Monday, March 25, 2013

Seaweed Tofu Cakes Bento

My latest bento adventure comes in the form of a Seaweed Tofu Cakes lunchbox, accompanied by some lovely sticky rice, potatoes and even a little dessert of some healthy strawberries.

Definitely much prettier than my last bento attempt, this time I was incredibly lucky indeed to have some extra bento treats to play with. Thanks to the amazing Tokyo Purple Girl, who very very kindly sent me a parcel of the most amazing collection of bento accessories, I now have enough cute bento stuff in my bento drawer (yes, I made a drawer for it) to last me a lifetime. 

There's loads of beautiful stuff but I tried not to use too much of it this time because part of the appeal of the lovely things I've been sent is the amazing Japanese packaging it's all in (some of it featuring my favourite Hello Kitty) and I want to keep that for as long as possible. However, one thing I couldn't wait to try was the delicious sounding Wasabi Sprinkles. I love wasabi and these were amazing, giving that beautiful intense wasabi taste to my sticky rice with just a light smattering.

I also couldn't resist opening the amazing soy sauce bottles which had little animal heads for lids! So sweet!

I was also very excited to discover that my new Aldi rice cooker makes perfect Japanese sticky rice - can't believe how much time and effort knowing that is going to save me. Frequent sushi making, here I come.

I also received an amazing little mini cutter for making shapes out of veggies and things, so inspired by the carrot flowers in the sauce during my recent visit to Pho 68, I made some little flowers by slicing carrots into rounds then cutting little bits out. These looked pretty cool (from a distance at least).

The Seaweed Tofu Cakes were actually adapted from a chicken recipe from a weirdly good Vicky Bhogal book we've got on our cookbook shelf. 

I swapped the chicken out for tofu and had to add quite a lot of breadcrumbs to the recipe to thicken it up but the end result was delicious. The Seaweed Tofu cakes were nice on the night (we had big versions in burger buns as some kind of Japanese burger) but were beautiful cold the next day.

I loved making my Seaweed Tofu Cakes Bento and was so proud of the end result. Having a bento is awesome because it actually makes you want to go to work just so you can show off your lunch. None of my colleagues could believe it when they saw me whip the bad boy out, they then also started saying that if I have time to be making bentos, I'm clearly not doing enough marking... Well here's what I think, if you build making a bento into your routine and eat the bento ingredients as part of your tea like we did, it's not time consuming at all and you still have plenty of time left for marking and suchlike!!

I would definitely make the cakes again but for next time I would definitely serve with a little pot of Kewpie Mayonnaise - I think a nice light and vinegary mayo would have been the perfect accompaniment.

For the Seaweed Tofu Cakes
1 packet of firm tofu (I use Cauldron - 396g)
1 large handful coriander
2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli
4 slices wholemeal bread
The zest of 2 limes
1 tsp fish sauce
2 sheets nori
Salt and Pepper

To serve
Japanese sticky rice, cooked to packet instructions, seasoned and sprinkled with sushi vinegar
Wasabi Sprinkles
Slices of carrot made into flower shapes
Soy Sauce
Roasted potatoes

Start by drying out the tofu by layering it with kitchen paper before pressing the layers down by putting something heavy on top.

Meanwhile, finely chop the coriander, garlic and chilli and add them to a large mixing bowl.

Chop the tofu into chunks and add to the mixing bowl. Stir together.

Using a hand blender, blend the contents of the mixing bowl to a fine paste resembling houmous.

Gradually add the slices of bread and blend them into the mixture - this will thicken it up. Add the lime zest and fish sauce. Take the two sheets of nori and fold them in half once then in half again. Snip the nori into tiny squares over the bowl so they fall into the mixture. Thoroughly stir in these little bits of nori then season the mixture to taste.

Place the mixing bowl in the fridge while you prepare the Japanese sticky rice, potatoes and other bits and bobs.

Heat up a large frying pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add blobs about the size of large heaped teaspoons of the tofu mixture to the pan and try to flatten down a little bit with the back of a teaspoon.

Leave the the blobs in the pan to get a nice bit of colour on them before flipping. Once flipped you can flatten the blobs a little more to form nice round patties.

Your Seaweed Tofu Cakes are now ready to be put in the bento box! Start by putting the sticky rice into the bento box and sprinkling with the wasabi sprinkles and adorning with carrot flowers.

Place two silicone cupcake cases in the corner of the bento box. In the remaining corner, line the bottom of the bento box with lettuce leaves that come up round the sides of the box - they will act as a holder for your Seaweed Tofu Cakes.

Put the roast potatoes and yummy strawberries for dessert in the two cupcake cases. You can stick some bento picks  into the strawberries if you like.

Take your Seaweed Tofu Cakes Bento to work and be the envy of your colleagues! Be sure to whip it out and show people though! Alternatively, make the bento for a loved one as a nice lunchtime surprise.

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