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Posted on Feb 27, 2007 | 50 comments

Speed Bento: stovetop mini frittata & multi-frying

Speed Bento: stovetop mini frittata & multi-frying

Today I played around with the speed bento technique of cooking different dishes in a mini frying pan at the same time, and actually cooking in those little foil bento food cups. My son’s bento today had ketchup yaki onigiri and a quick mini frittata with leftover ham and frozen vegetables (all packed in a 350ml Lock & Lock box from my lunch set).

Frypan mini quiche lunch for toddler

Here’s everything cooking together in the frying pan. I’ve seen this technique in different Japanese bento cookbooks; the trick is to make sure you’re cooking items that require the same level heat (and to test the different items for doneness throughout — don’t assume they’ll all be ready at the same time).

Frying pan does double duty

I got this particular combination of dishes from Enji no Obento (園児のおべんとう) by Kodansha. To prepare the ketchup yaki onigiri, I stirred together 3/4 cup fresh warm rice, 1 tsp butter, and just under 1 Tb ketchup and formed them into tiny, palm-sized round onigiri in my hands (make sure they’re firmly shaped, not loose — otherwise they’ll fall apart when cooking).

070226e

To make the mini frittata, I beat one egg and added a little chopped ham, a couple tablespoons of frozen vegetables (green peas and corn, in this case), 1 Tb Parmesan cheese, 1 Tb of milk or cream, and salt/pepper to taste. I then took two foil baking/cooking cups, put one inside the other for better support when cooking, and placed the empty cups in the nonstick mini frying pan (sprayed with vegetable oil) on medium-low heat. I spooned the egg mixture into the foil cups (making two little “frittatas”), added the ketchup onigiris, and covered the frying pan. The egg needs to cook for 4-5 minutes, and I flipped the ketchup onigiris once. (EDIT: You may want to run the frittatas in the frying pan under the broiler at the very end so that the top cooks but the bottom is not over-cooked.)

Ingredients for stovetop mini quiches

The ketchup onigiris were a little delicate, so I tried to avoid moving them around much (but they were a big hit with my son, who devoured them). He also liked the little frittata, although I wanted a little extra flavor with them, so I packed along a little Lizano sauce for mine. There’s no reason you need to stick with these particular ingredients, though — next time I may substitute chicken for the ham, add some chopped herbs, and use whatever veggies (including cooked leftovers) I have on hand. This dish was interesting to me because it used refrigerator and freezer staples (frozen peas & corn), so even if I didn’t have fresh veggies on hand I could throw together something nutritious and homemade in a hurry.

My husband often nukes himself a mixed egg in a greased ramekin for a quickie breakfast, so I was curious to see if I could make a version of the quick frittata in the microwave as well. The verdict is yes, but I think the stovetop version has a nicer texture and rise. I ladled the egg mixture into cupcake liners set inside ramekins (I greased one set of liners with vegetable oil spray, and didn’t grease another). Then I heated the two ramekins (uncovered) in our 1100W microwave on 80% power for 1.5 minutes (your time will vary depending upon the power of your microwave and how many ramekins you’re nuking). I think I prefer not greasing the cupcake liner as the frittata then sticks to the liner for easy packing, but if you don’t want to include the liner in your bento you could cook it in the greased liner.

Microwave mini frittata

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  1. ok, that is a WONDERFUL clever idea! I love it!! I just got some little foil thingies today, I never thought about cooking IN them! any other cook-in-cups tricks up your sleeve? (other than the jellos, which I really need to do sometime)

  2. Hm. I wonder if the little rubber no-muffin-tin-needed baking cups I’ve got would do that? They shouldn’t melt if they’re meant for the oven, ne?

  3. also, I have to say, I just browsed your lunch set album on flickr and I am insanely jealous. then again, Im only cooking for me ^^

  4. The oven provides general heat, whereas a skillet provides very direct heat on a specific surface, and more of it, as well. I tried to wash my silicon muffin cups in the dishwasher like it said I could, and some of them got knocked into the bottom of the dishwasher, where they got damaged by the heating element during the drying cycle. So yeah, they’re likely to melt.

  5. They would probably work for the microwave oven version, no? I don’t own any of these yet, so I can’t say definitively.

  6. hahahah, understood. I want to start making lunches for my bf, though it would be rather impractical, since we dont really see each other daily or anything. but, man, I would go all out on those.

  7. Yet another awesome idea :D Thanks!

  8. Fantastic, this will go well with tomorrow’s lunch! I was wondering what else I could do with frozen peas / carrots / corn…

  9. This is a fantastic tip! Thanx so much for all the wonderful ideas.

  10. Cool! I’ve seen some other ideas for using frozen veggies in little bento dishes too — stay tuned.

  11. My pleasure, elsharone!

  12. Have fun at the market!

  13. Awesome idea on the frittata – I’m going to try making them tonight :)

    ps: found your LJ via flickr.

  14. You may want to run the frying pan under the broiler at the very end so that the top cooks but the bottom is not over-cooked. Hope it works for you!

  15. Ooh, interesting! Tell me more. Did you use a cupcake liner in the ramekin? Was it greased or not? How long did you nuke it for, at what temperature, and how strong (in watts) is your microwave?

  16. You are really the obento guru. I pack lunch for my daughter every morning, but not with this much of passion and talent. Loved the speed bento tips! I will make mini frittata tomorrow : ) ありがとう!

  17. わあ!ゆみ様がコメントしてくれて嬉しいよ!
    Thanks Yumi! This is so cool that you’re going to try out the mini frittata!

  18. Hmm, when I nuked mine in an ungreased ramekin, the egg mixture (one egg per ramekin) rose up almost out of the ramekin and then deflated (but didn’t escape). This is how my husband makes his eggs in the morning: minus fillings, but in an ungreased ramekin — which is a little annoying because the egg really sticks to the side of the ramekin and you need to run a knife around the edge to get it out. I’m not sure if this is a function of the power of our microwave or something else. If the appearance of the microwave version bothers you, I’d recommend the stovetop version, which gives a superior texture and rise anyway.

  19. I am an American married to a Japanese, and living in Tokyo. I’m having a lot of fun selling bento items on ebay for the world to enjoy. I think your bento is the best I’ve seen!! Thank you for all your work on this blog. Elizabeth

  20. Hi Elizabeth, and thank you for the kind words! I’m sure if we played the name game long enough we’d figure out common friends — I was in Tokyo for 5.5 years in the nineties (Osaka for the rest). Great that you’re selling bento items — one thing that would be useful for the bento box-buying public is if you were able to include volume/capacity of the boxes in ml in your eBay listings. But you might already be doing that! Do you have an eBay store we can check out?

  21. Ah, looks like it.

  22. There’s only one way to find out — I’ll pick up a bottle of kecap manis and do a taste test.

  23. Are the fritatta and the ketchup onigiri packed in the bento hot or cold? If cold, are they heated up again at the destination?

  24. We usually wind up eating our lunches at room temperature as we’re outside at a park or zoo or somewhere like that (no microwave or heating facilities available). Japanese bento cookbooks advise spicing foods more heavily if they are to be eaten cold or at room temperature (rather than hot).

  25. Your onigiri looked so easy and tasty, I had to give it a try! But the problem I found was that I COULD NOT flip them. They just didn’t set. Maybe that’s because I used instant (brown) rice? However, I had some leftover rice after my first, failed attempt, so I was inspired to try a variation: I added a small amount of beaten egg (for binding purposes) to about 1/2 c of the prepared rice, ketchup and butter, then stirred in a small amount of shredded cheddar (for further binding and additional flavor). I put a little olive oil in my pan and got it good and hot over medium, then I dumped the mixture in one big pile and quickly smooshed it down with a spatula to flatten it. I cooked it for about 4 min (could likely have done 3) on one side and 90 seconds on the other, and it was PERFECT! It was solid enough that it could easily be picked up by hand, so no utensils necessary. I’m thinking I could add any variety of shredded or finely decided veggies or proteins to this to make it more of an “entree” for my daughter’s lunchbox. I know I’m going to be doing lots of experiments with the base! Thank you so much for the idea!

  26. @36 from Michelle: Your experiments sound delicious, Michelle! Definitely keep us posted if you come up with something you love as an “entree” for your daughter’s lunchbox.

  27. I love this recipe! I used it the other day, only I made the batch a lot bigger and filled a cupcake pan. Then I put it in the oven. It was perfect for my Bento box. :D

  28. @38 from Kaits: Thanks! Glad it worked out for you — eggs are so versatile.

  29. I am curious, have you tried freezing the frittatas? Thanks!
    Amber

  30. @40 from Amber: I haven’t tried freezing the frittatas, but theoretically it should be fine. Let us know if you try it out, Amber!

  31. Thanks for all of the great info but I have one question can you please write the name of the cook book in English (if possible) so that I may look into purchasing it or send me a link to a place where I can see it or somthing like that.

    Thanks in advance

    I got this particular combination of dishes from 園児のおべんとう by Kodansha

  32. @42 from Kamilah: Sorry about that, I’ve added a link in the post above that takes you right to the Amazon Japan listing. It’s Enji no Obento, which I reviewed more fully in this post on Japanese children’s bento cookbooks in my kitchen.

  33. I Stumbled Upon your site last week and have been obsessed ever since! Thank you for all of these wonderful ideas! I’m from NJ so rice molds are hard to come by but a friend is going to San Francisco in May so I’m going to be giving him an extensive shopping list. As we speak I’m making the ketchup yaki onigiri!

  34. @44 from Hanna: Welcome to the site, Hanna! Feel free to comment or ask questions even on old entries; I try to keep up with them via the Recent Comments thingie in the right-hand column. Hope the ketchup yaki onigiri turns out well for you!

  35. [IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v138/somegurl/Onigiri.jpg[/IMG]

  36. You can also do this in mini-muffin cups, just make sure the meat/veggies are finely chopped and the pan is well greased. Kids love it because they’re bite-sized and look like little muffins. We especially like ours with ham and broccoli. I might have to get some of the individual silicone cups to try making the bigger ones.

  37. @48 from Evonne: Mini-muffin cups are a great size for bento lunches, definitely. Bug really enjoyed the mini cornbread muffins I made a while back; I should probably make another batch of those…

  38. your website has really inspired me into making bentos! ive been experimenting with your recipes to make tasty lunches for my family.

    i tried making the frittatas on the stove top but it didnt really work out for me. well, i was able to cook the egg but then it kind of deflated once i took it off the heat. it was also still kind of runny on the top too. =[

    for my second batch of frittatas i tried something different. instead, i poured some water in the frying pan to create a little steam bath for the frittatas. since the steam could circulate all around the frittata the top was cooked perfectly. also, it didnt deflate either! it was nice and fluffy even hours later. it actually took a shorter period of time to cook too and less clean up since no oil was added to the pan. you should try it!

  39. @50 from jackie- this is how I do it too! It great. Very speedy. I actually don’t even fry eggs the traditional way either. using a little water in the pan (not so much you poach them) you can baste your eggs without all the extra fat.

  40. i tried this today with a paper baking cup… dont. haha.

    first. it wasnt sturdy enough so when i filled it with egg it just collapsed and made an omlette. then i double layered it and only filled it halfway and waited a bit to pour the rest in… my paper cup burned! and so did the bottom of the frittata…

    moral of the story: use foil cups!

  41. Do you pack this (the frittata) well chilled, with ice packs, to serve cold? I’m wondering if it would work well for my daughter’s school lunch, because she would LOVE it.

  42. hi Biggie! i made ketchup yaki onigiri and frittata for my daughter yesterday. she loved the onigiri! like your son, she devoured it, too! i let her help me make some more in the afternoon. now all she want is rice and ketchup. hahaha! :D

    thank you! :D

  43. My daughter and I will try it in the morning!

  44. Well the vote is in we loved it!
    I used some frozen seasoning blend (used for soups and red beans & rice) since I didn’t have just frozen veggies appropriate for this. Steamed them towards the end. Served with a little sour cream and hash, a great little breakfast.

  45. I don’t have kids but really liked the this site. I try to take my lunch to work but have been a little bored with the regular sandwich and chips…

    Thanks for making my own lunches fun.

  46. Thanks for your work on this amazing blog! What kind of rice do you use for your rice recipes? (This one for example).

  47. Just wondering if you could do the frittata in a regular cupcake tin with paper liners in the oven and if so, for how long?

  48. Hi, do you heat up the bento box? I know that you would make the food ahead of time. But when your child is ready to eat, do you heat it up? Thanks.