April 25, 2011

International Bento (Japan): Gyoza-Meatball Bento!

What happens when you are making gyoza, and run out of wrappers before you run out of filling? Well, you could run out and buy more wrappers, certainly, or make up another batch by hand if that's the way you roll. However, if you only have a small amount of filling left over, why not just make meatballs?

To make sure they fit nicely into my rather flat bento, I shaped them more like tiny burger patties, and simply fried them up. So, I guess you could either call this "skinless gyoza" or flat meatballs. I "dressed" them with a little dollop of leftover tonkatsu sauce from a previous dinner, which was absolutely the right condiment (although spicy bean paste or miso gravy would have also been good). The filling I was making was pretty much the same as the pork filling, but I sometimes play fast and loose with the quantities of mushrooms and/or cabbage, which is why I ended up with a little extra this time. You can also substitute the ground pork for ground turkey, with tasty results, and one day I do intend to get around to trying a scallop-prawn gyoza.

Since gyoza filling is not cooked in advance of dumpling assembly, it's easy enough to shape any leftover bits into meatballs - you could freeze them uncooked, naturally, but I just cooked them up on the spot, downed one as a snack (just to make sure they were tasty, you understand) and packed up the rest for a lunch.

The rest of the bento is probably fairly self-explanatory: Radish lotus flowers (they look more like lotus flowers or lilies to me than roses, when cut this way), raw snow peas, and Japanese steamed rice with togaraschi shichimi sprinkled on top.

This was a fairly filling bento, between all the rice and four large meatballs, so it wasn't as balanced as it could have been. A little more veggie matter, or some fruit for dessert would have sorted that out nicely but, to be fair, I made this bento out of refrigerator scraps, essentially, so I was pretty pleased with it.

I'd like to get back into making more bentos. We've been eating out in restaurants a lot since the move, what with work schedules, hockey playoffs, and loads of new restaurants suddenly more available to us, so our leftovers haven't always been bento-friendly (or I've been too lazy to make them so). I do enjoy the way bento-making encourages the planning of a balanced lunch more than simply putting leftovers of a main dish into a container without thought or side dishes. It feels like a step in the right direction, and gets more fruit and vegetables into my lunchtime.

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