Easy Japanese lunchbox supper

Japanese bento style dinner over rice
Start with a bed of rice, then arrange bits and pieces of leftovers, pantry staples, and/or quick-cooked fresh foods tossed in dressings that you already have in your fridge. The pleasure of this dish is having so many different tastes in one meal

It’s summertime, and the last thing you want to do is slave over a hot stove, so what kind of meal can you pull together that turns leftovers and other stuff you’ve already got in your fridge into a feast for the senses?

Easy Japanese Lunchbox Supper


Rice (warm or cold)

Snap Peas with Soy-Lemon Dressing (5 min to prep the snap peas + 10 min for the dressing)

Sweet Sesame Greens (10 min)

Japanese Quick-Pickled Onions (these are best—and most colorful—if left in fridge overnight, but they will be fresh-pickled as soon as the brine cools)

Yakitori Chicken Mini-burgers (use frozen leftovers* or 45 min prep time from scratch)

Savory Simmered Mushrooms (below) (25 min)

Savory Simmered Mushrooms

Simmered shiitake mushrooms

I use these with abandon in mixed green salads, so I usually double this recipe and keep them on hand in my fridge.

8 shiitake (or other) mushroom caps, without stems

1-1/4 c. (300 ml) dashi (can be made with boiling water and 1 t. (5g) instant hon-dashi granules**)

2 T. (30ml) soy sauce

2 T. (30ml) mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine for cooking)

2 T. (25g) sugar

Combine everything but the mushrooms in a frying pan and bring to a boil.

Shiitake mushrooms simmering on stove
Add mushrooms in a single layer, gill side down. (I usually double this recipe and make them in a big frying pan, cramming in as many mushroom caps as will fit in a single layer, so I have plenty to keep in the fridge and eat later on salads or rice, just sayin’…)

Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for ten minutes. Flip mushrooms over so the other sides can absorb the goodness.

Shiitake mushrooms simmering on stove
The shrink down a bit as they cook

Cover and simmer ten more minutes. Let cool in sauce.

Store mushrooms in the fridge in a glass jar filled to the brim with sauce. They last a couple of weeks like this.

Also: The sauce from these mushrooms makes absolutely fabulous savory rice if you mix it with the rice water before cooking.

**You can buy instant Hon-Dashi at Asian markets or online

Hon-dashi instant dashi granules

*Leftovers that are super good atop a rice bowl:

Tasty Ginger Pork

Chicken & Ginger Yakitori Meatballs

Salmon with Spicy Miso Sauce

Peppery Marinated Mushrooms

Sliced smoked salmon (from a deli)

Grilled steak, sliced thin

Click here for more Japanese Home Cooking Recipes

Or get a fresh recipe sent to your email every month when you subscribe!

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly Japanagram newsletter, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: