It's gonna be a busy May for me, lots of travel and filled up weekends so I feel the need to try to get in bentos where ever I can because I know getting cooking time in will be tough. I originally had a more ambitious theme but I was reminded that my weekend was going to be packed. So in honor of the dragon boat races I was at this weekend I decided to do a super quick Chinese bento. I wasn't messing around; from a dead start to clean kitchen I was in and out in an hour and a half (a new record for me I think) I even raised my arms in victory. \(>.<)/
So what makes for a quick bento? I've given this a lot of thought because I really enjoyed my extra free time. I think the keys are familiar dishes and very few cooking steps. Take this Asian marinated pork, step one put all the stuff in bag, step two next morning put in probe thermometer set for 155F dump it into oven, step three yank it out of the oven when loud thermometer starts beeping. Step four declare great success after 10 mins of resting. Ok so yes, I did cheat a little and started the marinade the night before but that took like two mins to put together. The point being is that there are certain dishes that can be very versatile (change up the marinade depending on theme) and a great dish. This of course is why the pork tenderloin makes lots of features in my history of menu items, it just sneaks in with a different disguise everytime (like a spy). Today's marinade features soy sauce, a sesame oil, fresh garlic and a little of this and that from the spice drawer (If someone cares I can list it out for you I just can't remember right now).
Nothing easier than fried rice. I decided to serve this the way my mom use to make it for us when my sister and I were growing up: with ketchup. You gotta go with me on this, the sweet and tang of ketchup really makes a nice addition to fried rice. Apparently this is very popular in Taiwan and kind of a common "comfort" version of fried rice. I'm actually kind of surprised this doesn't make a showing in more Chinese restaurants especially the more authentic ones here around town or at least the "Taiwanese" restaurants.
Finally I close out with some garlic sauteed water spinach. I'm not quite sure how it got it's English name in Chinese it's 空心菜 (literally translated empty heart vegetable) due to the stem being hollow. I didn't know this, but the plant is considered "environmentally problematic" (the USDA calls it noxioius) because it grows so fast. This by far was the most labor intensive of the dishes, I think a lot of restaurants just chop up the spinach stem and all and quickly saute it with a bit of garlic and oil. Growing up I was taught to painstaking pluck the leaves and the little tender stem that branches from the main stem and only cook that part since the main stem can be a bit tough. (I'm a bit of a perfectionist only the best for my bentoes). So two large bunches of water spinach (much like regular spinach) cooks down to a tiny little bit of food.
There was dessert, but to really cut a corner I just purchased some almond cookies from the Asian grocery store since I needed to save a bit of time. Anyhow like I said this was speed record setting for me this weekend. I'm off on a work trip next week, maybe I'll dine on something interesting.
- Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin
- Ketchup Fried Rice
- Sauteed Water Spinach
- Almond Cookie