a thin layer of rice in your bento box, cover it with a sheet of nori, and drizzle over some light soy sauce. Repeat these three steps two more times, and you have gotten yourself a classic bento.  My only suggestion is that you should shred the nori into smaller pieces first.

P.S. I can’t believe I actually made it to bento post #40! I know there are many other bento-bloggers who started later than I did and have already gone past 100… But dear readers, you know how lazy I am.

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  1. Beautiful beautiful beautiful! I am smitten with the images from the second book. Everything you said is so right. The balance of colors, the backdrops (those backdrops… WOW!). I love the warm, homey feel of the photographs.

  2. Melissa: I am especially attracted to photos with this type of warm and nostalgic feeling too.

  3. Your book purchases remind me that I bought a bento cookbook as well — one that’s uses “last night’s leftovers” to create something different, but still tasty. It offers caloric information (wish it also had fat, etc. info too) for all its dishes, but not much about the weight of them, etc.

    They’re also technically all do-able within 15 minutes, but can one really deep-fry something in 15 minutes along with steaming veg, making sauces, etc.?

  4. astrael: You’re absolutely right. “Fifteen minutes” in a bento book usually translates into thirty minutes in real life, unless you are expert at multi-tasking.

  5. skimmer8

    Lovely bento. Nice variety and arrangement.


  6. Jennifer: Thank you! :D

  7. krisaki

    The noriben looks good. I keep forgetting about it, but I really need to make it for my bento sometime.

  8. astO

    hello! i love your website! could i ask where did you get your white coloured bento box from? i’ve been looking for one like that…

  9. astO: I purchased my box from a Japanese department store in Hong Kong. I haven’t seen this style of bento box online (perhaps because it’s a bit too plain), but have you tried your local Japanese/Chinese supermarket? Maybe they’ll have something like this in the kitchenware aisle.

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