Mary Makes Bento Boxes
Mary Helen is the brains behind Mary Makes Dinner and, like myself, a born-and-raised New Englander now living in Austin. She is a professionally trained cook specializing in French, Japanese, and Chinese cuisines who enjoys teaching. Last month she put on a demonstration on making several components of the Japanese Bento Box.
The first dish Mary prepared was a simple miso soup. After boiling dashi (a type of soup stock) with kombu (edible kelp) to a boil it is brought down to a simmer and the kombu is removed. Miso paste is then added before the mixture is brought up to a boil and back down to a simmer again. From there it can be dished out and tofu, wakame (edible seaweed) and scallions can be added before serving.
The rice is mixed with rice vinegar, salt and sugar before being formed by hand or pressed into a mold. They are then put into a pan with a little oil and are brushed lightly with soy sauce and cooked until both sides are golden brown.
Different versions of grains (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, etc) could be added to the mixture. The rice cakes can be stuffed and Mary offered examples of avocado, pickles, kimchi, smoked fish or marinated tofu.
I hadn’t heard of daifuku before but now I am on the search for it. Made of mochiko (glutinous rice flour), sugar, water, a little cornstarch with anko (sweet red bean paste) for a filling. The cooking process involves mixing, heating (which was helped by microwaving) and then forming the daifuku around the anko. With that recipe you can pretty much experiement away. Apparently it is popular to mix food coloring with the mochiko or replacing the water with fruit juice or replacing the filling with fruit or ice cream.
Mary Helen is a fount of information and experience and she is enthusiastic to share what she knows. Her enthusiasm is to share it. I would recommend taking any of her classes.