Today’s Bento

Edamame bento box

New potato, fresh edamame, and scallion salad with lemon and olive oil. Plus sweet summer tomatoes, spicy pickled eggplant, and a soy sauce egg.

As Harris Salat noted recently on The Japanese Food Report, it’s the season for edamame.  Every produce shop and grocery store here is selling large bunches of the beans, which are often still attached to their roots and stems. When fresh, their flavor is superb – very “beany,” for lack of a better word.  You can almost taste the minerals in them.

Simply boiled in salted water, they make a great summer snack with a tall glass of cold beer.  In fact, I happen to have a can of Yebisu (owned by the venerable Sapporo brewery) sitting in my tiny fridge, so dinner tonight may be just that, plus whatever odds and ends are lying about.

However, I also love edamame in salads, especially when paired with other legumes, fresh herbs, and alliums. Last night I decided to make an edamame-centric salad for my bento box lunch.  Some basil and purple shiso would’ve been nice additions, but those plants are three hours away in Matsumoto. Instead, I made do with some lemon zest and plenty of black pepper.  That was fine, because it allowed the flavor of the fresh beans to stand out.  The salad is so simple and adaptable that you don’t really need a recipe, but I’ve written up my version anyway. See below for more!

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Eating in Transit

[In keeping with the current theme of transit and travel, I thought a post on Japan’s version of fast food meals would be appropriate. Alas, I don’t have any photos of the meals I’m about to discuss, so you’ll have to use your imagination.]

To me, food eaten “on the go” generally has a negative connotation, conjuring up images of wan French fries, prepackaged sandwiches composed of a slice of ham and an inordinate amount of mayonnaise, and mealy apples purchased in an attempt to be healthy. However, fast food here in Japan is quite a different story.

Early in my stay here, Steven and I were at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and needed to grab a bite of lunch before a flight. He suggested that we eat before going through security, because the food options would be better. I found myself wondering, “how much better could it really be?  It’s an airport, right?”  After browsing a number of takeaway shops, we settled in the food court, which was populated by about five restaurants, each serving a different specialty. None of the offerings were particularly fancy – there was katsudon (a bowl of rice topped with a fried pork cutlet and egg), karē raisu (curry rice), soba, and that famous Japanese fast food, ramen. When I peeked behind the counters of each shop to take a closer look at the food, I was amazed by what I saw.

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