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Posted on Jan 31, 2008 | 12 comments

Simple broiled fish bento lunch

Simple broiled fish bento lunch

Instead of packing a lunch bento and a separate snack bento for my three-year-old, lately I’ve been packing larger lunches that do double duty. This works for us as I’m around after preschool to prompt him to finish up his leftovers, but if he were eating his afternoon snack on his own I’d want to pack a separate side dish container with a snack to make it a little more neat and special.

Broiled fish bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: Papaya chunks, sauteed snow peas with garlic and Mae Krua Thai oyster sauce (my favorite, product spotlight here), broiled tilapia with Kewpie mayonnaise, and Korean-style inarizushi triangles.

Morning prep time: 15 minutes, including cooling time for the fish and inarizushi. In the morning I popped the fish into the toaster oven while I made the inarizushi with leftover refrigerated rice (warming the rice first in the microwave to restore the texture). The snow peas were leftover from dinner, and I’d peeled and cut the papaya the day before as a snack.
Extra-thick aluminum food cups for cooking
Packing: I had initially broiled the fish in a low, extra-thick aluminum baking cup (shown at left) in my convection toaster oven, thinking I’d pack it in the same cup. But I found the extra-thick cup to be too large and low for this bento box, so I wound up using very plain aluminum food cups to pack both the drained/cooled fish and the drained/cooled snow peas. I packed the lunch in two tiers (280ml & 180ml) of a four-tier stacking and nesting Thomas the Tank Engine bento box set, and bound the two tiers together with a decorative elastic bento band. This is large for a three-year-old according to the bento box size guidelines, but there’s a lot of empty space in the larger container because of the shape of the inarizushi.

Nesting bento boxes with bandVerdict: Mixed. Bug ate all of the inarizushi at preschool, and that was it. After school he ate the papaya and snow peas as a snack in the car, but announced that he didn’t like the fish after trying one piece of it. I asked him if he’d eat the fish if it had pesto sauce on it (magic sauce for Bug, which I can’t send to preschool because of their food allergy policy) and he said yes, but a night later I tried making that for dinner and he rejected it. Oh well. It just reinforces my feeling that introducing a totally new food item through Bug’s bento isn’t optimal — he’s much more open to new foods when I’m there eating it with him. (Click to read the full post with additional lunch…)

Rectangular mandoo bento lunch for preschooler

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Contents of preschooler lunch: Pan-fried rectangular vegetable Korean mandu dumplings with dipping sauce, blueberries, onigiri rice balls shaped like a flower and a heart, snow peas in Thai oyster sauce, a slice of Moro blood orange, and a rambutan. I read a blog that said that gyoza dumplings had 100 calories each, so I was curious about the calorie count of these. Evidently there are 200 calories in a 7-piece serving of the Assi brand “Cooked Vegetable Dumplings”, so 143 calories for the five dumplings. Don’t worry, everyone, I’m not putting my super-active 3-year-old on a diet! I was just curious.

Morning prep time: 15 minutes, using frozen Korean dumplings and leftover refrigerated rice. In the morning I microwaved the rice until warm to restore its original texture, mixed in jarred furikake rice seasoning, and used rice molds to shape them into a flower and heart onigiri.

Pon de Lion bento box from Mister Donut

Packing: I removed the rambutan fruit from its funky skin; Bug had eaten them before so knew to eat around the seed inside. The drained/cooled snow peas went into a coated paper baking cup to keep their sauce away from the orange and rice balls, and blueberries acted as gap fillers to stabilize the lunch in transit. The length of the rectangular mandu narrowed down my choice of bento boxes. They fit nicely in the bottom layer of a two-tier 465ml Pon de Lion bento box from Mister Donut chain in Japan. I grabbed a pre-filled sauce container in the shape of Anpanman, speeding up prep time.

Verdict: Good over time. Bug ate the dumplings, onigiri and some blueberries and preschool, and the orange and rambutan afterwards as a snack. I think he burned out on the reappearing snow peas and blueberries, but those are gone now so he’s safe. ;-)

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  1. Yum, I like the look of the rectangular dumplings, will have to keep my eyes open for those. Curious why the inari are “Korean style” though?

  2. Wow, I’ll have to look for those dumplings! My boys and I love dumplings, but I don’t serve them often because of the high fat and calorie counts.

    And yes, I’ve found that putting new foods in the bentos doesn’t work so well for us most of the time. The boys can be rather sensitive to their classmates’ reactions, and their classmates can be rather picky.

  3. This is a bento that I’d love!;-)

  4. Hi, i am so impressed with your packing and creative skills! i have a four and half year old who needs his m.tea and lunch paacked for preschool. he is such a fussy eater so i found your website while looking for ideas on the net.

    i am wondering does your son eat his lunch cold? does the preschool heat his lunches?

    do you assemble the breaky in the morning or can most of these be done the night before? i just find the mornings such a rush. i have 3 to get ready in the morning.

  5. @1 from Yvo: I got a Korean inarizushi kit from my local Korean market (Kukje), which has triangular wrappers (not rectangular) that are a little thicker than Japanese style, slightly different seasoning sauce, and a packet of furikake to mix into the rice for a flavor boost. We actually prefer them to the Japanese, but there’s no reason you couldn’t create your own variation with different rice mix-ins and seasonings.

  6. @2 from Allison: I really like the little flat rectangular dumplings — the shape maximizes the crunchy surface area you get when you pan-fry them.

    It seems obvious now that introducing new foods is probably better done at home; I think I got a little complacent because Bug is such a relatively non-picky eater. Lesson learned!

  7. @4 from mae leen: Bug’s preschool doesn’t warm their lunches for them, so he either eats them at room temperature if they’re in a bento box, or warm if I’ve used a thermal food jar or thermal bento set. You might be interested in my post on hot vs. room temperature lunches here.

  8. @4 from mae leen: D’oh! I forgot to answer your question about when I make bentos. I usually wind up making them in the morning, or half-packing them at night and just finishing up anything in the morning that is nicer fresh (rice balls, for example). But if you have more time in the evening, by all means do it then!!!

  9. Hi,

    So when you make your broiled fish, is it just the tilapia, with some mayo and then in the oven?

    I love your site for all those simple, yet delicious recipes you post. :)

  10. hi!
    i’ve been reading blog for a quite a while and i enjoy it immensely.
    i thought it was interesting how there was a difference between the japanese and the korean style inarizushi.. i’m korean myself but our family always make our inarizushi with more things in the rice than just seasoning and furikake. my mom and my aunt mix in ground beef/ham, dakuan, and carrots in our rice and then stuff the skin.. i personally love this style and can’t eat plain inarizushi. just thought you might be interested in that notion :)

  11. @11 from tk: I love the sound of your mom & aunt’s inarizushi variations! I’ll try it out; I bought the big jumbo pack of Korean inarizushi, with three separate packages of wrappers to go through (so two more batches left).

  12. Biggie, we all love these (korean) Assi brand Mandoo (vegetable dumplings). I finally found some at my korean market and it’s a hit with the whole family. My son loves it in his bento, too bad it’s the end of the school year! Something to look forward to for next fall, mandoo.