Lunch bento & notes on okonomiyaki

This was a bento lunch from last week comprising a lot of leftovers from the fridge.

Bento lunch 071120

In anti-clockwise direction starting from top left-hand corner:
1) Stir-fried cauliflower in pink silicone baking cup.

2) Squares of okonomiyaki made with squid, as I mentioned here. The slightly fishy taste of squid gives a stronger flavour to the dish, just be careful not to cook it too long as squid turns hard when overcooked (which also means that reheated leftovers have unchewable squid bits :P).

Taking my cue from this recipe, I tend to use a huge amount of yam and only just enough flour to bind everything together – this makes my okonomiyaki taste a bit different, rather than just a vegetable pancake. Actually, I’ve been using the wrong kind of yam, the usual roundish Chinese yam in the supermarket, when really it’s the long, slender, brown-skinned Japanese mountain yam (yamaimo) that should be used. Here’s a photo of the very sticky liquid produced from grating yamaimo.

Yamaimo is easily available (but pricey) in Singapore at Japanese supermarkets Isetan and Meidi-ya and Takashimaya Cold Storage (which seems to a wider selection of Japanese foods than other Cold Storage).

However, if we leave the world of Japanese cuisine behind, yamaimo is also commonly found in the local wet markets. Take a look at this picture of dried, sliced yamaimo and anyone who makes Chinese herbal soups will recognise it instantly! In Chinese it’s known as huái shān (), or shān yào (), and the botanical name is Dioscorea opposita (read more here and here). Of course, there are many therapeutic effects of this plant in Traditional Chinese Medicine, including as a lung and kidney tonic and as part of prescriptions for diabetes and diarrhoea. [Reference: Cooking with Asian Roots by Devagi Sanmugam and Christopher Tan (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2006)]

As for the rest of the ingredients, after becoming utterly confused by the very different quantities of ingredients in the many recipes on the internet (and the many different styles of okonomiyaki), I gave up and decided to make the batter by guesswork based on my experience with pancakes, waffles and the one time I ate okonomiyaki in Osaka six years ago :P.

Anyway, the end result (apart from the rubbery squid in reheated okonomiyaki) tasted very yummy to me, even without any sauces to go with it.

[Update 5/12/07: read my notes on first experiences cooking with yamaimo here.]

3) Fried strips/slices of Japanese sweet potato with purple skin (satsumaimo) in blue plastic bento side dish container.

4) Claypot chicken rice made with chopped garlic, cubes of yam and mixed mushrooms. (Unlike traditional Chinese claypot rice, this doesn’t include any preserved meats such as Chinese sausages, salted fish, or any of the usual sauces: soya sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine.)

5) Pu-Erh tea agar agar in heart-shaped container. I used a plastic food divider sheet to prevent the rice from falling into the agar agar.

Perhaps you would have noticed by now that my bento are pretty monochrome by the five-colour principle of Japanese cuisine and bento-making. One of the things that my family noticed when I started on the Failsafe food intolerance diet with particular attention to salicylates is that the vegetable & fruit selection seems to exclude most things with colour. For example, Packham pears are the only okay fruit on the list and acceptable vegetables are basically cauliflower, cabbage, bamboo shoot, bean sprouts, chayote (fo shou gua 佛手瓜), as well as some green veg in the form of green beans, celery, iceberg lettuce, leeks and Brussels sprouts (hard to find and can be expensive in Singapore). [One problem is that many Asian fruits and vegetables have not yet been tested for salicylate levels as I've discussed here.] My tolerance to salicylates is getting better so you will notice in my other bento some flirtation with high salicylate foods such as tomatoes and avocados, but that’s really just for the sake of the bento and on non-bento days, I’ll stick to the safe foods.

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4 Responses

  1. [...] from rest of food with decorative plastic divider. Further notes on my okonomiyaki experiments here. 2) Cut-up Packham pear in silicone baking cup. 3) Green container: Japanese mayonnaise mixed with [...]

  2. I love bento! But, unfortunately, somethings do cause food allergies.

  3. [...] mountain yam Published December 5, 2007 Chinese , Japanese , kitchen tips I had earlier written about the essential okonomiyaki ingredient, Chinese mountain yam, otherwise known as: yamaimo [...]

  4. [...] purple mountain yam powder [NB: the slight medicinal taste might not appeal to everyone; as I noted here, mountain yam is commonly used as a traditional Chinese medicinal food] 300ml milk/soya bean [...]

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