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Posted on Apr 6, 2007 | 22 comments

Potsticker lunch with quick cucumber salad

Potsticker lunch with quick cucumber salad

Morning prep time: 10 minutes (12 min. for 2 lunches, but the potstickers take 9 minutes). I didn’t have any leftovers to incorporate into this meal, so it was all made in the morning: gyoza, cucumber salad, and mango. The timeline for today’s lunch was actually very straightforward: get the store-bought frozen potstickers going in the frying pan (quick fry, then add warm water and cover), slice the cucumber with the quick cutter and salt (let rest), cut & pack the mango, and nuke the cream cheese to soften, rinse/wring out the cucumbers. Finish up the potsticker cooking and put on a plate to cool. Mix the cucumber with the cream cheese and pepper, pack that in the lunch, then pack the potstickers. The dipping sauce was already in the little containers, stored in the refrigerator, so those were just grab and go. Wrapped cheese and grape tomatoes fill the gaps and provide color. Ta da!

Speedy gyoza lunch

I adapted a recipe for 3-minute cucumber and cream cheese salad from Japanese cookbook Oishii Obento (published by Seitosha). Very few ingredients (cucumber, cream cheese, salt and pepper), and prep flies by with the use of a cheap mandoline-type slicer. Recipe below.

Ingredients for quick cucumber salad Prep for quick cucumber salad (#1)

I picked up this slicing multi-tool for a few dollars at an Asian kitchenware store a few years ago to replace another I broke. It’s a quick slicer, wavy cutter, vegetable peeler, daikon grater and ginger grater — all in one. It’s what I reach for when I want a small amount of thinly cut vegetables, but don’t need the adjustability (or hassle) of my mandoline. Click on the photo for a larger view with notes. More tricked-out products would include the Japanese Benriner and the V-slicer, but a quick Amazon search turns up a few cheap alternatives: a green Kuhn Rikon Quick Slice Mandoline , a red Kyocera Adjustable Handheld Ceramic Slicer , and a white Norpro Mandoline . (Full disclosure: I just signed up with Amazon, so using these links when shopping with Amazon anyway helps support Lunch in a Box.)

Slicer multi-tool

Quick Cucumber and Cream Cheese Salad Recipe

  • 4-5 inches of cucumber (I used English/Japanese cucumber with few seeds, but you could scoop the seeds out of a regular cucumber for the same effect)
  • 1 ounce of cream cheese (or less, to taste)
  • black pepper to taste (I like freshly ground, but use what’s handy)

1. Thinly slice cucumber, and put it in a colander in a bowl or sink. Lightly salt and mix up.
2. Let the salted cucumber rest for at least one minute, then rinse off excess salt if necessary and wring out the moisture with your hands and a paper towel. This keeps the cucumber from shedding water into your lunch after you’ve packed it.
3. Microwave the cream cheese until soft (20 seconds in a 500W microwave, 10 seconds in a 1100W microwave)
4. Mix the cucumbers with the softened cream cheese and pepper to taste.

Prep for quick cucumber salad (#2) Quick cucumber salad

Bug’s lunch is similar. He attacked the potstickers first with his hands, then moved on to the rest. He used the little fork for the mango, but I had to help him with the cucumber (his first bites were way too big). If I were sending him off to eat this lunch on his own, I’d cut the cucumber a little thicker so that it’d be easier for him to get little bites.

Potsticker lunch for toddler

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  1. What type/company of pot stickers do you use? You make such yummy looking bento. ^^

  2. Oh, good point– I forgot to add that. After I doused the mango with lime juice for flavor, I then dumped all of it onto paper towels and dried it as best I could to avoid just the problem you described.

  3. Thanks leilani! I use a variety of pot stickers — whatever looks interesting at the Asian markets, or (funny enough) LingLing pot stickers from Costco.

  4. ah! Thank you — I’ll try that next time. Plus that cucumber salad, which looks wonderful.

  5. I make a similar salad with either a 50/50 mix of sour cream and plain yogurt OR thick Greek-style yogurt. Add a pinch of cumin next time. Very delicious!

  6. Sounds yummy!

  7. I think I have cucumbers in my bento every day since they are pretty cheap and I like them. Most of the time I just do plain slices but this looks yummy too. Thanks for taking the time to write out the recipe!

    We’ve been in the vacation period at school recently so I’ve been spending an hour or two each day in the school library looking up different recipes and bento advice.

    Do you have any favorite bento related books?

  8. Seriously, check out any bento books that Shufu no Tomo (主婦の友)puts out. As the book publishing arm of one of Japan’s oldest home-related magazines, they really know their stuff and present it well (finger on the pulse and all that). I’m also rediscovering some books I’ve had for a while, like おべんとう大事典 by インデックスマガジンズ with 748 recipes — they have a little bit of everything, from kids’ to adults’ bentos, speed bentos, volume/hearty bentos, diet bentos, cheap (under 100 yen) bentos, and multi-person picnics for events. Getting one comprehensive volume like that and working through it is educational (and much cheaper than buying a bunch of themed books).

  9. Meadow, which country/area do you live in? If you’re in North America, I’d recommend getting a Lock & Lock or Snapware container for your son in the meantime — then sending your husband to Oki with a dollar store bento supply list. If you take a look at the bento box size guidelines I translated (link under “Top Tips” in the left-hand column), your son should be using a box between 400 – 500ml in volume (240ml = 1 cup American) for dense food. At two cups, the small rectangle boxes in the Snapware set would be about perfect (sold at Costco, Amazon.com, etc.), and I’ve seen small Lock & Lock-type containers of about the right size at both Target and Walmart before. Seriously, I’d think twice about giving a five-year-old an overpriced $25 box when even adults have a hard time remembering to bring lunch containers home. I’ll start putting together a list of links to cheap bento box alternatives that are widely available.

  10. Here’s a link to the Snapware set I saw at Costco: Snapware 26 Piece Plastic Storage Set with Lids. Full disclosure: I just signed up with Amazon, so using these links when shopping with Amazon anyway helps support Lunch in a Box.

  11. Good luck!

  12. I made the cucumbers, but used plain yogurt instead (to fit my diet) and added a little chopped mint (to counter not having any salt.) It was delish! Not sure the kids will like it as much as the cream cheese, but it worked for me, and my 15 year old took some to school today in her bento.

  13. Heya, I wandered over from bentolunch. I keep meaning to ask you, where in SF is Daiso? I love over in Hayward, but sadly I don’t know SF all that well, despite being a born native. For shame!

    Also, your lunches all look scrumptious, so I’m adding you to my friends list :D

  14. Man, I really need to put together an SF shopping guide for everyone. Will get on it. In the meantime, Daiso is located in Daly City at the Serramonte Mall where Good Guys used to be (across the parking lot from the Target store anchoring Serramonte Mall). Lots of parking, definitely a must-go. Enjoy!

  15. Sounds delicious!

  16. P.S. I’ve added you back as you have a dedicated lunch blog — looks great!

  17. Found this today at Tokyo Fish Market gift shop next to the fish market, 1220 San Pablo, Berkeley, about 2 miles from Ichiban Kan in El Cerrito, under $3.00. Am looking forward to trying it out!

  18. Good sourcing tip; thanks!

  19. Hi, Biggie!

    I blundered over here while looking for good lunchbox recipes, and think yours are just amazing!!

    I am almost certainly celiac (as are 2 of our 3 kids), and am married to a Japanese-American who grew up in San Jose, so I feel like we are practically neighbors (though we live in Pittsburgh. Oh, well.)!

    Wondering about the celiac “undiagnosis,” of your hubby, though. Seems like a lot of doctors retest someone after they’ve been on a gluten-free diet, and–surprise!–they test negative for it! But testing negative after being gluten-free doesn’t mean you don’t have celiac, because you don’t produce antibodies to gluten if you haven’t been ingesting it; and also because most damage does resolve after being on a gluten-free diet. However, it usually comes back within months of resuming a gluten-filled diet, especially if other autoimmune disorders are an issue.

    Hopefully, your hubby really doesn’t have celiac after all. But you might keep a watchful eye out for returning symptoms just in case!

    Sorry if that was un-necessary and un-asked-for info. I know a lot more about celiac than I EVER wanted to know (like you guys, I bet), and figured better safe than sorry!

    Anyway, thank you so much for posting all the wonderful lunchbox ideas. It’s such great timing for me–I was really in a lunch rut, and your ideas are so inspiring. I can’t wait to try that cucumber salad. Does it work if you don’t salt and drain the cucumber? (I know, I’m SO lazy!)

    Thanks again,
    Alison

  20. Felictari pentru blog esti tare !

  21. Wow, this is indeed super fast! But I’ll just slice the cucumbers a little thicker. Thanks for the paper towel tip.:)

  22. Just checking in to ee if your blog is still here! Im pleased it is.

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