Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sesame Chicken Bento

I've been cooking enthusiastically from Harumi Kurihara's, "Harumi's Japanese Cooking", which is a super book, and really accessible if you're cooking in North America. A lot of the recipes appeal heavily to Peter, as well - who is a lot less afraid of trying new things these days, but still likes Western-style dishes best.

His favourite recipe is Steamed Chicken Salad with Sesame Sauce, and I have to admit, I think its gorgeous too. It takes only a few minutes to throw together, and uses the microwave, which is great if it's hot outside. I guess it would keep well in the fridge for lunches the next day, but every time I've made it, we're fighting each other for the last bit on the plate. The only way to keep some aside for a bento is to take it out first and hide it away!

Which I did recently, to make this bento for Peter....

I heated the salad up in the microwave to thicken up the sauce, and spread it over plain white rice. Most of the cheap veggies at the market this week were green, so I had to really think about how I would get any decent colour into this box, but I found some takuan hiding at the back of the fridge, and cut out some carrot flowers to go with my snow pea "leaves". I got a happy "good lunch!" text message from Peter later, which is the highest of honours, really.

The salad itself goes like this:

Take a largish boneless chicken thigh, skin on, and poked with a fork. You want about 250 g of meat. You could use BSCB if you like, but...I'm afraid to say I've completely gone off them myself, they're so flavourless. But anyway, use what you have. Put it in a microwave-proof dish with a piece of crushed ginger, S&P, a drizzle of sesame oil, a splash of sake if you have it, and the tops of some green onions. Put the chicken on the bottom of the bowl, and everything else on top. Cover it and nuke it for about 6 minutes, or until it's cooked. Set it aside to cool while you mix up the sauce. Don't drain it!

Okay, the first time I made the sauce, I didn't have any of the sesame paste called for, so I subbed chunky pb, which Peter raved about. But in Japan, chunky pb ain't cheap, nor does it grow on trees, so now I use the sesame paste instead. Which, while still not cheap, is readily available.

So the sauce goes like this: use the liquid from the bowl with the cooling chicken in it (this is why you want to use thighs!), and add 4 tablespoons of sesame paste; 2 tablespoons of soy sauce; 2 tablespoons of sugar; 2 tsp of rice vinegar; 2 tsp of chili paste (I use Korean gochujang since I always have it on hand and it's pretty mild. If you don't want to bring the spicy, add some miso or more sesame paste - but I think it adds something and isn't really that spicy); 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (I use black ones for the pretty colour); more chopped green onion, and 2 tsp each of chopped ginger and garlic. It sounds complicated, but it's worth it. And if you've made it once, it goes much easier the next time. Mix it all together and throw in the cooled chicken, shredded. Serve it with chunks of cold cucumber, or green salad. Harumi also mentions that it goes nicely with cold noodles. She also swears that it feeds four as an appetizer, but she's never met my husband.


bobbyok said...

You mean there are people who don't have sake on hand at all times? ;-)

Did you mean 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of sugar, one or the other, or something completely different? I want to try this sometime, though I'll go with the peanut butter since it's the sesame paste that's expensive over here.

nakji said...

Sorry - that should read two teaspoons of rice vinegar! My bad. I'll fix it in the post.

Renee said...

I really want to try this with the peanut butter!

nakji said...

Please do, it's fabulous. But double the recipe, it feeds two sparingly.