This month, I have been determined to take part in Dom’s ‘Random Recipes’ challenge over at Belleau Kitchen. Dom’s recipe challenge has been running for over a year now and as each month passes by, I find myself drooling over the round-up posts, wondering why I hadn’t taken part. The rules are that you must select a book randomly and cook a recipe from it. This is great, as it encourages people to turn to books they might otherwise overlook and neglect. The book I randomly selected (from an ever-growing pile now overtaking the whole house) was Leemei Tan’s Lemongrass and Ginger. Leemei is a UK-based food photographer, who also writes a successful blog called My Cooking Hut. Leemei has recently had her first cookery book published to the theme of ‘Vibrant Asian Recipes’ and vibrant they are, too. It is worth looking out for, it is a very impressive first book, with recipes from Japan and Korea, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam and India and Sri Lanka.
This month, Dom wanted us to focus on the first or last recipe in the randomly selected book, as very often, we skip through to the middle sections (or in my case usually straight to the sweet recipes at the back) missing some potential gems in between. In Leemei’s book, the back contains a number of basic recipes, including pastes, stocks, sauces and advice on how to cook rice and noodles. The last full recipe is Sri Lankan Crispy Pancakes and I happened to have almost none of the ingredients to hand (yeast, coconut milk, rice flour etc) so I flipped to the front feeling a little more hopeful.
The very first recipe in Leemei’s book falls into a chapter named ‘Japan and Korea’ and it is a Chicken Teriyaki and Onigiri Bento. Onigiri are shaped rice balls, the word itself meaning “taking hold of something with your hands.” A bento is a single-portion home-packed meal, very common in Japan. Since I’ve never made or eaten a bento, I decided to give it a go.
Described as “healthy and convenient” by Leemei, a bento usually contains meat or fish, rice and vegetables, but there are many variations. Leemei uses de-boned chicken legs, short-grain rice, baby leaf spinach and cherry tomatoes. I had chicken thighs, sushi rice, asparagus, broccoli and baby sweetcorn, so that’s what I cooked and put in my box!
It was delicious and also happens to be a really good way of using up left-overs. I had never thought of making cold rice balls to add to a lunch box and the chicken and vegetables were as good cold, as they were warm, too.
I found a guest post written by Leemei on a site called Rasa Malaysia for her Teriyaki Chicken. In her book, Leemai uses Shoyu, which is a type of soy sauce. I used Tamari (wheat-free) sauce in place. Leemei also suggests adding a finely grated, 1cm piece of root ginger to the marinade. Once you’ve thrown together the teriyaki marinade, you can use it to marinate salmon, pork or even beef before cooking it, adding whatever accompaniments you fancy to your bento lunch box. The onigiri balls are made by taking some warm, boiled rice, wetting your hands and then shaping the rice into a ball before sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds.
Now that I have tried one recipe and found it to be very simple and tasty, I am encouraged to dive in and try and few more. I would love to try making some Japanese Pork Dumplings, I was shown how to make them once by my mum’s lodger so now I have a nice recipe to try. There are also some wonderfully fragrant curries, as well as some tempting Thai dishes. There are only a few dessert recipes in the book, but the Sweet Peanut and Seasame Balls look delicious, too.
Thank you to Dom for hosting the Random Recipes challenge. Hopefully, my first attempt and first recipe from Lemongrass and Ginger will pass the test!
What would you put in your bento box?!
Yum – what a fantastic lunch box – this would light up my lunch break – but sadly would also involve me being organised enough the night before to make it, which is unlikely to happen! Tuna sandwiches it is then…
Hello Ren! I am glad that you love the recipe, looks great! 😉 Thanks for the mention of my cookbook.
oh wow, this is an AMAZING entry for Random Recipes… I love it… Japanese food is perhaps some of my favourite and Teriyaki Chicken must be my all time favourite so this is genius for me!… I love your photography too, it always looks so beautiful and inspirational… thank you so much for taking part, it is so lovely to have you on board! x
Looks like a fabulous lunch, Japanese food is so light and tasty. Great to see you and spend some quality time together on Thursday! x
Yes Sarah it was lovely, enjoyed catching up with you and hearing all your news. x
Fishfingers for tea says
How delicious! It looks great Ren, very tempting indeed.
I have to say we have the same habit of heading straight for the sweet recipes in a book. I really need to pull out a few of mine and explore them in more detail.
Hi Sian, I know, although I also have a few where the sweet recipes are mixed in throughout the whole book and I think I prefer them to all be at the back! Hope you are having a nice weekend x
Mark Willis says
I think that I might put in my bento-box more or less what you put in. IT would be hard to improve upon. Maybe some of my lovely but scarce home-grown asparagus… Just as long as it didn’t involve any fish! 🙂
Thank you Mark. I am impressed that you have some of your own-grown asparagus, a very difficult season this year for many, though I bought some British asparagus today, so that’s encouraging. No fish for you!
We love Japanese food, and sometimes even make it, although the ingredients can be a bit pricey. Although we don’t ‘do’ chicken, this would of course be easy to translate to salmon. Homemade teriyaki sauce is miles better than storebought stuff, and would be lovely to dip the little riceballs in. Umami yum-fest 😀 PS I have been tempted to do Random Recipes but never get my act together in time…
Hi Kellie, yes I just mentioned abouve salmon teriyaki is one of my favourite. I am guessing you could make up quite a lot of the sauce and keep it in the fridge. I didn’t have sake to hand and I think that can be expensive too, but there are other Asian-type wines that I substitute to keep the cost down. Buying in larger bottles from bigger Asian stores helps, too. So many challenges to keep up with, so little time! Thanks for stopping by x
what an amazingly foodie packed lunch idea – love it Ren!
Thanks Katie, makes a change to sandwiches and I am not good with salad!
Magnolia Verandah says
Oh two of my favourite ingredients in asian food ginger and lemongrass. I love bento boxes – I go straight to them when we go for lunch at Japanese, they are so simple yet perfectly balanced meal in one order. Perfect random choice!
Thank you! Yes, there are so many different combinations to add, one of my favourite things is teriyaki salmon so I’ll be making double in the fture ready for my bento box the next day!
Fuss Free Helen says
That looks delicious Ren.
I really like Leemei’s book. Lovely recipes. Vibrant is exactly the right word for the subtitle!
Thanks Helen, I know, what a lovely book. I remember reading your review. I really like the fact that so many cuisines are covered, but with an easy to make approach. See you this evening x
I love chicken teriyaki and this looks like such a delicious as well as healthy lunchbox idea. My kids love Japanese sushi rice and I often make it as an alternative to basmati. I am a bit the same and always mean to enter Random Recipes then run out of time! Hopefully soon……x
Hi Laura, we love sushi rice too, something we got from Nigella as she mentions it a lot in her books. There are so many wonderful blog events to join in with, it’s finding the time to keep up!