Kitchen Capers

Weekend Project: The Romantic Bento

by Edwan S. Photography Eddy on Fri, April 12, 2013

We're always looking for cool ways to make food into something more than just to sustain life. Often food is something very personal and also the simplest way to show a person that you care about them. So... enter the romantic bento experience...

Edible love in a box!

Our bento boxes were so popular during our I Eat KL launch we thought that it be good to give out some tips and recipes to make your own. It's a sweet little weekend project or something to send to your favourite person. Be it a picnic, a snack by the stairs of a college, sent to the office with some flowers or just a simple way of saying, 'I care' trust us when we say this will make someone you love smile.

But first, this article will be written from a guy’s standpoint. But I’m guessing it’ll work for girls trying to impress guys too. Disclaimer though: the writer will not be held responsible for the success or failure of your romantic gesture! Read this as: we can give you the tools but you got to bring the charm.

For less than RM100 you can make a lovely meal for two.

Now the bento box I’m suggesting is super simple to make, and it’ll just take up a couple of hours of your time. But believe me, it’s worth it.

We’re making a Salmon Bento Box, which will contain nice, fluffy Japanese rice, Pan-seared Salmon with Teriyaki Style Glaze, Crunchy Tempura Prawns, a cool Cucumber, Cherry Tomato and Mint Salad and for dessert, Honey Marinated Strawberries and Dark Chocolate. Let’s begin!

This recipe makes for two bento boxes. I got my Japanese rice ready cooked, and you can always cook your own.

Seared Salmon with Teriyaki Style Glaze

Salmon fillet (2 x 80g fillets), trimmed into a nice rectangular shape
150ml Japanese soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for cooking


Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan; get it slightly smoking
Pat the salmon dry, and season with salt and pepper on both sides
Put the salmon skin side down in the hot pan, and leave it alone for 2 minutes! After that 2 minutes, flip it over and cook for 2 minutes more.
Now take out the fillets and set aside.
In the same pan, put in the soy sauce and sugar. Cook down until it becomes very sticky, like honey. Taste it: it should be salty and sweet in equal measure.
Season the sauce with pepper, and put the salmon back inside. Let it cook for 3 minutes and then keep warm.

Now for the tempura prawns. I have to point out that the batter must be done at the very moment before frying. If made too early, the batter will become tough when cooked. We’re using soda water here, because the CO2 inside will make the batter light and crispy. To make sure the prawns don’t curl, we’re also using sate skewers.

Crunchy Tempura Prawns:

5-6 medium size prawns, shelled and deveined
100g soft flour
100g corn flour
125ml soda water, kept really cold
Salt and pepper
A bit of turmeric powder, for color
Oil for deep frying

Heat oil for deep frying
Skewer the prawns with sate sticks to keep them straight
For the batter, sieve the soft and corn flour together. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the soda water bit by bit and whisk until mixed. It should be gloopy enough to stick, and not runny enough that it’ll just drop off. Mix in the turmeric.
When the oil is hot, dip the skewered prawns into the batter and coat evenly. Fry in small batches.
Now here’s a trick to get super crunchy crust: using a spoon, drizzle some batter onto the frying prawns! It’ll give them that spiky crazy look characteristic of good tempura.
Fry until golden brown, take out and drain on absorbent towels. Keep warm.

We’re almost done! Next up is the Cucumber, Tomato and Mint salad. This is a cool, refreshing salad.

Cucumber Salad:

2 Japanese cucumber, peeled
4 Cherry tomatoes
Mint leaves – chiffonade (cut into thin, delicate strips) or chopped, if you’re lazy
Sugar to taste
1 Tbs vinegar
1 tsp oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a veggie peeler, shave off long thin strips of the cucumber and put them in a bowl.
Halve the cherry tomatoes and chuck that in the bowl too.
Sprinkle the sugar to taste, and the vinegar and oil.
Add in the cut mint leaves and mix everything together.
Chill it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so until cool.

Okay we’re at dessert now! And what can be more romantic than strawberries, honey and chocolate, right? And we’re not gonna muck about with overcomplicated preparations. The dessert we’re making is simple and sexy and perfect for sharing.

Honey Marinated Strawberries:

100g fresh, large strawberries, quartered
1 Tbs honey
Pinch of salt
Finely chopped dark chocolate

Simple: mix everything together!

Now it’s time to set up your bento box. I’m using recycled palm fibre tapau boxes, available at good supermarkets. You’ll score brownie points for being seen as environmentally conscious, okay? Put your rice in the main compartment, and arrange the salmon and prawns around it. Do it nicely! You want your date to be impressed. Then in the smaller compartments, you can put in the salad, the strawberries, and a few pieces of good quality dark chocolate.
You’re done! All that’s needed is for you to bring this to your date. It’s best if you surprise her with it too.

Now I’m gonna tell you why I advocate this.

Any guy can book a restaurant. Or buy flowers and chocolates. It’s become the go-to method of ‘romance’. But how many guys take time and effort to cook for the girl (or date) they admire or love? A few.

I’ve been told there are two kinds of guys that girls find hot: those that can play music, and those that can cook.Think about it: a guy that can cook has the potential to be, like, the sweetest guy ever because he’ll be putting in an effort and give the girl happiness in a bite. You can’t eat songs, but you sure as hell can eat a nice, home cooked meal! She’ll remember it for life.

And here’s why, if you put in an effort to prepare this bento box, the girl will love the food: food tastes it absolute best when made with love and care. The love you have for that special someone will manifest itself in everything you do, including food. Food made with love, and with the most genuinely honest intentions, will taste so much better because of the connotations attached to it: it shows the girl that ‘yes, he does care for me, so much so that he cooks for me because he loves me and wants me to have the best.’ Food is so much more than just physical sustenance. It has the ability to sustain love, too.

Really, it WILL be the best because you’re serving the tummy and the heart. You’re satisfying two hungers at once.

You’ll be giving them happiness, through food.