Japanese Picnic Bento Box, #SundaySupper
Summer in Japan is sweltering hot. Fans work overtime. Shutters are thrown wide open. The occasional breeze will set off the sounds of the furin garden wind chimes. Light and lovely, it’s as if fairies are making music.
Furin wind chimes making fairy music
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Sounds of rain tap dancing on rooftops are a frequent occurrence in June. The good news is that all that water encourages gorgeous flowers to flourish. So, in July and August, to escape the hot indoors and to enjoy the flora offered by a myriad of parks, families take their Sunday Supper in the great outdoors.
Brightening spirits in Japanese parks: Lemon drop yellow flowers.
Of course, picnics prevail in the U.S., the U.K. and around the world, too. So this week’s virtual #SundaySupper on Twitter at 7p.m. ET revolves around picnic goodies. Katy of Great Britain, the always-impressive force behind Happy Baking Days will host the event. Please join the international crew of food bloggers as we gather to exchange recipes and picnic stories. (Type in #SundaySupper in the Twitter search bar at 7 p.m. ET.)
My contribution is a Japanese Picnic Bento Box. The beauty of the bento box is you can tailor make every item to your liking. The Ninja Baker’s offering is potpourri of suggestions.
Picnic fare for a day in a Japanese park with the kids.
To make protein palatable for kids, plastic molds help to shape hard boiled eggs into cute bunnies and bears. The Japanese molds are readily available at Amazon.
Here's the easy how-to:
- Boil eggs. (I like Food Network’s Chef Anne Burrell method: Place eggs into cold salted water and bring to a roiling boil. Turn off the heat and cover for exactly 13 minutes.)
- Carefully peel off the shells and skin. (You want a smooth surface.)
- Place into the molds. Snap tight.
- Set the molds in ice-cold water for 10 minutes.
- Voilà! Bunny and bear-shaped eggs.
Egg molds and mini cookie cutters make bento-making super easy and fun!
Mini star cookie cutters are useful for transforming apples and other fruit into fun treats.
If your child or mate likes mildly spicy items, include wasabi peas. Not the healthiest kind of peas but nevertheless a vegetable.
Slices of Japanese cucumber as well as skinny stalks of carrots stuck in the middle of sushi rolls are probably a better way to present veggies. They are delicious when dipped into soy sauce. (Disclaimer: This may be an acquired taste from pouring soy sauce on practically everything from age 0.)
To make sushi rice rolls:
- Cook up a pot of short grain rice.
- To avoid burned fingers dotted with specks of sticky hot white rice, have a finger bowl of cold water nearby for constant dipping.
- OR adopt the trick I adopted from my friend, Masako: Sprinkle a bit of cold water on a surface covered with plastic wrap. Place small mounds of rice onto the plastic and shape into little sushi balls.
- Wrap with dried seaweed (nori) or soy paper.
- Stick thinly sliced carrots into the rice.
Masako’s trick also works well for bigger onigiri rice balls. For this bento box, I topped the onigiri with purple perilla (shiso) seeds. The leaves of the plant are commonly used in Japanese cooking. Seeds from the flower buds are sprinkled on salads and rice.
Cold barley tea (mugicha) is a popular accompaniment to any meal in summer.
Mugicha is also said to reduce stress.
If you're wondering why the Ninja Baker hasn’t mentioned any baked goods for this outing it’s because a majority of the Japanese population opts for soft cream. Summertime springs a plethora of vendors who sell the heavenly desserts near park entrances and train stations. In Kyoto (the ancient capital of Japan) a divine green tea soft cream also abounds.
Swirly Soft Cream
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However, if ice cream is not your sweet escape of choice, scroll down and see the irresistible dessert recipes offered by fellow food bloggers. There are spectacular cocktail and other suggestions for your picnic, too.
Salads and Slaws:
- Bacon Ranch Potato Salad from Juanita’s Cocina
- Caprese Spinach Salad from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
- Chicken Chopped Salad from Table for Seven
- Cold Pea Salad from Shockingly Delicious
- Creamy Potato Salad with Roasted Pears, Cilantro and Romano Cheese from Gourmet Drizzles
- German Potato Salad from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
- Hawaiian Cole Slaw from Curious Cuisiniere
- Italian Chopped Salad from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Kale Pasta Salad from Hip Foodie Mom
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad from Peanut Butter and Peppers
- Mizeria (Polish Cucumber Salad) from From Fast Food to Fresh Food
- PA Dutch Pepper Cabbage from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Pineapple Slaw from I Run For Wine
- Spaghetti Salad from Country Girl in the Village
- Tortellini Pasta Salad from Supper for a Steal
Sandwiches and Mains:
- Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich from Momma’s Meals
- Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, and Tomato Sandwich from Magnolia Days
- Grilled Bratwurst and Onion Open-Face Sandwiches from The Urban Mrs
- Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Green Goddess Sauce from Foxes Love Lemons
- Herbs-Garlic and Parmesan Croissants from Basic N Delicious
- Indian Spiced Chicken Drumsticks from Soni’s Food
- Japanese Picnic Bento Box from The Ninja Baker
- Mini Chicken Salad, Avocado and Cheese Subs from Big Bear’s Wife
- Moroccan Fried Chicken from MarocMama
- Pepper, Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Quiche from Happy Baking Days
- Picnic Basket Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Noshing with the Nolands
- Salmon in a Jar from Healthy. Delicious.
- Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs from The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Spam Musubi from Kimchi Mom
- Apricot Oat Nut Bars from Pies and Plots
- Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treat Pops from In The Kitchen With KP
- Cocoa Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Fruit Salad from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
- Fruit Salad with Honey Port Drizzle from Family Foodie
- Loaded Butterscotch Bars from Vintage Kitchen
- Nathan’s Cookies from What Smells So Good?
- Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treat Truffles from Chocolate Moosey
- Shandy Popsicles With Raspberries from Ruffles & Truffles
- Texas Sheet Cake with Pecan Frosting from Food Lust People Love
- Triple Chocolate Punch Bowl Cake from Neighborfood
- Fresh Limeade with Chia Seeds from girlichef
- Pineapple Sangria from Growing Up Gabel
- Strawberry Basil Lemonade from The Messy Baker Blog
- Strawberry Lemonade from Gotta Get Baked
- Top 10 Wines for Picnic #SundaySupper from ENOFYLZ Wine blog
- Watermelon Agua Fresca from Daily Dish Recipes
Wishing you whimsical days of sake wine-sipping and summer roses.
The Ninja Baker
© ™ Watkinson 2012
The Ninja Baker has guest blogged and contributed recipes to numerous food sites. These additional recipes can be found here.