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Posted on Mar 21, 2008 | 16 comments

Egg-wrapped onigiri lunch

Egg-wrapped onigiri lunch

I woke up early and decided to see how microwaved thin egg sheets (usuyaki tamago, tutorial here) would work as an alternative to nori seaweed wrappers in fake maki-zushi. (Okay, technically if you don’t use flavored sushi rice it’s just an onigiri rice ball.)

Egg-wrapped onigiri lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Mini onigiri rice balls wrapped in a thin egg sheet, mini plum tomatoes, scallop and shrimp cakes (review below), and zucchini with Korean barbecue sauce.

Microwave mini steamerMorning prep time: 18 minutes, which was simply too long for me, even using frozen scallop & shrimp cakes, frozen rice and a frozen egg wrapper that I’d made previously. In the morning I microwaved the rice and egg wrapper (very briefly, on 40% power so as to not actually heat it and make it rubbery), made the onigiri (notes below), and microwaved the zucchini in my microwave mini steamer. (Read on for a review of the scallop and shrimp cakes, packing notes, and cooking notes for the faux makizushi.)

Product Review: I tried out some Jeremiah’s Fine Foods mini scallop and shrimp cakes that I picked up from the freezer case at Costco, thinking they would be similar to the nice crab cakes I found there before. Unfortunately they’re more heavily breaded, more fragile, and not as tasty as the Handy brand crab cakes. They fell apart in Bug’s fingers when he tried to dip them in a sauce at dinner, frustrating him. The crumbling is most pronounced when the little cakes are baked or microwaved (not one of the manufacturer’s recommended cooking techniques) and slightly better when they’re pan-fried. They really only stay together when they’re fried in a lot of oil to produce a crispy exterior, which I’m not enthusiastic about for health reasons. I have to admit being disappointed in both the flavor and texture of these frozen appetizers, and will stick to the lovely crab cakes going forward (which can be quickly microwaved, instead of needing to be fried). My three-year-old enjoyed the scallop & shrimp cakes lightly pan-fried and plain in his bento, though. (See a list of all reviews on Lunch in a Box.)

Freezing cooked rice in plastic wrapCooking: To make the egg-wrapped onigiri, I started with packages of frozen rice that I had stashed in the freezer, wrapped in specialty plastic wrap designed to withstand the high temperatures of microwaving. Knowing that I’m likely to microwave the rice wrapped right in plastic wrap, I feel better using this than more delicate plastic wraps. If I wanted to avoid the issue altogether, I would put the rice in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic container with a lid, or re-heat it in my steamer or rice cooker (Reheat function) until warm. (Click any photo for a larger view.)

Rolled & cut thin omelettes for freezing

In a small bowl, I mixed some salmon-flavored Anpanman furikake into the warmed rice with a spoon. I should have let the frozen egg wrapper defrost naturally in the refrigerator overnight, but I hadn’t planned that far ahead so I carefully defrosted it in my 1200W microwave on 40% power for about 20 seconds, which was enough to soften it without actually heating it up.

Rolling a thin omelette for freezing

After unrolling the defrosted egg wrapper, I just spooned the furikake and rice mixture over two thirds of the egg, and used the plastic wrap that it had been frozen on to help re-roll it as fake maki-zushi. You could also use a makisu bamboo sushi mat to help with the rolling. If I were using nori seaweed as a wrapper, I would wet the end to help seal the roll together. The egg wrapper was a little trickier as it wouldn’t seal on its own. If I were packing this for myself, I might use a sharp, wet knife to cut right through the whole roll (plastic wrap and all), spear them with little food picks or uncooked spaghetti, or use a dab of smushed rice on the end to keep the wrapper closed. As it was, I unwrapped the fake maki-zushi roll and cut it into even pieces with a sharp, wet knife to keep the rice from sticking, and packed the pieces tightly together in the box to help them survive transport.

I’ve also seen egg wrappers used make temaki hand rolls (good how-to video here) in Japanese-language bento cookbooks, sometimes using plastic wrap around the completed roll to keep everything neat and contained when you eat.

Cars bento box for childPacking: The moist zucchini went into a reusable mini silicone baking cup (US$1.50 for a pack of four from Daiso discount store) to keep it away from the dry seafood cakes, and I tucked in a little dog-shaped food pick for little hands (available at Daiso and Ichiban Kan). The lunch is packed in a 360ml Disney Cars bento box, the right size for a three-year-old according to the bento box size guidelines.

Verdict: Thumbs up once I convinced Bug to try the seafood cakes. At preschool he at the egg-wrapped mini onigiri and the zucchini, but left the rest. Evidently he remembered having trouble with the crumbly seafood cakes before, so was hesitant to eat them at school. Once I picked one up to show him they were okay, he dug in and ate them all quite happily. He had a texture issue with the tomatoes, and only wanted to suck the soft insides out of them. I had been looking to try the mini Roma tomatoes I’d heard good things about, but mistakenly picked up mini plum tomatoes instead — these had tougher skins and were not as nice as other little tomatoes I usually use.

FURTHER READING:

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  1. I remember Alton Brown saying that if you fry properly, with the oil at the right temperature and don’t overcook the food, food doesn’t pick up much oil at all. As long as steam is coming out of the food, oil can’t get in. I tend to believe AB because he’s sciency, but it’s your preference, of course. Lovely lunch, as usual!

  2. if you feel like experimenting. Swedish style pancakes are as thin and can be made as round as the usuyaki tamago. I wouldn’t fill them with rice ;), but turned out they do well in a bento, either as a filled crepe-style dish, or a fruit salad wrap. The swedish pancake contains no leavener hence is less bready in its consistency.

  3. Oh, this looks SO yummy! I’ll see if I can come up with a home-made version of the scallop-and-shrimp cake, since I can’t have the gluteny pre-made kind. For some reason, scallops and shrimps sound like an irresistible combination right now.

    Question for you, Biggie: when you were avoiding gluten, what did you use to substitute for panko/breadcrumbs? Potato flakes? Corn meal? I’ve been saving and freezing crumbs of the more crumbly GF breads that I’ve tried (and hated), but I think they’d be too heavy. And the good GF breads that I’ve learned to make get scarfed down right away by the whole family, none left over for crumbs! :(

  4. Biggie, I have to say ‘Thanks!’ for mentioning the microwave mini-steamer. I found one at our local Asian Market & its been a great new gadget! DH & DD like green beans but DS & I do not. The steamer lets me fix them frozen green beans & something else for DS & I. I can also steam green beans in the AM for DDs lunch.

  5. @1 from eudyptes: You’re right, of course, about the AB show. The other issue is that I’m often too lazy to deep fry in the morning — quickly pan-frying or warming something in the microwave doesn’t seem like as much of a production.

  6. @2 from Jessika: Okay, that’s IT, Jessika! You and me, in a kitchen, straight away! I want to pick your brain extensively. Would you consider living in my kitchen bookshelf? :-)

  7. @3 from Alison: When we were avoiding gluten, I usually used homemade breadcrumbs made from frozen scraps of homemade GF bread. All in all, though, I just didn’t bread & fry things that often. Cook’s Illustrated occasionally uses crushed potato chips for their texture, what about adding those to your bag of tricks?

  8. @4 from M.J.: I’m so happy you like your microwave mini steamer! I love mine for morning bento-making, and I have a larger one for dinner prep. It’s so easy to cook small amounts of food in them, I’m definitely a convert.

  9. Crushed potato chips for breading? Brilliant! My one complaint about the potato buds (instant mashed potato flakes) was that they were always kind of bland.I tried to spice up the cornstarch (that goes on before the egg) (that goes on before the breading), but the breading layer was still bland, though nice and crispy.

    My kids adore sour-cream-&-onion potato chips–that’s going to be my next fish-stick breading (if I can hide the bag from them long enough to make the fish sticks)!

    Thanks! (again)

  10. @6, Biggie. Ah you can tell there’s a foodie in me huh ;)?!?

    As for the offer to hang out on your bookshelf; thank you for the offer but I must decline. I fear it would be awfully crowded ;). I’d love to be in a place that has a Japantown though.
    I’ll send you a VERY reliable pancake recipe as soon as i get my brain cells together after all the easter stuff.

  11. I’m a bit confused, I thought romas and plums were the same thing…

  12. @9 from Alison: I haven’t actually tried out the crushed potato chip trick; let us know what you think if you do!

  13. @10 from Jessika: I don’t know, I just got a big new bookshelf that has more room in it — maybe like the capsule hotel experience in Japan? ;-) Looking forward to your pancake recipe; I’ll be sure to try it out!

  14. I love the colors in this one. Eggs and rice are a favorite combination of mine.

  15. @15 from Mimi: Thanks, Mimi! I think the yellow of the eggs really brightens things up, makes it a little cheerful.

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