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In Tokyo, a Michelin Chef Gets into the Bento Business

In Tokyo, a Michelin Chef Gets into the Bento Business

Michelin chef Shintaro Esaki and former banker Osamu Ito will bring diet bento boxes to Tokyo

Michelin-rated chef Shintaro Esaki and his business partner will create diet-oriented bento boxes for Tokyo.

Michelin chef Shintaro Esaki and former securities banker Osamu Ito are going into the bento business together. Ito recently left Morgan Stanley to become the CEO of Crowdfunding Inc., a Tokyo-based company that will fund online startups. According to Business Week, Ito is seeking to raise 35 million yen ($345,135 USD) to bring about a bento empire, supervised by Esaki, whose Tokyo restaurant of the same name has three Michelin stars.

The team plans to sell 50 million yen worth of the diet-oriented, low-calorie and low-sugar lunch boxes, within the first year of business. Investors would receive about 10 to 13 percent of the annual profits, according to Ito. To begin, the “Oishi Plus” bento boxes will start selling at about 880 yen each (about $8.68 USD) in Tokyo.

Ito’s partnership with Esaki is part of a larger endeavor by the former banker to make it easier for Japanese investors to become involved in meaningful business ventures. Ito told Business Week that “Providing capital to those who are in dire need at appropriate times is the role of financial firms,” and that he was excited to be able to support “projects that will set the trend in the new era.”


Peruvian Restaurants in Tokyo

“Food is culture, and we need to listen to it.” The words of celebrity chef Robert Irvine seem particularly relevant when we think of Peruvian cuisine and its history. Colonization, slavery and immigration influenced the country’s diverse culinary landscape that we know today: creative blends of indigenous Inca recipes and native ingredients with European, African, Chinese and Japanese dishes , cooking methods and flavors.

Food cultures like nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian cuisine) or chifa (Chinese-Peruvian cuisine), then, are more than just “fusion.” This label suggests these dishes are mere trends, something a stylish new restaurant brings to a city’s most fashionable foodies. The term risks undermining the historical, cultural, economical and political significance that these dishes were born from, and the lives, cultures and identities of the immigrant communities who developed them.

Whizz back across the Pacific to Japan, and there’s a whole landscape of Peruvian restaurants that have made their home in Tokyo. And with the dishes they’re cooking, these establishments are not only bringing the dishes of Peru to the capital, but they’re also sharing the story of this important cultural past.

In terms of flavor, Peruvian cuisine is a craft of juxtaposition. Hot and cold, acidic and starchy, robust and delicate. Take ceviche , for example, a traditional Peruvian dish that celebrates the mild sweetness of raw fish by pairing it with tangy, spiced lime juice. Or lomo saltado, sirloin strips flavored with a Chinese-inspired soy sauce and vinegar marinade, served with a side of French fries.

Whether you’re totally new to the cuisine or you grew up with the joys of ceviche, causa (potato casserole) and aji de gallina, here’s a list of Peruvian restaurants in Tokyo where you can savor all the culinary classics of this South American country.


Nakiryu

Nakiryu was awarded a Michelin Star in 2017. Chef Kazumasa Saito's years of experience working in a Chinese restaurant inspired him to create the perfect tantanmen (a spicy noodle dish originating in southern China), the restaurant's bestseller. Nakiryu's ramen bowls all use the same base soup—a rich blend of chicken, beef-bone broth, oyster, and vegetables—but are distinguished by the sauce and other ingredients. Everything, from noodles to sesame paste, is handmade.

To ensure that there's enough ramen for everyone, customers can only order one bowl, but can request a larger serving of noodles for an additional payment.


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A Lounge For All Senses

As is expected of Japan&rsquos national carrier, the curated culinary experience begins when you check into its relaxing first and business class lounges. The food menu comprises freshly baked bread by Maison Kayser, soup by Soup Stock Tokyo and cookies by Qu&rsquoil Fait Bon, as well as the airline&rsquos popular beef curry. You can even watch as hand-rolled sushi is freshly prepared in front of you. The food is complemented by equally stellar drinks&mdashHasegawa sake is available at the first class lounge, along with Laurent-Perrier champagne.

Michelin Stars In The Sky

The decadent dishes at the lounge are just a glimpse of the haute cuisine that awaits in the sky&mdasha front-row seat to rare fine dining experiences that offers access even to those hard-to-book restaurants on land.

Those flying first class can look forward to culinary creations by Hideki Ishikawa, who has spearheaded several restaurants including the eponymous Ishikawa, which was awarded three Michelin stars, as well as restaurants Kohaku and Ren. He is accompanied by his Kohaku apprentice Kouji Koizumi, who was recognised as the youngest chef to work in a three Michelin-starred establishment in 2015. Meanwhile, Sugalabo chef-owner, Yosuke Suga, who trained under Joël Robuchon, offers his seasonal French-Japanese dishes on board.

A Table For One, Reserved

Those in business class can enjoy the authentic offerings of Jun Kurogi, the chef‑owner behind Kurogi, who claims his secret to success is cooking with a key ingredient&mdash"sincerity". Tasting the dishes created by what is known as one of the most difficult restaurants to reserve in Tokyo is a breeze from your seat on Japan Airlines.

Travellers can also indulge in the creations of Shinobu Namae, grand chef of two Michelin‑starred L&rsquoEffervescence, a restaurant that has been recognised for its commitment to sustainable culinary practices so much so it won the inaugural Sustainable Restaurant Award at Asia&rsquos 50 Best Restaurants 2018.

A Curated Array Of Bottles

Of course, an impressive food menu would be incomplete without the drink offerings to match, which is why the airline boasts a luxurious selection of wines, sakes, teas and champagnes. In first and business class, wine bottles are all hand-selected by Japan Airlines wine advisers and masters of wine, Kenichi Ohashi and Motohiro Okoshi, while a variety of sakes and shochus are also available.

First class passengers can enjoy prestige champagnes such as Salon 2007 and Louis Roederer Cristal 2009, as well as Royal Blue Tea, a luxury bottled tea that is cold-brewed using the mizudashi technique, essentially infusing its flavour to fresh water for a period of three to seven days.

All In The Details

Immaculate attention has been paid to all the details of your meal, right down to the bread, which is prepared specially by Maison Kayser for the airline&rsquos Western-style meals. Founded by Éric Kayser&mdashknown as the top bread maker in Paris, where he first started his business&mdashMaison Kayser swiftly soared in popularity since opening its first store in Tokyo in 2001. The finale of your meal is also courtesy of another French master, chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin, who has created original chocolate flavours exclusively for the airline. From the welcome drink down to the dessert, travellers on Japan Airlines are assured of a culinary journey even before you arrive at your destination.


A Michelin-Star Chef’s Guide to Dining in Tokyo

“Fearless” is one word that describes Tokyo’s epicurean landscape. Just set aside its crown for having more Michelin stars than any other city, and consider how it earned that status in the first place: through a reverence for high-quality ingredients, boundless innovation, and a determination to perfect both Japanese and international culinary techniques—sometimes within a single dish. It’s these characteristics that make Tokyo one of the best food cities in the world.

Flying ANA, photographer Sam Horine was well-primed for his upcoming assignment in Tokyo with an exquisite kaiseki-style meal and sake pairing at 30,000 feet. While the inevitable jet lag was one ingredient unwelcome on his plate upon landing, a surprising encounter with Michelin-star chef Yoshihiro Narisawa produced more than a photographic study, but the chef’s personal recommendations on where Horine could experience the best of Tokyo’s dynamic restaurant scene.

Whether you’re flying from Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York City, all nonstop routes on ANA provide a stellar start to any Japan food pilgrimage, with a 5-star dining experience that leverages the expertise of master chefs and beverage specialists from Tokyo and beyond.

According to chef Narisawa, every plate dispatched from his kitchen is rooted to the earth. That means any meal at his eponymous restaurant will be as grounding as a barefoot stroll through the forest. Narisawa sources nearly every ingredient from the Japanese landscape, a commitment that makes him the creator of innovative satoyama cuisine. It’s a word that joins sato (living place) and yama (mountain), referring to “an embodiment of sustainable living where people and nature coexist in a symbiotic relationship,” says Narisawa. Given that Japan is an island, this super-sweet spot has sustained local culinary tradition for centuries. While Narisawa doesn’t know of other chefs adapting this approach to cooking, he hopes more will, “as it’s good for human beings.”

Nothing is stopping this chef from importing ingredients from the farthest reaches of the earth Narisawa simply finds no need to do so. He reckons that the future of Japanese cuisine lies in the connection city dwellers have to their natural environment. Despite the indelible influence of Robuchon, Girardet, and Bocuse, under whom he worked for years in France, Narisawa has earned his own iconic status—and two Michelin stars—by turning inward to his native land. “I learned from those chefs the spirit of perfecting ingredient choices and that nobody should accept compromise,” he says.

Chef Narisawa prioritizes ingredients that can be foraged at the current moment, which renders a hyper-seasonal variance to his menu. You can, however, always count on something mind-blowingly original coming your way. Take the emblematic “Bread of the Forest,” a bread course which is fermented, then baked for 10 minutes, tableside, in a stone bowl under an oak lid. And with every course, you are led deeper into the woods. Take the signature plate “Essence of the Forest,” which arrives like a mossy sliver of earth. Composed of herbal tempura, artichoke skin, and kumquat, then sprinkled with soy pulp and tea powders, it’s all brought together by oak-infused water served from a cedar cup. One of his most daring dishes features fugu, the notoriously poisonous pufferfish that, if prepared incorrectly, is more toxic than cyanide. Japanese chefs require a license to prepare it, which Narisawa has possessed for some time. Deep-fried and partnered with tart sudachi citrus, the fish is served unadorned on blank butcher paper. “I would like guests to feel the roots of Japanese food culture through my own unique expression, not in the formal representation Japanese kaiseki dishes,” he adds.

The very next day, Horine set off to try Narisawa’s recommendations.

Many of Tokyo’s restaurants specialize in a particular dish, ingredient, or cooking technique, and that’s usually all they have on the menu—that is, if there even is a menu. In the back alleys of Arakicho is Ubuka, where the spotlight is on hardshell crustaceans. This is the spot where Tokyo chefs, including Narisawa, flock for seafood. “This young chef does everything by himself, purchasing ingredients, preparation, cooking, cleaning—everything,” says Narisawa about Kunihiro Kato, whom he first met at a dinner event several years back.

Expect utterly exquisite preparations of rare bottom-feeders sourced from the waters around Japan, like the elusive deepwater Paralomis multispina king crab. “I opened up this restaurant six years ago simply because I love crustaceans,” confesses Kato while sharpening a palm-sized blade on his favorite whetstone, “and new recipes just flow.”

After training at a ryotei (a traditional Japanese high-end restaurant) in Kyoto, and a brief stint in New Zealand, Kato ended up at crab restaurant chain Kani Doraku, where crustaceans were always on the menu. At Ubuka, crab dishes are accompanied with their shells to draw a deeper connection with the star ingredient, like snow soup with shrimp, ostrich fern, and sansho bud. With about five tables and unpretentious decor, the soul of the restaurant revolves around its tiny kitchen, especially when it sends out an expected seasonal dish. Kato’s most exotic find? “Blunt slipper lobster, which was prepared as sashimi and tempura," he says. "Everyone loved it.”

Another one of Narisawa’s recommendations to Horine was Il Ristorante Luca Fantin, located in Bvlgari’s Ginza Tower. The Italian jeweler’s influence is clear upon arrival with a glitzy dining room: “One can feel an extraordinary atmosphere,” says Narisawa, who often dines there. “Even better, chef Luca knows very well how to use Japanese ingredients in Italian dishes.”

Il Ristorante Luca Fantin is at the helm of Michelin-star chef Luca Fantin, who relocated from Italy to Tokyo nearly a decade ago, determined to elevate the perception of his cuisine to a Japanese audience. “They tend to think of it as ‘mama’s food,’” he contends, which influenced him to initially ship ingredients all the way from his home country. Still sensing like something was missing on the menu, Fantin eventually immersed himself deeper into Japan’s underground restaurant scene. “I started traveling the country searching for ingredients. Visiting different regions, I found traditionally European items that locals were rarely exposed to, like porcini mushroom, caviar, and artichoke,” recalls Fantin.

He learned that spiking his traditional Italian dishes with a Japanese twist enriched them even further. The chef does not deny being an Italian culinary purist at heart—“but I would say that I am influenced by locally produced ingredients [that are traditionally used in Italian cuisine] and Japanese conservation techniques, especially taking care of fish to serve it in a better way. I feel like, here, I am encouraged to focus more on the ingredients.”

At Il Ristorante Luca Fnatin, those superior ingredients easily outshine the sparkle of the ornate chandeliers overhead. Whether you’re twirling organic Monograno Felicetti spaghetti with uni (sea urchin) or sliding scallop carpaccio with puntarelle chicory onto your tongue, know that Fantin’s menu always evolves with the seasons. “Seasonality is our holy bible when creating our menu," he says. "We create dishes based on the ingredients, not the other way around."

Narisawa describes his third pick as “simple in appearance, but with very sophisticated cuisine.” After serendipitously sitting beside Ryuen’s chef Kazuyuki Suhara at a local sushi bar, they became fast friends, and now often dine at each other’s establishments. Like many other chefs, Suhara believes he was always destined to work in the kitchen, with his childhood greatly influencing his culinary perspective. Suhara recalls his father taking him to the long-shuttered Dai Ichiro, one of the few Chinese restaurants at the time, which eventually led him to training in a local Shanghai-style kitchen for several years. In 1993, then-28-year-old Suhara opened up his own Chinese-inspired restaurant in Asakusa, the neighborhood in which he grew up.

For seven years, Ryuen had primarily focused on Chinese noodle dishes, but as its clientele became more international, which included esteemed chefs like Il Ristorante’s Luca Fantin, Suhara began to consider more diverse techniques and flavors. Today, his rich nine-course menu changes almost monthly, with a distinct attention to seasonal, mostly hand-picked produce from local farms. However, there are two highlights that diners keep coming back for: the chef’s signature sweet and sour pork, made with three vinegars and two kinds of tomato, and his truffle eggs with chicken, king crab, and French black truffle. While many of Suhara’s dishes still reflect his affinity, and perhaps nostalgia, for traditional Chinese cooking, it’s all graced with his experimental touch and a clear affection for Japanese ingredients.


BENTO RECIPES from Episode 14 / Season 3. Age-Teri Bento (For adults 521kcal For kids 350 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes enough to pack into 2 bentos

For sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons dashi stock
  • 4 tablespoons 3-S sauce
  • 10 grams ginger (julienned)
  • sesame seeds (for garnish)

For frying

  • 130 grams cod (cut into bite-size chunks)
  • 40 grams kabocha (sliced)
  • 40 grams carrot (sliced at an angle)
  • 60 grams eggplant (quartered)
  • 20 grams shishito peppers
  • 40 grams baby corn
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoons potato starch
  • vegetable oil (for frying)

Directions

1. Bring a heavy bottomed pot with at least 1-inch of vegetable oil up to 340 degrees F.

2. Prepare the vegetables ensuring you dry them well with paper towels.

3. Sprinkle the cod with salt and then dust it with the potato starch.

4. Fry the vegetables and cod until cooked through. You don't want to brown them too much.

5. Add the 3-S sauce, dashi stock, and ginger to a frying pan and bring the mixture to a boil. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the fried vegetables and cod and toss to coat evenly with the sauce.

6. Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 14 / Season 3. Inarizushi Bento (Ueno, Tokyo)

Ueno is located in the center of Tokyo. Ueno Park is famous for its spectacular cherry blossoms. Traditional arts have also flourished in this area since the Edo period.

At this 160-year old theater in Ueno, there are small tables at each seat. Guests can enjoy performances and eat bento at the same time.

This bento, with inari-sushi and sushi rolls, is the traditional style eaten at the theater.

The bento are made at this long-established inari-sushi shop.

Inari-sushi are known for their sweet and savory taste. This shop simmers fried-tofu in a mixture of different sugars and soy sauces.

Sour and salty rice is packed inside the sweet fried-tofu to make the inari-sushi. Marriage of two distinctive flavors makes inari-sushi taste good.

Maki's Inari-sushi Bento Recipe

Maki will make a cute inari-sushi bento with the Seno family, who live in Ueno.

First, fried-tofu are cut in half and opened up to form pouches.

Next, the fried-tofu are simmered in 3S sauce (soy sauce + sake + sugar).

More sugar is added to bring out the sweetness.

They're simmered for 15 minutes.

Sushi rice is then packed inside.

Maki's secret for making a cute inari-sushi is to shape the corners into animal ears.

Maki's inari-sushi bento bursting with cute animals is ready to eat.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 13 / Season 3. Triple Kara-age Bento (For 2 adults and a child 1600 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

Ingredients

  • 300 g cooked white rice
  • 280 g chicken thigh
  • Oil for deep-frying
  • Flour

1. Trim off the chicken fat and cut into bite-size pieces (approx. 40 g).
2. Grate the garlic and ginger.

Soy Sauce Kara-age

1. Place the soy sauce, garlic, ginger and 1/3 of the chicken in a food storage bag. Rub the seasoning into the chicken and set aside in the fridge overnight.

Salted Kara-age

1. Pour 200 ml of water into a food storage bag. Add 1/3 of the chicken and 10 g of salt. Rub well and set aside in the fridge overnight.
*Remarks: You can adjust the marinade time and flavors to suit your own tastes.

Curry Kara-age

1. Place the yogurt, curry powder and 1/3 of the chicken in a food storage bag and rub together. Set aside in the fridge overnight.

Direction: Deep-fried vegetables and kara-age

1. Deep-fry the purple sweet potatoes, asparagus and red bell peppers over low to medium heat. Deep-fry slices of sweet potato cut into kitty faces.
2. Dust the chicken with flour.
3. Heat the oil to 170 degrees Celsius. Deep-fry the salted kara-age for 4-5 minutes. Remove and drain. Deep-fry the soy sauce kara-age, also for 4-5 minutes. Remove, drain and finally deep-fry the curry kara-age for the same amount of time.

Direction: Kitty Onigiri

1. Make six salt-flavored rice balls (50-60 g each).
2. Wrap strips of nori around three of the rice balls and top with baby corn.
3. Top the remaining three with the deep-fried kitty faces.
4. Cut out the face parts from sliced cheese and nori.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 13 / Season 3. Midori Croquette (Brazil)

Sao Paulo, Brazil is a mega-city in South America. It's home to one of the largest communities of Japanese people outside of Japan.

In stores, lots of sushi and Japanese ingredients are sold. Bento are popular with many people here, not just those of Japanese descent.

In the last few years, a bento delivery service in Sao Paulo has been gaining attention.

Its bento are full of a colorful variety of Japanese foods and are packed in Japanese-style boxes.

Ana Barvelli, a third-generation Japanese Brazilian, makes the bento.

Ana inherited her love of cooking from her grandmother Toshiko, a first-generation Japanese Brazilian.

Ana's Midori Croquettes

Taioba leaves are popular in Brazil. They are full of vitamins and taste like spinach.

Today, Ana and her nephew Joao will make her grandmother's dish and add a Brazilian flair.

First, they add taioba and boiled water to stir-fried onions. They stir-fry everything until the leaves become tender.

They chop the taioba until it becomes a paste.

The taioba paste is mixed with mashed potatoes to make the croquette base.

Ana shapes the croquettes into bite-size pieces, dusts them with flour, and fries them.

The inside is a surprisingly fresh green.

Joao has named this the "midori croquette" bento. In Japanese, "midori" means green.

The recipe passed down to Ana from her grandmother will continue to evolve and be passed down to future generations.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 12 / Season 3. Katsu Sandwich Bento (1020 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes enough to pack into 2 bentos

Other bento items:

Tonkatsu

  • vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 500 grams pork rib or loin chop (2 chops)
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 60 grams panko

Tonkatsu sauce

  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Sandwich

Directions

1. Add 2-inches (5cm) of oil to a heavy-bottomed pot and pre-heat to 320 F (160 C).

2. Sprinkle both sides of the pork with salt and pepper.

3. Dust the pork with an even coating of flour.

4. Dip the cutlet in the egg, coating evenly, and then roll it around in the panko to form a crust around the outside.

5. When the oil is up to temperature, fry the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 F (60 C).

6.While the pork is frying, prepare the tonkatsu sauce by adding the Worcestershire sauce, honey, ketchup, and soy sauce to a small saucepan and bringing the mixture to a boil.

7. Lightly toast the bread.

8. When the Tonkatsu is cooked through, transfer them to a wire rack and drizzle both sides with the sauce.

9. To assemble the sandwich, spread some mustard on a piece of toasted bread and place a pork cutlet in the center of it. Top the meat with some cabbage and then cover with another piece of bread.

10. Press down to form the bread around the cutlet and then slice the sandwich in half. Trim the sandwich to fit in your bento box and repeat to assemble the second sandwich.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 12 / Season 3. Hot Dog Onigiri Bento (921 kcal,4 kinds) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

Hot Dog Onigiri

  • Beef Teriyaki+Korean-style Carrot Salad+lettuce
  • Tuna mayonnaise
  • Scrambled eggs+lettuce
  • Weiner sausage+lettuce
  • Carp streamer sausages
  • Cherry tomatoes

Beef Teriyaki

Korean-style Carrot Salad

Tuna mayonnaise

Scrambled eggs

Others

  • Wiener sausages (preferably without casing)
  • Nori
  • Lettuce
  • Salt
  • 400-450 g cooked rice

1. In a bowl, mix the rice with a pinch of salt.
2. Make four hot-dog shaped onigiri.
3. Wrap in nori.

Direction: Tuna mayonnaise

1. Drain the tuna and mix with mayonnaise.

Direction: Beef Teriyaki

1. Cut the ginger into shreds and add to a frying pan along with the 3S sauce.
2. Bring to a boil, add the beef and simmer until the sauce has thickened.

Direction: Korean-style Carrot Salad

1. Cut the carrot into matchsticks and parboil for 30-60 seconds.
2. Drain and sprinkle with salt, pepper, sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Direction: Weiner sausages

1. Score the sausages and boil or pan-fry briefly.

Direction: Carp streamer sausages

1. Make a V-shaped incision on one end to form the tail.
2. Cut off the tip of the other end and use a straw to punch out the eyes.
3. Make a criss-cross incision along the length of the sausage and boil.

Direction: Assemble the Hot Dog Onigiri

1. Make a lengthwise incision along each onigiri.
2. Stuff one with lettuce, Korean-style carrot salad and beef teriyaki.
3. Stuff another with tuna mayonnaise.
4. Stuff one with lettuce and scrambled eggs.
5. Stuff the remaining one with lettuce and sausage.

Decorate with the carp streamer sausage and cherry tomato.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 12/ Season 3. Shumai Bento (Yokohama)

Yokohama, a city where many different cultures blend together, is located close to Tokyo.

Yokohama's Chinatown is one of the largest in the world.

Dim sum has given rise to Yokohama's shumai bento. This popular bento has been a hit for the past 65 years.

Dried scallops are the secret ingredient in the delicious shumai filling.

The combination of ground pork and dried scallops creates a delicious pairing that makes the shumai flavorful, even when eaten cold.

Another secret to the shumai's deliciousness is the bento box. It is made from thin sheets of Kyogi wood, which absorb any excess moisture.

Maki's Shumai Bento Recipe

Determined to make her own shumai, Maki goes to a local shop to buy its homemade XO sauce. It's made with scallops and shrimp.

Maki mixes ground pork with onions, potato starch, and the special XO sauce to make her filling.

Maki's shumai recipe is kid-friendly, too.

The meat filling is rolled into small balls.

Instead of wrapping the filling, Maki's opted to slice the shumai wrappers into strips. This makes it easy for the kids to help out.

For a dash of color, the shumai are topped with corn, edamame, or bell pepper.

Cooking the shumai in a frying pan gives them a wonderful brown color.

This bento is perfect for kids.

Pairing the shumai with a few bite-size onigiri completes this easy and delicious bento!

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 11 / Season 3. Okonomiyaki Bento (701 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes enough to pack into 3-4 bentos

Other bento items:

  • Strawberries (large benihoppe)
  • Orange (benimadona)
  • Rice
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Aonori
  • Katsuoubushi
  • Benishouga
  • Mayonnaise

Honey Mustard Sauce

Batter

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 150 grams cabbage
  • 90 grams all-purpose flour (about 2/3 US cups)
  • 24 grams potato starch (about 2 tablespoons)

Japanese-style Okonomiyaki

  • 70 grams shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 2 scallions (chopped)
  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Aonori (green laver)
  • Katsuoubushi (dried skipjack-tuna flakes)
  • Benishouga (red ginger)

Western-style Okonomiyaki

  • 50 grams bacon
  • 30 grams melting cheese (shredded)
  • 5 grams parsley (3 sprigs, minced)

For Frying

Directions

1. To make the honey mustard sauce, whisk the honey and dijon mustard together in a small bowl and set aside.

2. To make the batter, whisk together the eggs, water, and salt in a bowl until evenly combined.

3. In another bowl, add the cabbage, flour, and potato starch and toss until the cabbage is evenly coated with the flour mixture.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the cabbage mixture and stir until just combined. It's okay if there are still some small lumps of flour, but do not overmix.

5. Add half the batter to a second bowl, and then mix in the shrimp and scallions into one bowl and the bacon, cheese and parsley into the second bowl.

6. Heat a frying pan over medium heat until hot, and then add a splash of oil.

7. Using a spoon, scoop the okonomiyaki mixture into the frying pan, dividing each one up into 3-4 okonomiyaki (depending on the size of your bento box.)

8. Fry on one side until it's set and flip it over. When you flip it over, press down on the top with a spatula to flatten it into a pancake. Continue frying on this side until it's browned on the bottom side and then flip it over once more.

9. Brown the first side, and then transfer the okonomiyaki to a plate to cool.

10. To serve, top the Japanese-style Okonomiyaki with okonomiyaki sauce, aonori, katsuoubushi and benishouga . Top the Western-style Okonomiyaki with honey mustard and minced parsley to garnish.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 11 / Season 3. Mayo-yaki Chicken Bento (For adults 617 kcal, For kids 333 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 260 g cooked rice
  • Mayo-yaki chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber, daikon radish and carrot marinated in sushi vinegar
  • Yellow and red cherry tomatoes
  • Gomashio (a mixture of salt and black sesame seeds)
  • 125 g cooked rice
  • Mayo-yaki chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber, daikon radish and carrot marinated in sushi vinegar
  • Red cherry tomatoes

For mother hen and chick decoration

Mayo-yaki ChickenIngredients:

  • 1 chicken thigh
  • 1 eggplant
  • Flour, as needed
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

1. Cut the chicken into bite-size (approx. 25 g) pieces and season with salt and pepper. Dust with flour.
2. Use a vegetable peeler to peel lengthwise strips of skin from the eggplant. Soak in water for a few minutes, roll up in plastic wrap and microwave (600 W) until tender. Cut into bite-size pieces.
3. Heat a frying pan and melt the mayonnaise. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Drizzle soy sauce and lemon juice over the chicken and coat evenly.
4. Remove the chicken and stir-fry the eggplant in the remaining sauce.

Bento sides

Boiled broccoli
Red cherry tomato

Cucumber, daikon radish and carrot marinated in sushi vinegar

1. Cut the daikon, cucumber and carrot into bite-size pieces.
2. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the vegetables and set aside for 10 minutes.
3. Rinse and lightly squeeze out the excess moisture. Place in a food storage bag, add sushi vinegar and marinate overnight (for 8-10 hours).

Decoration (mother hen and chick)

1. Cut a hard-boiled egg into slices.
2. Cut a piece of carrot into slices, place in a pot of water and boil for 4 minutes.
3. Use the carrot slices to make the hen's comb, two beaks and the chick's wings
4. Cut out the hen's wings from the sliced cheese.
5. Use nori to make two sets of eyes and feet.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 11/ Season 3. Kyaraben (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and has a population of 10 million people.

Bungkus is an old tradition in Indonesia.
Ready-made dishes are wrapped together with a serving of rice, making it similar to bento.

Around lunchtime, the streets are full of people looking to buy bungkus.

Today, Japanese kyaraben, or character bentos, have become a popular trend for events like birthday parties.

Lukman Setiawan, the man behind the kyaraben boom in Indonesia, launched his kyaraben catering service in 2010.

Setiawan believes that there's a common thread between Japanese kyaraben and Indonesia's traditional ceremonial dish, Tumpeng.

Rizki's Kyaraben Recipe

Bento maker Rizki has come to the local and traditional Simpasa Market to buy ingredients for a surprise kyaraben for her family.

The main dish, beef balado, is made of beef seasoned with garlic powder, coriander powder, and white pepper.

The seasoned beef is parboiled before being deep-fried.

The balado paste is made with tomato, garlic, and plenty of red peppers.

The fried beef and balado paste are boiled with palm sugar and lime leaves until all the liquid has evaporated. The sweet, spicy, and aromatic blend is a trademark of Indonesian cuisine.

Rizki boils cassava leaves to make the character's hair.

The faces of her kyaraben characters are made using a special hole punch for nori.

Rizki's simple and adorable smiley face kyaraben is complete!

Her family is all smiles, too!

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 10 / Season 3. Keema Curry Bento (438 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes enough to pack into 2 bentos

For Rice

  • 160 grams rice (1 rice cooker cup)
  • 180 milliliters chicken stoc
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 20 grams raisins

For Keema

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 grams ginger (minced)
  • 6 grams garlic (minced)
  • 70 grams onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon Japanese curry powder
  • 50 grams sweet apple (grated)
  • 100 grams tomato (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 225 grams lean ground beef
  • 100 grams frozen green peas

For Bento:

Directions

1. To make the rice, wash the rice until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and add it to a pot along with the chicken stock, turmeric and raisins. Cover with a lid and bring the mixture to a boil.

2. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat and let the rice steam while you cook the keema.

4. For the keema curry, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and then add the oil, ginger and garlic. Fry this mixture until very fragrant and just starting to brown.

5. Add the onions and saute them until they are translucent and just starting to brown.

6. Add the curry powder, and saute until the curry powder is fragrant (about 20 seconds).

7. Add the grated apple, tomatoes, soy sauce and salt and then turn up the heat to high.

8. When most of the liquid has evaporated, add the beef and use a spatula to break up the beef up.

9. Continue stir-frying until most of the liquid had evaporated and the beef is dry and crumbly. Add the green peas and stir-fry until the peas are warmed through.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 10 / Season 3. Ham-katsu Bento (For adults 701 kcal, For kids 403 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 260 g cooked rice
  • Ham-katsu
  • Boiled broccoli
  • Fried potatoes
  • Salt-massaged cabbage and cucumber with lemon juice
  • Gomashio (a mixture of salt and black sesame seeds)
  • Lemon
  • Leaf lettuce for use as partitions
  • 140 g cooked rice
  • Ham-katsu
  • Boiled broccoli
  • Fried potatoes
  • Salt-massaged cabbage and cucumber with lemon juice
  • Gomashio (a mixture of salt and black sesame seeds)
  • Lemon
  • Decoration: caterpillar made with slices of white and yellow cheese and cucumber cut into rounds.
  • Leaf lettuce for use as partitions

Ham-katsuIngredients:

  • Shredded cabbage, as desired
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1.5 slices cheese
  • 6 slices ham
  • 2 fried eggs (to sandwich in between the ham)
  • Short pasta, as needed to secure the ham-katsu
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Beaten egg (for the breading)
  • Flour
  • Oil for deep-frying

Directions:

1. Sprinkle salt over the shredded cabbage and set aside to sweat and soften.
2. Sandwich the salt-massaged cabbage and cheese between two slices of ham. Skewer all four corners with pasta to hold in place.
3. Sandwich one of the fried eggs between two slices of ham and repeat the above process to hold in place. Do the same with the remaining fried egg.
4. Dust the ham-katsu with flour, dip in the beaten egg and coat with breadcrumbs.
5. Heat the oil to 170 degrees Celsius and deep-fry the ham-katsu until both sides are golden brown.

Bento sidesFried Potatoes

Parboil the potatoes and deep-fry using the same oil as the ham-katsu.

Bento sidesDirections: Salt-massaged cabbage and cucumber with lemon juice

1. Cut the cucumber into thin rounds, sprinkle with salt and set aside to sweat.
2. Mix with the salt-massaged cabbage left over from making the ham-katsu and toss with lemon juice.

Decoration (caterpillar)

1. Use a round cutter to cut out circles from slices of yellow and white cheese. Cut the cucumber into rounds.
2. Place the cheese and cucumber circles over the rice to form a caterpillar.
3. Use black sesame seeds for the legs and feelers, nori for the eyes and mouth.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 10/ Season 3. Kinmedai Bento (Odawara, Kanagawa)

Odawara is located only an hour away from Tokyo. The famous Odawara Castle is known for being the closest castle to Tokyo with a complete main tower (donjon).

A thriving port city, Odawara is also famous for its abundance of seafood. Fatty and delicious kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) is especially popular.

This kinmedai sushi bento is sold at the station. It contains rice topped with pieces of seared kinmedai.

The kinmedai is lightly pickled and then seared, which gives the skin a crispy texture and mouthwatering aroma.

Searing also brings out the umami trapped between the skin and the meat, as well as further improves the fish's mouthfeel.

Thanks to this method of preparation, the kinmedai's skin and meat melt in your mouth, making it easy to eat.

Maki's Kinmedai Bento Recipe

Maki buys some gorgeous kinmedai from a fish store in Odawara.

Kamaboko, another local Odawara specialty, is a traditional food made of fish paste. It's a standard side dish in bento, so Maki wants to use it alongside her kinmedai.

At this long-established kamaboko store, it's popular for tourists to try making their own kamaboko. Maki prepares some for her bento.

This time, local fish cuisine expert Yoko Chida helps Maki make her bento.

The kinmedai will be prepared tatsuta-age style. The fish is sliced skin-on, sprinkled with salt and potato starch, and then deep-fried.

Although simple, this cooking method showcases the kinmedai skin's delicious umami.

Now for Maki's handmade kamaboko. An incision is made into a thick slice, and then a small rolled-up piece of pink kamaboko is placed inside.

The finished kamaboko pieces are shaped like beautiful flowers.

Maki's colorful bento packed with Odawara's seafood specialties is complete! The red and white colors look wonderful together.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 9 / Season 3. Chicken Nanban Bento (663 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes enough to pack into 2 bentos

Other bento items

  • Tartar sauce
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Fried green beans
  • Sliced small ripe tomatoes
  • White rice

Tartar Sauce

  • 1 hard boiled egg (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon celery (small dice)
  • 1 tablespoon scallion (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • salt (to taste)
  • ground white pepper (to taste)

Nanban Sauce

Chicken

  • vegetable oil
  • 250 grams chicken thighs (cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg white (beaten in a bowl)

Directions

1. Mix all the ingredients for the tartar sauce together in a bowl and season to taste with salt and white pepper.

2. To make the nanban sauce, add the soy sauce, sake, and sugar to a small pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue boiling until the sauce no longer smells like alcohol. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir-in the vinegar. Transfer this sauce to a large bowl.

3. Add 2-inches of oil to a heavy bottomed pot and heat to 340 degrees F (170 C).

4. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper and then dust with an even coating of flour.

5. When the oil is up to temperature, dip the floured chicken in the egg white and deep fry until golden brown.

6. When the chicken is cooked and golden brown, drain it well and transfer to the bowl with the nanban sauce. Toss to coat evenly with the sauce and then transfer the chicken to a plate to cool.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 9 / Season 3. Takikomi-gohan Bento (For adults 408 kcal, For kids 205 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 140 g cooked rice
  • Cauliflower
  • Sesame Broccoli Salad
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped scallions
  • Kitty Cat Decoration (1/2 Flavored Boiled Egg, boiled carrot, nori)
  • Leafy greens (eg. lettuce) for use as partitions

Takikomi-gohan:

  • 2.5 rice cups (450 ml) rice
  • 2.5 rice cups (450 ml) water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • A pinch of salt, to taste
  • 100 g shirataki
  • 70 g canned tuna (in oil)
  • 70 g shimeji mushrooms
  • 45 g carrot
  • 45 g bamboo shoots
  • Chopped chives

Directions: Takikomi-gohan

1. Rinse the rice and soak in water for 30 minutes.
2. Parboil the shirataki, drain and chop up.
3. Put all the ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil.
4. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat and steam for 10 minutes.

Bento sidesDirections: Flavored Boiled Eggs

1. Bring the eggs to room temperature.
2. Boil for 12 minutes, peel and, for every 2 eggs, marinate in 30 cc of soy sauce, one tablespoon of sugar, and 12cc of water for at least 8 hours.

Bento sidesDirections: Sesame Broccoli Salad

1. Place the broccoli florets in boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Drain and dress with sesame oil, salt and pepper.
3. Sprinkle with white sesame seeds.

Decoration

1. Cut the Flavored Boiled Egg in half.
2. Use the boiled carrot to cut out the ears and nose.
3. Cut out pieces of nori for the eyes and nose.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 9/ Season 3. Yuk Beng Bento (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city located in East Asia. It's a wonderful place to try Chinese cuisine, as you can find delicious food from many different areas.

Yuk beng is a traditional steamed pork patty dish. A favorite among locals, it's typically paired with white rice and vegetables.

First, ground pork is beat together with potato starch, salt, soy sauce, and sugar.

Toppings such as salted egg yolks, salted fish, and vegetables are added to the ground meat mixture.

This large industrial steamer can hold many bowls at the same time.

Steaming concentrates moisture and flavor, making the finished patties fluffy and juicy.

Suki's Yuk Beng Bento Recipe

Local bento maker Suki loves to make yuk beng for her daughter Maya. They visit a nearby traditional wet market to buy ingredients.

Suki prefers to buy fatty pork meat and then mince it herself. The result has a better texture than pre-ground meat does.

Her Chinese kitchen knife is great for mincing. It easily cuts through excess fibers and helps disperse the fat to throughout the pork.

Suki adds water chestnuts and moi-choi to her yuk beng. Moi-choi is a traditional food made from salted and dried mustard greens.

After mixing in the chopped vegetables, Suki flavors the mixture with sugar, white pepper, soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, and sesame oil.

Next, Suki adds water to a wok and places a steamer basket inside. Hong Kongese families often prepare steamed dishes, and this method is the most common.

She shapes the pork mixture in a large dish. After the steamer heats up, it only takes 15 minutes to steam the patty.

The finished yuk beng is a delicious mix of tender, juicy meat and crunchy vegetables.

Suki's well-balanced bento packed with typical Hong Kongese foods is complete!

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 8 / Season 3. Ebichiri Bento (508 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes enough to pack into 3-4 bentos

  • 300 grams shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • pinch salt
  • 1 small egg white
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 25 grams scallions (white parts only minced)
  • 6 grams ginger, minced
  • 3 grams 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons doubanjiang
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Directions

1. Put the shrimp in a bowl along with a pinch of salt, egg white and potato starch. Whisk the mixture together vigorously with your hand until the egg white is slightly foamy. Let this marinate for at least 10 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, 2 teaspoons of potato starch and sesame oil.

3. Drain any excess egg from the shrimp. Add half the vegetable oil to a frying pan over high heat and fry the shrimp on one side until the coating is set. Flip the shrimp over and fry the other side until the coating is set. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

4. Add the remaining oil, scallions, ginger, garlic, doubanjiang, and ketchup and stir-fry until the aromatics are very fragrant.

5. Return the shrimp to the pan and add the water and potato starch mixture.

6. The ebichiri is done when the sauce has thickened. Finish it off by tossing with the rice vinegar. Adjust salt to taste.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 8 / Season 3. Temari-zushi Bento Bento Total calories (adult and child): 968 kcal by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

Sushi Balls

Sushi Toppings:

  • Cucumber
    21/2 cucumber, salt
  • Italian chicory
    21 leaf, sushi vinegar
  • Beef
    2 slices thinly sliced beef
    3S sauce ((equal parts sugar, soy sauce and sake)
  • Thin omelette
    2 eggs, sugar, potato starch
  • Smoked salmon
    2 slices
  • Red radish flower
    2-3 radishes
  • Leafy greens (eg. lettuce) for use as partitions
  • Garnish (Lemon, snow peas, radish sprouts)
  • Decoration (carrots, nori)

Directions: Sushi Balls

1. Allow the rice to cool slightly. Drizzle sushi vinegar over the rice and mix together using a cut-and-fold motion.
2. Use plastic wrap to shape the rice into nine sushi balls.
3. Choose a topping and place it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Place a sushi ball on top and bring the plastic wrap around the ball and give it a couple of twists so that the topping adheres to the rice.

Toppings: Cucumber

1. Use a peeler to cut into thin slices.
2. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside to sweat.
3. Pat dry with paper towels to wrap.
4. Garnish with lemon.

Toppings: Italian chicory

1. Marinate in sushi vinegar.
2. Squeeze out excess moisture to wrap.

Toppings: Red radish

1. Cut into thin rounds and marinate in sushi vinegar.
2. Lay the slices over a sheet of plastic wrap to form a flower shape. Place the sushi ball on top and wrap. Garnish with a boiled snow pea cut into a decorative shape.

Toppings: Beef

1. Pan-fry both sides until brown and season with 3S sauce.
2. Wrap around the sushi balls and garnish with radish sprouts.

Toppings: Egg omelet

1. Beat the eggs together with some sugar and a pinch of potato starch.
2. Strain the eggs and pour into a non-stick frying pan placed over low heat. Cook slowly to prevent the forming of air bubbles.
3. Once the surface is done, turn off the heat and cover. Allow the omelette to cook through with the residual heat.
4. Cut into pieces large enough to wrap around the sushi balls.
5. Decorate to look like a chick, using nori for the eyes and carrots for the beak and comb.

Toppings: Egg omelet

1. Wrap around the sushi balls and sear the surface with a blowtorch.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 8/ Season 3. Ume Plum Bento (Mito, Ibaraki)

Mito is famous for its plum blossoms. They bloom from February to March and bear fruit in early summer.

Mito's local specialty is the inro bento. It's said the design is based on an accessory case a local lord had carried.

Due to Mito's location near the ocean and the mountains, the area's dishes feature a rich variety of ingredients.

A simmered whole ume plum and locally raised pork with ume plum dressing are two eye-catching inclusions in the bento.

Ume plums are simmered in sugar and water over low heat for 40 minutes. The soft, sweet fruit is perfect for dessert.

Boiled pork is mixed with chopped ume plum and a sweet and sour dressing. The bright red color is naturally occurring!

Maki's Ume Plum Bento Recipe

Maki visits an ume plum specialty shop that's been making umeboshi since 1930.

Umeboshi are a Japanese super food. To prepare them, fresh ume plums are pickled in brine for several months and then sundried.

This store has a unique "umeboshi bar." Customers can pick from eight kinds of umeboshi and eat them on the spot.

Thanks to their long lasting nature, umeboshi are a well-loved bento classic.

Maki pairs her umbeboshi with shiso and sardine. Ume plum helps with the absorption of the sardine's nutrients.

Small rolls are formed by wrapping the umeboshi in sardine and shiso.

The prepared rolls are battered and deep-fried. The umeboshi's sourness cuts through the heaviness of the fried roll.

This dish is nutritious and each bite offers an array of flavors.

The vibrant red from the umeboshi is the perfect finishing touch on Maki's bento.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 7 / Season 3. Honey Lemon Chicken Bento (412 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes enough to pack into 3-4 bentos

  • Honey lemon chicken
  • kabocha rice (2go rice cooked with 180 grams garlic kabocha)
  • Broccoli
  • cherry tomatoes
  • Meyer lemon slices
  • 2 tablespoons water or white wine
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 300 grams skin-on chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, ketchup, honey, lemon juice and soy sauce and set aside.

2. Salt and pepper the chicken and then dust evenly with flour.

3. Heat a pan over medium-heat until hot. Add the oil and garlic and swirl around the pan to coat evenly.

4. Add the chicken and then brown on one side. Flip the chicken over and brown the other side.

5. Use paper towels to remove any excess oil and then pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover with a lid until the chicken is cooked through (2-3 minutes).

6. Remove the lid and stir-fry the chicken until the sauce is thick enough to glaze the chicken.

7. Garnish with slices of lemon.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 7 / Season 3. Stuffed Pepper Bento (For adults 553 kcal, For kids 298 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 250 g cooked rice
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Leafy greens (eg. lettuce) for use as partitions
  • 1 cherry tomato
  • Edamame
  • Green asparagus
  • Stir-fried snow peas seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Star-shaped potatoes and carrots
  • 140 g cooked rice
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Leafy greens (eg. lettuce) for use as partitions
  • 1 cherry tomato
  • 2 grapes
  • Green asparagus
  • Stir-fried snow peas seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Star-shaped potatoes and carrots
  • Decoration (red sausage, sliced cheese, star-shaped potatoes and carrots, 1.6-1.8 mm diameter pasta)

Stuffed Peppers

  • 125 g ground beef (lean)
  • 125 g ground pork (lean)
  • 100 g onion
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • Flour (to sprinkle over the bell peppers)
  • 3-4 red bell peppers
  • 3-4 green bell peppers
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • A dash of vegetable oil

Directions:

1. Mince the onion and combine with the ground meat, flour, salt, pepper and soy sauce. Knead thoroughly until sticky.
2. Remove the stems from the bell peppers and sprinkle flour inside. Cut into rounds.
3. Stuff the peppers with the filling.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium to medium-high heat and fry the stuffed peppers until both sides are brown.
5. Reduce the heat to low, cover and steam until cooked through.
6. Use a bamboo skewer to test them. If the juices run clear, they're done.
7. Garnish with star-shaped carrots.

Decorations: Santa Boots

1. Cut the sausage diagonally in half (the left side should be slightly smaller)
2. Turn the larger piece of sausage around so that the two sides form a boot. Fasten with a toothpick.
3. Cut out shapes from a slice of cheese to decorate the boot.

Decorations: Star-shaped potatoes and carrots

1. Cut the carrot into thin slices and boil from water for 4 minutes. Use a star-shaped mold to cut out stars.
2. Cut the potato into 8 mm thick slices. Boil from water for 4 minutes. Use a star-shaped mold to cut out stars and pan-fry to a golden brown.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 7/ Season 3. Adobo Bento (Manila, Philippines)

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is a bustling city packed with people. The weather is summerlike year-round.

Local markets are filled with shops that sell ready-made food. At lunchtime, students and businesspeople alike head over to buy something to eat.

Shop employees pack the dishes selected by customers in bags for easy transport. In the Philippines, many people eat lunch at their school or workplace, so takeout is common.

Adobo is an especially popular choice. Consisting of meat simmered in vinegar and soy sauce, it's the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. The vinegar prevents the meat from spoiling, making adobo perfect for takeout.

Inside of this mall stands an adobo specialty store. Although adobo is a simple dish, there are many delicious variations.

The store uses a diverse selection of ingredients, including chicken, pork, beef, fish, and tofu. The available flavor options range from sweet coconut milk to spicy chili pepper.

A Taste of Home – Adobo Bento Recipe

Bento-maker Jen lives in Manila. Her adobo recipe has been passed down in her family for generations.

First, chicken is marinated in garlic and soy sauce for about 30 minutes.

Vinegar is added after the marinated chicken is stir-fried. Jen uses an equal amount of vinegar and soy sauce.

Chicken liver is added for richness and to give the dish a smooth texture. Liver contains iron and various vitamins that are necessary for growing children.

Jen's delicious adobo is complete! Thanks to the vinegar, the meat is extremely tender.

Adobo's flavors become stronger over time, making it a wonderful addition to a bento.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 6 / Season 3. Summer Roll Bento (389 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

Makes 4 vegetable and 4 pork and rice rolls

For Quick Pickled Cabbage and Carrots:

  • 60 grams red cabbage (shredded)
  • 80 grams carrots (shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

For Char Siu:

  • 200 grams pork belly (chopped)
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese dark soy sauce
  • 2 grams garlic (grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

For Sesame Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons tahini (nerigoma)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 sesame oil

For Rolls:

  • 8 rice paper wrappers
  • 240 grams cooked rice
  • 4 green shiso leaves
  • 1/2 cucumber (cut into 9cm sticks)
  • chives (cut to 9cm)
  • frill lettuce
  • cilantro (leaves only)

Directions

1. For the quick pickled vegetables, put the shredded cabbage, carrots, rice vinegar, salt, and sesame oil in a bowl and toss to coat evenly. Set aside while you prepare the other fillings.

2. To make the Char Siu, put the pork, honey, Shaoxing, soy sauce, and five spice powder in a bowl and mix to combine. Let this marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. To make the sauce, whisk together the tahini, water, sesame oil, soy sauce, and honey.

4. To cook the Char Siu, add the pork and marinade in a single layer to a cold non-stick pan. Turn the heat on to medium heat cook, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated. Once the liquid is gone, fry the pork in its own fat until a glossy glaze has formed. Transfer the pork to a plate and set aside to cool.

5. To make the rolls add some water to a large plate or tray. Prepare a surface to make your rolls such as a cutting board.

6. Dip the rice paper wrapper in the water, being sure to coat both sides, and then set it on your cutting board. Lay 2 shiso leaves in the bottom third of the wrapper closest to you.

7. Add some rice, and then top with 1/4 of the Char Siu.

8. Roll, starting with the edge closest to you. When you've gotten about halfway fold the edges over toward the center and continue rolling. Repeat with the rest of the rice and char siu.

9. For the rainbow rolls, massage the carrots and cabbage to get them to release any excess liquid and the drain and lightly squeeze any excess liquid out.

10. Follow the same steps as above for the Char Siu rolls, layering the lettuce, cabbage and carrots, cucumber, chives and cilantro before rolling.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 6 / Season 3. Yakitori Bento (For adults 841 kcal, For kids 314 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 250 g cooked white rice
  • Yakitori
  • Leafy greens (eg. lettuce) for use as partitions
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Japanese leek
  • Green asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potato
  • Chili pepper
  • 150 g cooked white rie
  • Yakitori
  • Leafy greens (eg. lettuce) for use as partitions
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Japanese leek
  • Green asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potato
  • Decoration (sweet potato, green peas, carrots)

Yakitori

Yakitori Sauce

Salad

Directions:

1. Trim off the excess fat from the chicken and cut into bite-size pieces of about 25 g. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside for 10 minutes to draw out the moisture.

2. Cut the Japanese leek and asparagus into 3 cm lengths. Use a non-stick pan to cook the chicken and vegetables in the oil

3. Cook the chicken and vegetables in the oil from the chicken skin.

4. Remove from the pan once the chicken is cooked to a golden brown.

5. Add the sauce ingredients to the pan and bring to a boil.

6. Return the chicken and vegetables to the pan and simmer to glaze.

Directions: Sweet potato car

1. Cut the boiled sweet potato in the shape of a car, making windows out of boiled carrots.

2. Use the green peas for the tires.

3. Use a star-shaped mold to cut out pieces of sweet potato and place around the car.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 6/ Season 3. Asari Clam Bento (Chiba Prefecture)

This time we visit Chiba and explore the Futtsu Beach, an area known for its delicious asari clams.

Clam digging is a popular leisure activity here. In fact, Maki used to bring her own kids here for clam digging on the weekends.

This shop in Chiba channels the spirit of clam digging into its asari clam bento.

Ginger is added to the boiled asari clams. In Japanese cooking, ginger is commonly used when preparing seafood to help eliminate fishy smells.

The asari clams are then simmered in a mixture of sake, sugar, and soy sauce. Due to this strong seasoning method, the asari clams remain flavorful after cooling.

This is the perfect bento for clam lovers! It's a popular product at train stations around Chiba Prefecture.

Asari Clam Onigiri Rice Ball Bento Recipe

Maki is going to make a bento with the help of some Chiba locals: the Osawa family.

The asari clams are soaked in seawater for several hours to purge them of sand.

Once boiled, the shells open up, revealing plump clams that are full of umami.

The asari clams are simmered in soy sauce, sake, and sugar before being mixed with rice and aonori flakes (another local specialty).

Four-year-old Rio shapes the onigiri rice balls for his bento. The process is so simple that anyone can do it!

Their delicious bento is complete! The flavorful asari clams pair perfectly with the aonori flakes.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 5 / Season 3. Taco Rice Bento (490 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

For Rice:

For Beef:

  • 2 teaspoons ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 60 grams onions (finely diced)
  • 4 grams garlic (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 200 grams ground beef

For Bento:

  • 2 leaves Iceberg lettuce (shredded)
  • 1 tomato (diced)
  • 15 grams grated cheese
  • cilantro (for garnish)
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • tortilla chips

Directions

1. Drain the shirataki noodles and chop them into grains about the size of rice. Wash the rice and add water to just under the 1 cup line. The shirataki noodles will release some water, so you need to use less water than you normally would. Add the chopped shirataki noodles and cook the rice in the rice cooker. Let the rice cool before packing it into the bento.

2. Make the sauce for the beef by combining the ketchup, soy sauce and sake in a bowl and whisking together.

3. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat until hot. Add the oil, onions and garlic and saute until the onions are tender and just starting to brown.

4. Add the chili powder and continue sauteeing until the chili powder is fragrant.

5. Add the beef and sauce and use a spatula to break up any chunks of beef.

6. Continue frying until all the liquid has evaporated and then transfer the meat to a plate to cool.

7. To assemble the bento, split the rice between the two bento boxes.

8. Spread a layer of lettuce on the rice and top with the meat.

9.Finish by sprinkling on the tomatoes and cheese. Add some hot sauce to taste.
Pack the tortilla chips separately to sprinkle onto the taco rice when it's time to eat.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 5 / Season 3. Mosaic Soboro Bento (For adults 586 kcal, For kids 282 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 250 g cooked white rice
  • 1 cherry tomato
  • Egg soboro
  • Salmon soboro
  • Chicken soboro
  • Red cabbage with sushi vinegar
  • Korean Namul-style broccoli
  • (Garnishes)
  • Green peas
  • Sweet corn kernels
  • Aonori
  • White sesame seeds
  • 150 g cooked white rice
  • Egg soboro
  • Salmon soboro
  • Chicken soboro
  • Red cabbage with sushi vinegar
  • Korean Namul-style broccoli
  • Bear face (with cheese and nori)
  • (Garnishes)
  • Green peas
  • Sweet corn kernels
  • Aonori

Chicken soboro

Egg soboro

Salmon soboro

  • 1 can (200 g) salmon
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1.5 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • A pinch of grated ginger

Red cabbage with sushi vinegar

Korean namul-style broccoli

  • 50 g broccoli
  • 2/3 tbsp sesame oil
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper
  • A dash of chicken bouillon

Directions: Chicken soboro

1. Combine the sugar, sake and soy sauce in a frying pan, place over heat, and bring to a gentle boil.
2. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the ground chicken and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed

Directions: Egg soboro

1. Melt the butter in a frying pan and reduce the heat to medium low.
2. Whisk the eggs and pour into the pan.
3. Lightly season with salt and pepper and scramble until fluffy.
4. Crumble with a fork.

Directions: Salmon soboro

1. Drain the salmon.
2. Combine the other ingredients in a frying pan and place over heat.
3. Bring to a gentle boil until the sugar has dissolved. Add the salmon and finely flake and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.

Directions: Red cabbage with sushi vinegar

Shred the cabbage and dress with sushi vinegar.

Directions: Korean namul-style broccoli

1. Boil the broccoli for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, drain well and divide into small florets.
2. Mix the seasonings in a bowl, add the broccoli, and stir.

How to make the bear:

1. Place a bear-face food cutter on the rice and fill with chicken soboro.
2. Surround with vegetables and the other soboro.
3. Use cheese and nori to make the face.

To pack:

1. Spread the rice evenly in the bento box.
2. Wrap four rubber bands around the box to divide into nine equal sections.
3. Fill each section with soboro or vegetables.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 5/ Season 3. Turmeric Chicken Futomaki Bento (Singapore)

This time, BENTO TRIP visited Singapore.

While there, Maki participated in an event introducing Japanese culture.

Bento are gaining popularity in Singapore, particularly among the health-conscious.

Restaurants selling bento are crowded during lunchtime in this business district.

This shop was started by a doctor and chef whose goal is to address various lifestyle diseases through nutrition.

The concept behind the shop is "make your own healthy bento." Customers first choose from three different styles of bento. They then fill them up from a selection of 40 different dishes.

Turmeric Chicken Futomaki Bento Recipe

Well-known bento blogger Shirley shares how to make a nutritious futomaki bento.

The key ingredient is turmeric chicken, a local favorite. Its distinct flavor is made from a combination of turmeric powder, oyster sauce, honey, and garlic.

Turmeric has numerous health benefits, including increasing your appetite.

Shirley's futomaki are made using both white and brown rice mixed with rice vinegar. The brown rice is used to make a cute bear face design.

A sheet of nori is placed on the prepared rice. Then more white rice and brown rice are spread on top. Turmeric chicken and cucumber are rolled up inside.

Shirley uses cheese and nori to make details on the bear faces. Her turmeric chicken futomaki are complete!

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 4 / Season 3. Shumai Bento (474 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

  • Pork & Shrimp Shumai
  • Steamed Cabbage Salad
  • Lemon Honey Sweet Potatoes - annouimo cooked with honey sake and lemon slices.
  • Steamed Carrot flowers
  • Steamed Fava beans
  • Rice

Pork and Shrimp Shumai ingredients:

  • 200 grams shrimp (deveined and roughly chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 90 grams onion (finely chopped)
  • 250 grams ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 30 shumai wrappers

Steamed Vegetables ingredients:

Steamed Cabbage Salad ingredients:

  • 4 cabbage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Directions

1. Put the chopped shrimp, potato starch, egg white and salt in a bowl and stir vigorously to combine.

2. Put the chopped onions in a microwave-safe bowl, cover and microwave until tender (about 1-2 minutes). Let the onions cool to room temperature.

3. Add the shrimp, ground pork, sake, sugar and soy sauce to the onions and mix very well by hand.

4. To wrap, put a tablespoon of filling into the center of each wrapper and then fold up the wrapper around the filling, flattening the bottom and top.

5. Setup a steamer and line with the cabbage leaves. Bring the steamer to a boil.

6. When the steamer is heated up, place the shumai in the steamer so that they are not touching each other. Sprinkle the carrot flowers and fava beans around the shumai.

7. Cover with a lid (placing a damp towel between the lid and the steamer will keep the condensed steam from dripping on the shumai).

8. Steam the shumai for 8 minutes.

9. Remove the shumai and let them cool to room temperature before packing them into the bento.

10. When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess liquid and then chop into ribbons. Season with the black vinegar, sesame oil soy sauce and sesame seeds.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 4 / Season 3. Tendon Bento (For adults 593 kcal, For kids 330 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 230 g cooked white rice
  • Imitation crab (not sticks) tempura
  • Asparagus tempura
  • Potato tempura
  • White fish (eg. cod) tempura
  • Kabocha pumpkin tempura
  • Leafy greens for use as partitions
  • Vegetable salad (broccoli, okra, sweet potato, cherry tomato)
  • Lemon slices
  • 120 g cooked white rice
  • Kabocha pumpkin tempura
  • Potato tempura
  • Asparagus tempura
  • Imitation crab (not sticks) tempura
  • White fish (eg. cod) tempura
  • Lemon slices
  • Leafy greens for use as partitions
  • Okra
  • Green peas
  • Fish shaped sweet potato

Tempura

Ingredients: Tempura batter

Ingredients: Tempura sauce

Directions: Tempura

1. Sprinkle flour over the ingredients.
2. Lightly mix together equal parts flour and water over ice water to make the batter.
3. Heat the oil to 170 degrees Celsius. Dip the ingredients in the tempura batter, and deep-fry for about a minute.
4. Add the sauce ingredients to a small pot, bring to a gentle boil and then turn off the heat.
5. Set aside to cool and drizzle over the tempura.

Directions: Fish shaped sweet potato

1. Cut a slice of boiled sweet potato into a fish shape.
2. Use nori and cheese for the eyes and fins.
3. Sprinkle with boiled and sliced okra and green peas.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 4/ Season 3. Nasi kuning (Tuban, Indonesia)

This time we're visiting Tuban, Indonesia. Roughly 90% of Indonesia's population is Muslim and practices Islam.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Because of this, most of the restaurants around are closed.

After sunset, a special market called the Ramadan Bazaar opens and various food stalls line the streets.

To celebrate the end of a whole day of fasting, people come to the market buy all sorts of delicious dishes.

Nasi kuning, rice seasoned with turmeric, is considered an auspicious food due to its golden color.

Bento made of nasi kuning wrapped up with various toppings are extremely popular.

Nasi Kuning Bento Recipe

Hilda is making nasi kuning bento for her family to eat at the end of their fast for the day.

She uses coconut milk and freshly grated turmeric to make the flavoring base.

Next, rice is added and cooked until the moisture has evaporated. Pandan leaves, lemongrass, and other herbs are added for extra fragrance.

The nasi kuning is placed in a mold to form a cone shape called a tumpeng. According to Hilda, this shape symbolizes the mountains of Indonesia.

Accompanying the rice is a sweet and spicy chicken.

Hilda also prepares a homemade sambal sauce using chili peppers, garlic, and herbs. In Indonesia, sambal is an essential condiment.

This traditional Indonesian dish contains many sides and is eaten during times of celebration.

Each bento is arranged in a customary bamboo box called a busek.

Hilda and her family break their fast and enjoy their bento together!

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 3 / Season 3. Kushiage Bento (746 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

  • Nozawana Rice (finely minced nozawana mixed with cooked rice)
  • 2 cherry tomatoes
  • Leafy greens for use as partitions
  • Chicken onion kushiage
  • Lotus root kushiage
  • Kabocha kushiage
  • 3 ears baby corn (fried without breading)
  • 2 spears asparagus (fried without breading)

Kushiage ingredients:

  • 100 ml flour
  • 2 beaten eggs (large)
  • 100 ml panko breadcrumbs
  • 300 g chicken thigh (cut into 2.5 cm cubes)
  • 130 g onion (cut into 2.5 cm cubes)
  • 4 slices lotus root (cut into 1 cm thick half moons)
  • 4 slices kabocha pumpkin (sliced 7 mm thick)
  • Salt
  • Tonkatsu sauce
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

1. Prepare a tray with a rack and line it with 3 layers of paper towels.
2. Alternately skewer 1 piece of chicken and 1 piece of onion onto toothpicks and sprinkle with salt.
3. Skewer the lotus root and kabocha with toothpicks.
4. Dust the skewers with flour.
5. Dip the skewers in beaten egg and bread with panko.
6. Pour vegetable oil into a pot to a height of 4 cm and heat to 170 degrees Celsius.
7. Fry the skewers until golden brown, turning them over several times, and drain on the prepared rack.
8. Allow the kushiage to cool completely before packing into the bento.
9. Drizzle with tonkatsu sauce.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 3 / Season 3. Wasabi Chicken Bento (For adults 792 kcal, For kids 506 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 250 g cooked white rice
  • Wasabi chicken
  • White sesame seeds
  • 3 edamame beans
  • 2 sausages
  • Broccoli
  • Macaroni salad
  • Leafy greens for use as partitions
  • 120 g cooked white rice
  • Wasabi chicken
  • White sesame seeds
  • 3 edamame beans
  • Mice shaped sausages
  • Broccoli
  • Macaroni salad
  • Leafy greens for use as partitions

Ingredients: Macaroni salad

  • 50 g macaroni
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • Sweet corn, as needed
  • 1-2 tsp sushi vinegar
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper
  • Mayonnaise (preferably Japanese), as needed
  • 1 hard-boiled egg

Ingredients: Wasabi Chicken

  • 1 piece of chicken (approx. 200 g)
  • 10 g butter
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp wasabi paste
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • Flour, as needed
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper

Directions: Macaroni salad

1. Cut the cucumber into thin rounds and sprinkle with salt to sweat. Squeeze out excess moisture.
2. Boil the macaroni.
3. Add the cucumber, macaroni, sweet corn and hard-boiled egg to a bowl.
4. Mix in the mayonnaise and sushi vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Wasabi Chicken

1. Cut the chicken in half, sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper and dust with flour.
2. Melt the butter in a frying pan and cook both sides of the chicken until golden brown.
3. Combine the soy sauce, wasabi and sake to make a sauce and pour over the chicken. Simmer briefly to thicken the sauce.

Decoration: Mice shaped sausages

1. Cut the sausages into 4 pieces.
2. Skewer with pasta or a toothpick to make the shape of a mouse.
3. Use nori for the eyes.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 3/ Season 3. Sansai Bento (Kobuchisawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan)

The town of Kobuchisawa in Yamanashi Prefecture is a popular destination for escaping the summer heat.

The local ekiben is a type of sansai bento. It features various wild vegetables flavored with soy sauce.

Sansai are an early summer treat in Japan. These vegetables grow naturally in mountains and fields and can only be found during specific seasons.

The rice is cooked in individual ceramic pots over direct heat. This ensures each ekiben's rice is fluffy and tasty.

Maki's first time picking sansai! She was accompanied by a local sansai expert.

There many guidelines for sansai picking. You can only harvest in designated areas, and an experienced guide must supervise you.

Sansai Bento Recipe

Freshly picked sansai need to have their natural bitterness removed before they can be eaten. These local women showed us how it's done!.

First, ash is sprinkled on the sansai. Many homes in Kobuchisawa have wood-burning stoves, so the leftover ashes are typically used for this step.

Next, hot water is added and the sansai are left to soak for 8-10 hours. Preparing sansai takes a lot of time and effort.

Maki created a sansai pasta bento. She prepared traditional Japanese ingredients with a Western twist.

Adding tuna brings out the sansai's refreshing taste.

Maki's completed bento! It's packed with delicious vegetables that can only be enjoyed this time of year.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 2 / Season 3. Hamba-gu Bento (523 kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

  • Hamba-gu
  • Boiled egg
  • Rice mixed with red quinoa
  • Leafy greens
  • Lemon broccoli
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • White grapes (Muscat)

Hamba-gu

  • 40 g chopped onion
  • 140 g ground beef
  • 15 g panko breadcrumbs
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tsp miso
  • 1 tbsp beaten egg
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp chuno sauce

Lemon Broccoli

  • 100 g broccoli
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Lemon peel
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

Hamba-gu

1. Put the chopped onions in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave (600W) for about a minute or until tender and fragrant. Uncover and set aside to cool.
2. Add the ground beef, panko, miso, egg and black pepper to the onions and mix together well.
3. Knead the mixture until sticky, using disposable food preparation gloves if desired.
4. Shape into meatballs approx. 2.5 cm in diameter.
5. Add the olive oil to a frying pan and place over medium heat.
6. Cook the meatballs, rolling them around, until they're evenly brown.
7. Add 1 tbsp of water to the pan, cover and steam for about a minute.
8. Add the ketchup and chuno sauce and stir to glaze the meatballs.

Lemon Broccoli

1. Cut the broccoli into easy-to-eat pieces.
2. Parboil the broccoli in lightly salted water until they turn a bright green. (Be careful not to overcook them.)
3. Drain and pat dry.
4. Add to a bowl and dress with olive oil.
5. Sprinkle with lemon peel and season with salt and pepper.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 2 / Season 3. Sukiyaki Onigirazu Bento (For adults 873 kcal, For kids 453 kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • 1 1/2 onigirazu
  • Sautéed brussel sprouts and potatoes
  • Bunny-shaped apple slices
  • Orange slices
  • Mint
  • Blueberries
  • 1 onigirazu
  • Bunny-shaped apple slices
  • Orange slices
  • 1/2 boiled egg
  • Stir-fried brussel sprouts and potatoes
  • Star-shaped potato slices

Onigirazu (1 1/2 adult-sized and 1 kid-sized onigirazu):

  • 3 sheets nori
  • 245g cooked rice
  • Lettuce
  • sukiyaki-flavored beef (40 g per adult-sized onigirazu, 20 g per kid-sized onigirazu)
  • 3 fried eggs folded in half
  • A pinch of salt

Sukiyaki-flavored Beef:

  • 100g beef trimmings
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes:

  • 7 brussel sprouts
  • 1 slice bacon
  • Olive oil
  • Parsley
  • Sake (substitute wine)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Onigirazu

1. Sprinkle the rice with salt and mix together.
2. Place a sheet of nori on a sheet of plastic wrap. Taking into account the size of the bento box, place half the amount of rice you need to make one onigirazu (approx. 125 g for an adult-sized and120 g for a kid-sized onigirazu) in the center.
3. Top with lettuce, beef and egg (trim off the sides of the egg, if necessary, to fit the rice).
4. Cover with the other half of the rice and fold the corners of the nori over the rice.
5. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and set aside to allow the ingredients to bind together.
6. Without removing the wrap, cut the onigirazu in half.

Sukiyaki-flavored Beef

1. Add the soy sauce, sake, sugar and honey to a frying pan and bring to a gentle boil.
2. Separate and add the beef. Simmer over low to medium heat until the liquid has evaporated.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

1. Peel and cut the potato into cubes and boil.
2. Cut the brussel sprouts in half.
3. Heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the potatoes and brussel sprouts.
4. When the brussel sprouts start to brown brown, add the bacon and pour sake over the pan in a circular motion. Cover and steam.
5. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Decoration

Bunny-shaped Apple Slices

1. Cut 1/4 of an apple into 2 wedges.
2. Make a shallow inverted V-shaped incision in the peel. Run your knife under the V and remove the V-shape.
3. Soak the bunny apple in lemon water until the peel (the ears) starts to curl.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 2/ Season 3. Kimbap (Seoul, South Korea)

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, has many large markets such as this one.

Locals treat the markets like their own kitchens. Because of this, Seoul's markets are always teeming with shoppers.

Kimchi and other traditional Korean side dishes are commonly sold.

Kimbap is a classic Korean favorite! It's made by wrapping rice and a variety of ingredients in a big sheet of nori. Kimbap is a tasty, well-balanced dish.

One specialty store fills its kimbap with imitation crab meat, ham, fried egg strips, pickled radish, spinach, and carrot.

Kimbap is popular to bring along to eat on outings or picnics.

Healthy Kimbap Bento Recipe

Song-hee makes her healthy kimbap using a special recipe.

Traditional recipes call for white rice, but she uses a mixture of multigrain rice and oats.

Song-hee fills her kimbap with fish cake, luncheon meat, pickled radish, carrot, cucumber, and strips of fried egg.

She brushes the rolled kimbap with homemade perilla oil for extra flavor. It also gives them a glossy look.

The finished kimbap look gorgeous!

Song-hee's friends and their children loved her kimbap!

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 1 / Season 3. Miso Salmon Bento (539Kcal) by Marc Matsumoto

Bento contents:

  • Miso salmon
  • Nanohana
  • Carrots (cut into petals with a flower shaped vegetable cutter)
  • Benishoga
  • White rice mixed with black sesame seeds

Miso Salmon

  • 2 tbsp miso
  • 2 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 200 g (2-3 fillets) salmon
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Directions

1. In a small bowl, mix together the miso, rice syrup and sake.

2. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface. Spread half the miso mixture in the center and lay the salmon fillets over it.

3. Cover with the remaining miso mixture and wrap tightly to remove air bubbles. Marinate in the fridge for 2-3 days.

4. When you're ready to make the bento, unwrap the salmon and scrape off as much miso as you can with your hands. Use paper towels to wipe off the remaining miso.

5. Place a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add the vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan evenly.

6. Place the fillets in the pan and fry on one side until golden brown. Turn over and fry the other side until cooked through.

*Because of the syrup in the marinade, the fish will burn easily, so reduce the heat if it's browning too quickly.

BENTO RECIPES from Episode 1 / Season 3. Menchi Katsu (minced meat cutlet) Bento (For adults 577kcal, For kids 309kcal) by Maki Ogawa

Bento contents:

  • Cooked rice
  • 3 menchi katsu with cheese
  • Pickled cabbage
  • Boiled carrot
  • Cherry tomato
  • Deep-fried kabocha pumpkin
  • Baby corn
  • Umeboshi
  • Leafy greens
  • Cooked rice
  • 2 menchi katsu with cheese
  • Pickled cabbage
  • Boiled carrot
  • Cherry tomato
  • Deep-fried kabocha pumpkin
  • Baby corn
  • Umeboshi
  • Leafy greens

Menchi Katsu (Minced meat cutlet):

  • 200 g ground meat (mixed beef and pork)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 100 g onion
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Flour, as needed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 slices sliced cheese

Cabbage Pickled in Sushi Vinegar:

Directions

3. Add the ground meat, onions and soaked panko to a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and knead together thoroughly.

4. Make 30 g meatballs for adults and 20 g meatballs for kids. Make a slight depression in the center of each meatball to make it easier to cook through. Cut the sliced cheese into small pieces and tuck into each meatball.

5. Bread the meatballs in the order of flour, beaten egg and panko.

6. Deep-fry in oil heated to 170 degrees Celsius.

Cabbage Pickled in Sushi Vinegar

Directions

1. Cut the cabbage into thin strips and place in a bowl.

2. Mix with sushi vinegar and marinate until tender.

Decorations

1. Turn the menchi katsu into bears. Cut out the eyes, nose, mouth and ears from the cheese. Place a tiny circle of nori in the center of each eye.

2. Slice the baby corn into rounds and place a tiny piece of boiled carrot in the center to make flowers.

BENTO TRIP from Episode 1/ Season 3. Octopus pot bento (Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan)

This time we visit Akashi, a city in Hyogo Prefecture.

All kinds of seafood can be caught in this fishing town. Octopus is a local specialty.

This octopus pot bento uses locally caught octopus and is famous nation-wide.

The bento is packed inside of a ceramic pot made in the same style as the type traditionally used for octopus fishing.

At this factory, 500 octopus pot bento are made every day.

The trick to making the octopus soft during boiling lies in this pot. We were lucky enough to learn some trade secrets.

Octopus pot bento Recipe

Local fisherman Toda gave Maki a large octopus he caught.

Mihoko, Toda's wife, teaches a seafood cooking class. She demonstrated how to prepare an octopus for us.

Maki made paella using octopus, vegetables, and rice. Saffron gives it a vibrant color.

The finished paella is bursting with flavor from the octopus.

Maki reused the octopus pot bento container for her paella dish. Three flavors are featured in a single pot!


Two Michelin-starred chefs join forces in Tokyo

TOKYO -- In late September, Tokyo chef Hiroyasu Kawate of Florilege fame rushed into the kitchen of Den, the restaurant owned by fellow chef Zaiyu Hasegawa, with a tray loaded with vacuum-packed meats and tubs of sauces. A cling-film-wrapped pigeon leg was poking out over the rim.

Kawate and Hasegawa were in the final stages of planning the menu for Denkushiflori, their new joint-venture restaurant that opened on Sept. 30. It is perhaps the first time in Tokyo that two Michelin-starred chefs have joined forces to open a restaurant and design every dish together.

In developing the recipes, Hasegawa says that the aim is to make "food you can find only at Denkushiflori" -- cuisine that blends a little of Den with a bit of Florilege but is more than the sum of its parts. The only rule is that each savory dish on the eight-course tasting menu must be held together with a kushi, a wooden skewer that symbolizes the collaborative nature of their project. "Without some kind of framework, our ideas would be all over the place," Kawate said.

As Kawate lifted a breaded wedge of boudin noir from a pot of bubbling oil, Hasegawa prepared to garnish the morsel with a pile of thinly sliced apple marinated in sweetened vinegar. At the last second, he added a dab of spicy Japanese mustard, and the first dish was done.

"The mustard really works," Kawate remarked approvingly. "I made the apples to resemble gari -- pickled ginger for sushi -- but the mustard gives it an extra kick," said Hasegawa.

Hiroyasu Kawate, left and Zaiyu Hasegawa first met when Hasegawa dined at Kawate's Florilege shortly after it opened in 2009. "Back then, I'd hardly been to any French restaurants," said Hasegawa. (Photo by Yuki Kohara)

Both in and out of the kitchen, the two chefs display the easy camaraderie of old friends, riffing off each other and punctuating their sentences with laughter. Kawate, who bears a slight resemblance to Paul McCartney, plays the straight man to Hasegawa, a witty jokester with spiky hair. On the plate, their cooking styles complement each other equally well: Hasegawa is known for his whimsical takes on kaiseki Japanese haute cuisine, while Kawate's approach is rooted in French fine dining. The fusion feels at once entirely unexpected and completely natural.

The duo first met when Hasegawa dined at Florilege shortly after it opened in 2009. "Back then, I'd hardly been to any French restaurants. All the food on the menu sounded so delicious, I asked if I could order everything," he recalled. "Things haven't changed much," Kawate quipped.

Almost immediately, they began exchanging cooking tips and later bonded over similarities in their upbringings. Raised by a former geisha who ran a restaurant in Tokyo's picturesque Kagurazaka district, Hasegawa, grew up amid the traditions of Japanese food culture. Kawate, whose family owned a yoshoku (Western-influenced Japanese food) restaurant, decided to become a chef at an early age.

Top: Yuji Morita leads the younger generation of chefs at Denkushiflori. Bottom: Chefs at Denkushiflori are drawn from Den and Florilege, as well as emerging talent from around Japan. As neither Kawate nor Hasegawa will be physically present at the new space, Morita has entrusted with the task of running the kitchen day to day. (Photos by Yuki Kohara)

Likewise, their careers have followed similar trajectories. Den and Florilege launched within a year of each other, and the two chefs have since become jet-setting darlings of the international food world. In 2017, both restaurants broke into the top 20 on the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants. Each earned two Michelin stars in the same year.

Even while juggling relentless travel schedules with the running of high-profile restaurants, the two have always managed to find time to indulge their shared enthusiasm for fishing. It was on one such angling trip that they began discussing the possibility of opening a restaurant together. Last October, they established a joint-venture company -- cheekily named "Jingumae Fishing Club" -- but work on the new restaurant began in earnest this spring.

"We did our first collaboration dinner 10 years ago and have been wanting to open a place together ever since. Finally, the timing is right," Hasegawa said, explaining that although the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the hospitality industry, the situation has also spurred many new projects. "This is the longest I've been grounded in Japan for several years, and it's given me time to think. Now is the only time we could have done this."

Chef partnerships are exceedingly rare in Japan, in part because, as Kawate surmises, Japanese chefs "can be very particular about their own styles and philosophies." However, he hopes that Denkishiflori will inspire others in the industry to collaborate. "Running a restaurant is a big responsibility. Working together, two chefs can split the financial burden, give each other ideas and support each other in everything," he said. "Hardships are halved, and happiness is doubled," Hasegawa added.

Top: Miso-marinated grilled pigeon and amaebi prawn, served with scallion sauce and pigeon-liver paste. Bottom: Minced sardine dumpling, paired with a whip of chicken-liver mousse. (Photos by Yuki Kohara)

Another reason for launching the restaurant is to motivate Denkushiflori's young staff, which brings together members from Den and Florilege as well as emerging talent from around Japan. The experience, Kawate says, will expose them to different styles of cooking and ways of thinking about food. As neither chef will be physically present at the new space, they've entrusted Yuji Morita, who honed his skills in Hokkaido, to lead the brigade.

On opening night at Denkushiflori, the meal progressed like a culinary conversation full of puns and clever asides. A quenelle of chicken-liver mousse, sprinkled with salted kelp and lemon powder, was the mirror-image of the grilled sardine fish ball that sat beside it -- an unlikely combination that worked splendidly. A skewer of deep-fried ebi-imo -- a prawn-shaped variety of taro root -- was paired with silky prawn and lobster bisque, while the eggplant course veered toward an existential meditation on the essence of eggplant-ness. The steamed flesh of the vegetable was slathered with eggplant puree, crowned with an amethyst-hued sheet made from its skin, and finished with a drizzle of curry-infused oil.

The restaurant logo spells out Denkushiflori in hiragana characters that also form the face of a man, symbolizing how two chefs have joined forces to create a new style of cuisine. (Photo by Yuki Kohara)

Main dishes showcased signatures from both Den and Florilege, reworked in surprising ways. Kawate's famous pigeon was marinated in miso and then seared in tandem with an amaebi spot prawn, served with a dab of pigeon-liver mousse and scallion sauce. Hasegawa's classic clay-pot cooked rice came with buttered mushrooms, accompanied by a thick slice of beef tongue confit.

Dinner ended -- as conversations between good friends should -- on a sweet note, with pudding capped with matcha whipped cream.

"It's been a hard year. Everyone has been staying home and feeling anxious. We wanted to create a casual atmosphere where people could eat, drink, relax and have fun," Hasegawa told me later. In this they have succeeded: At Denkushiflori, good food and bonhomie abound.

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The Second Coming of Den, Tokyo's Quirkiest Cuisine

On a warm June evening, Zaiyu Hasegawa ascended the stage at an awards ceremony in New York, where the World's 50 Best Restaurants list had named his Tokyo restaurant, Jimbocho Den, "One to Watch." Standing beneath a life-size projection of his photograph, he wore an expression of giddy excitement tinged with mild terror, as if he had just turned up at a surprise birthday party and opened the door onto a room full of a thousand strangers. As the emcee pushed the microphone toward him, Hasegawa leaned forward and smiled gamely. "I don't speak English," he said, before thanking everyone in Japanese. The audience erupted in cheers.

"I didn't understand a word," he says, laughing, recalling the moment. "I was just thrilled to be there."

Hasegawa is an affable 38-year-old with spiky, Muppet-like black hair and boundless optimism. He has reason to be in high spirits. Den is fully booked every night, typically three months in advance, and Hasegawa has a devoted following around the world. His welcoming personality and playful approach to kaiseki ryori&mdashmulticourse Japanese haute cuisine&mdashhave made his 20-seat restaurant a destination for globe-trotting gourmands who chronicle their dining adventures on social media. His witty creations are exceptionally Instagrammable. A whole smelt, deep-fried in tempura batter, balances on its anterior fins so that it appears to walk across the plate in an imitation of Tiktaalik roseae , the recently discovered fossil fish with leglike fins smiley faces carved into circles of carrot rounds wink from behind edible flowers in a garden salad. Hasegawa has taken his quirky cuisine on the road with events at restaurants such as D.O.M. in São Paulo, Brazil Sepia in Sydney and Chefs Club in New York. But this December, after nearly nine years in Jimbocho, a neighborhood in eastern Tokyo better known for secondhand bookshops than high-end eateries, Den is moving to a more central location in the Japanese capital's upscale Aoyama ward.

While the original location featured an open kitchen with counter seating downstairs and separate tables on the second floor, the Aoyama restaurant will bring everyone together in the same space, with the kitchen and dining area raised on a platform, rather like a stage. And the counter will double as a huge communal table that can be pulled into the middle of the room to accommodate extra guests. When we met, in October, the new space was still a shell of exposed walls and loose wires, but Hasegawa could already envision the finished interior, outfitted with custom tables made from recycled wood and set with antique porcelain.

"The food will be the same, but the new place will have a more family-like atmosphere," he says. He wants to do away with the formality associated with kaiseki and "bring people closer" in an emotional rather than the physical sense. Food is his medium, but Hasegawa's artistry is about more than cooking. "My goal is to be a craftsman that creates feelings. I want my guests to leave happier than when they arrived," he says.

At Den, the cuisine, the setting and the service are delicately constructed to have an emotional effect. From the moment you pass through the white dividing curtain or noren at the entrance, Hasegawa treats you to omotenashi, the Japanese concept of hospitality: careful observation that enables a host to anticipate guests' needs before they're even aware of them. I once accompanied a friend on his first visit to Den. Before seating us, the hostess had discreetly changed my companion's place setting, pointing his chopsticks to the right (they usually point in the opposite direction) because she'd realized, as we walked in, that he was left-handed. It was a detail about my friend that I had never noticed.

Hasegawa inherited his gift for omotenashi from his mother, a former geisha who worked at Uotoku Kagurazaka, a high-end Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. "My mother was a great cook. The food she made was very simple, but she prepared everything with consideration for how we were feeling," he tells me.

She also instilled an appreciation of refined cuisine. Hasegawa grew up eating the sophisticated bento boxes that she brought home from the restaurant, filled with seasonal delicacies such as grilled fish with miso wrapped in fragrant magnolia leaves, or simmered vegetables cut into intricate patterns. By the time he was in high school, he knew he wanted to become a chef. When he was 18, he showed up at Uotoku&mdashwithout mentioning whose son he was&mdashwith nothing but a fold-up mattress. He began a live-in apprenticeship that lasted several years, during which he honed his skills and saved enough money to venture out on his own. After stints at other restaurants, including the three-Michelin-starred Ishikawa in Tokyo's Kagurazaka district, he opened Jimbocho Den at the age of 29.

In the restaurant's early days, Hasegawa served classic recipes with minor tweaks. "[Japanese cooking] always uses the same motifs&mdashfor example, cherry blossoms in spring&mdashto convey the changing of the seasons, but I wondered if there were new ways to express those ideas," he says.

A keen traveler, he began experimenting with un-Japanese ingredients such as passion fruit and basil seed. He incorporated pop-culture references into his presentations: The restaurant's signature Dentucky Fried Chicken is a crispy chicken wing stuffed with flavored sticky rice and served in a red- and white-striped box adorned with Hasegawa's face. Originally he created the dish for a holiday-themed parody of the Japanese custom, popular since the 1970s, of eating KFC at Christmas it was so popular, he put it permanently on the menu.

The organized nature of the Japanese kitchen, and the fact that Japanese chefs rarely spend time abroad, partly explains why there are relatively few restaurants offering kaiseki as creative as Den's. Hasegawa, though, is a traveling man: He just returned from a two-week tour of South America, which included stops in Brazil and Peru for events collaborating with local chefs, and a cooking demonstration at Semana Mesa, an annual food conference in São Paulo.

As for the new venture, he's nervous but characteristically upbeat: "It's a lot of pressure, but I'm lucky to have so much support. The important thing is that I enjoy what I'm doing every day." And he hopes that his example will encourage the next generation of Japanese chefs to innovate and take their place on international stages&mdashwhether or not they understand the language.


Kazutoshi Endo, the Michelin-starred Sushi Master, talks heart-to-heart to his customers through his food

It is every chef’s dream to have his or her restaurant, and chef Kazutoshi Endo’s ambition materialised when his restaurant, Endo at The Rotunda, opened to heightened expectations in April 2019.

Before this he was executive chef at Zuma, the fine-dining Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, for eight years from 2007. He oversaw the establishment of new sites of Zuma all over the world, including New York, Miami, Dubai, Hong Kong and Istanbul and trained sushi chefs as well. Endo is the third generation of sushi masters, and his grandfather and father had their own sushi restaurants in Yokohama, Japan.

It was in Spain, after a stint at the Japanese Embassy, that he encountered the epitome of European gastronomic delights. His two-week work experience under the gaze of the highly renowned chef, Ferran Adrià at El Bulli and another three Michelin-starred chef, Quique Dacosta in Valencia, Spain, was to change his life forever.

He tells me he thinks of sushi ‘23 hours a day’. He has developed his unique way of preparing sushi to get the most out of the ingredients and create a distinctive taste sensation. He washes the rice in his own special way, in water at a certain temperature, using water shipped from Japan. Similarly, he washes his fish and vegetables in water at a certain temperature. His father watched him, flabbergasted.

Kazutoshi Endo has developed his unique way of preparing sushi to get the most out of the ingredients and create a distinctive taste sensation

Temperature of the sushi is also key and he has a strict ‘three-second rule’. “Three seconds – please enjoy my sushi within three seconds after I serve it on your plate, otherwise, the sushi will lose quality.”

Quality of the ingredients is of paramount importance to his discerning target customers. He sources his rice from a premium farmer in Japan, who supplies to Tokyo restaurants and only to him outside Japan. He buys miso from a tiny miso factory in Japan which has a three-year waiting list and makes merely 1,000 packs a year. He gets ‘the best wasabi’ from Japan as well. His ingredients are expensive, he says, but he has ‘no choice’.

In pursuit of seeking out the best of the best, he works with fishermen and studies many fish. “We have to celebrate local produce”, he declares. He goes fishing in Cornwall, tasting the fish. He explains that he designs a sauce to go with different kinds of fish. “Fish is never the same” he claims, adding that he has to look at each one and come up with a sauce to marry the flavour profile of the fish.

His perfectionist approach paid off and he won a Michelin Star within the first six months of opening Endo at The Rotunda, in October 2019. After the Michelin award party, he called his fish suppliers to thank them and share the joy with one of them crying on the phone. In January 2021, Michelin again recognised his talent, and he retained his Michelin Star.

Endo at The Rotunda was designed by the renowned award-winning Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma

Chefs from all over the world have dined at his restaurant, perched on the top floor of the former BBC Television Centre in White City, London, savouring ‘sushi in the clouds, where the sea meets the sky’, according to his website. The restaurant was designed by the renowned award-winning Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma, who was in charge of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium. The deceptively simple and achingly beautiful décor at the restaurant enunciates a tranquil and yet dramatic setting, providing a perfect backdrop to a 15-seater counter made out of 200-year-old (Japanese) Hinoki wood. The ceiling is adorned by swathes of fabric, resembling Japanese Washi paper, ingeniously hung like waves of soufflé of clouds.

Within less than a year of opening, his restaurant had to shut because of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the first lockdown in May 2020, he and his team fed hundreds of people a week, delivering Tokyo style maki rolls free of charge to NHS workers at London hospitals. He wanted to provide nourishing meals to the keyworkers as a big thank you. He also supplied ‘energy’ Maki rolls to the London Emergency Services workers under a 999 Meal Drive Thursday outside the five-starred Berkeley Hotel, London.

Chef Endo was one of the first chefs of fine-dining restaurants in London to offer takeaways in the first lockdown. In May 2020, 200 boxes were sold in the first hour. In June, 300 boxes sold out after 40 minutes, disappointing 2,000 sushi lovers, chef Endo recounted to me. Some of the profits from the bento boxes went to support Hospitality Action, a charity supporting those in need in the hospitality industry. Proceeds also went to the charity, Felix Project (which collects surplus food from supermarkets) to help feed the homeless. He has continued to support these causes during the current lockdown.

Using only top quality ingredients is of paramount importance to chef Endo and his discerning target customers

He tells me that “I really want to thank this country.” He has lived in London since 2007. “I learned so many things in this country. That’s why I really want to use local ingredients”. He was desperate to help his fish suppliers, who nearly went bankrupt. He decided to buy their fish to make the bento boxes. He feels passionate about supporting local producers and he sings praises about British eggs, honey, salt, vinegar and Cornish caviar as well.

He has also missed seeing his customers. “I talk heart to heart [through food]. Language is sometimes not needed”. During lockdown, “guests were missing human relationships. I have to bring back the human relationship through food.” He said that he wanted to make them happy and “make memory”. He decided personally to deliver the bento boxes to his customers to reconnect with them. Some lucky ones opened their front door to chef Endo, with bento boxes in one hand and his bicycle by his side. Customer service doesn’t get more personal than that.

Always striving to develop his style, in the latest reincarnation of his restaurant in winter 2020, he wanted to conjure up a fantasy of having his customers walk through a time machine, as if they were in Tokyo 110 years ago. He was ‘revisiting a [sushi] recipe that has been passed down through the generations’.

London’s Japanese gastronomy scene has been moving and shaking over recent years, with sushi chef Kazutoshi Endo as one of the rising stars

Eager to reach out to more customers despite the pandemic, he planned to open his second but more casual sushi restaurant, Sumi, in Notting Hill, London. It was literally about to open when the current lockdown took hold. Fortunately, Sumi has been able to offer takeaways.

What’s next? Chef Endo, unable to stay away from his customers for long, has launched another charity bento box offering from his fine-dining powerhouse, Endo at The Rotunda. Grab one if you can.


Sushi Taku (Tokyo, Michelin)


This an addendum post to the Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka series. Other posts in this series include the intro post: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, Matsugen (soba), Sushi Iwa, Ramen Honda (Tokyo Ramen Street), Ryugin, Omen (udon), Shouraian (tofu), Dotonbori in Osaka (street food), Taian (3-star Michelin), and Sushi Sho/Shou (Chef Keiji Nakazawa), and Nakamura (3 star Michelin kaiseki)

After rolling off of a 12 hour flight from Boston (arriving at the hotel around 9PM), Bryan asked the hotel concierge for late-night restaurant recommendations.

“There is an excellent soba place just a 10 minute walk away.”

Bryan had already eaten there, twice, during our last trip to Japan, so he asked for something different.

“I see you are eating sushi later this week, so maybe something different?”

Without hesitation, Bryan replied “No, I’m always happy to eat sushi.”

The hotel concierge immediately booked Bryan a last minute (10PM!) reservation at a Michelin two star restaurant, Sushi Taku, in the Nishiazabu neighborhood. Armed with his new snazzy Sony point-and-shoot, Bryan attempted to channel me on this trip, taking photos of every piece of fish, writing down notes, and frankly, doing a pretty good job of providing me plenty of content to use for this post.


Sushi Taku is unusual in that its chef owner, Takuya Satosushi, is both a sushi chef and a sommelier. Unlike most traditional sushi restaurants, which more often pair sushi with sake or beer, Sushi Taku is known for pairing sushi with wine.

Takuya Sato opened Sushi Taku in 2005 at the ripe age of 30 after having trained at well-known places in Tokyo like Kyubey and Zorokusushi.

The meal started out with a delicious crab and crab roe wakame salad (not pictured because the photo was just too blurry!). Because it was autumn, they also served baby potatoes and ginkgo nuts (my favorite!).


Below is a rundown of the whole omakase. There won’t be as much detail about the flavors of each dish since I wasn’t actually there (Bryan took quite a few notes about the details of each fish, he didn’t really provide tasting notes!).

1. Red snapper (tai)
2. Butterfish (ebodai)
3. Round clam (bakagai) was supposed to be eaten with a bit of salt.

4. Needlefish, or sayori, is also known as the Japanese half beak. This version was cooked and eaten with salt.
5. Eggplant sashimi
6. Uni from Hokkaido

7. Spanish mackerel that was lightly cooked
8. Yellowtail (hamachi) sushi
9. Sea eel (anago) served grilled on a stick

In general the chefs at Sushi Taku were really friendly. If they couldn’t explain something in English, they would bring up the book and show you a picture of what you were eating. Bryan took many pictures from book pages, which was invaluable in helping me figure what the heck he ate.

10. Sushi rice cracker
11. Cooked oyster, eaten with either soy sauce or salt
12. Steamed lotus roots with shrimp (ebi) and sea eel (anago)
13. This next course was rice topped with salmon roe (ikura) and sea urchin (uni). You use the spoon to mix all the lovely flavors together.

14. Daikon paper thin sheets
Check out those mad knife skills. If you want to see what this looks like in person, I have a pretty cool video of it in my Kyubey post.

15. Tuna (maguro) nigiri sushi
16. Fatty tuna (toro) nigiri sushi
17. Gizzard Shad (kohada) nigiri. An interesting fact is that the chef does not make sashimi from kohada. He only uses it for sushi.

At this point the chef asked Bryan, “how much more?”

Even though Bryan had eaten quite a lot, he asked for three more pieces.

Before the last three pieces arrived, out came a bowl of baby clam and shellfish soup.

This was followed by a gorgeously seared baby snapper (kodai) sushi.

Sea eel, or Anago, sushi (also cooked).

And finally, a beautiful seared piece of golden eye snapper (kinmedai) with skin.

Every sushi meal ends with a sweet egg, tamago, and this meal was no different.

What was different were the five (yes, can you believe it?) kinds of ice cream for dessert. I would have loved to try these flavors: soy sauce, ginger, roast tea, brown rice tea, and kinako (roasted soy bean flour).

Overall, Bryan enjoyed Sushi Taku quite a lot. It turns out, however, that the best dish he’s ever had (in his entire life!) would come just a few days later on this same business trip, also in Tokyo, of course.


Watch the video: How a Master Chef Runs a 2 Michelin Star Nordic Restaurant in Brooklyn Mise En Place (January 2022).