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POKÉMON TRAINER - Bento-style Rice Ball Trio

Updated: Jul 19, 2021


Complexity: ★★★☆☆


Who's ready to learn how to make donuts? Nothing beats a jelly-filled donut!


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Okay, I didn't just make riceballs for the meme - jokes aside, onigiri are pretty fitting for Pokémon Trainer! I even made them resemble pokéballs! I've presented this recipe as a fairly simple bento box, which seemed appropriate given that the starter Pokémon are often presented to players in the form of three pokéballs in a box!

Also, bento boxes are a popular packed lunch for schoolchildren in Japan, which is very appropriate for the world of Pokémon: trainers are often young children around 10-12 years old who leave home to explore the world and fill out their pokédexes. A cute homemade packed lunch is the perfect snack for a young trainer on the go! Pokémon trainers in both the anime and the games are often depicted carrying small boxes to store various items, such as the gym badges they collect across their journey. So, making a bento box felt super thematically fitting for Pokémon Trainer!

A box of gym badges from the anime.

Not only that, but Pokémon is incredibly popular with real life children in Japan and around the world - so Pokémon is an ever-popular subject of kyaraben, a special type of bento box containing food (often riceballs!) decorated to resemble characters from popular anime, manga, and video games!


I made three types of onigiri, each with a filling that represents each starter Pokémon and the three principle types: grass, fire, and water!

  • For Ivysaur, the Grass-type starter Pokémon, I went for a green salad with avocado, cucumber, and edamame! A sprinkling of sesame seeds is fitting for Ivysaur, the "Seed Pokémon," and the grass-type in general - which often features seed-based moves such as Bullet Seed (Ivysaur's Neutral Special in Smash!)

  • For Charizard, the iconic Fire-type "Flame Pokémon," I made a spicy BBQ beef filling! Sriracha and red chili flakes really pack the heat, and some red pepper gives it a striking red colour.

  • Last but not least, Squirtle, the Water-type "Tiny Turtle Pokémon"! I decided to draw on the flavours of the sea with a Japanese-style tuna salad. The addition of watercress and water chestnuts make this filling worthy of the water-type!


 

INGREDIENTS

Rice Balls:

  • 2 cups uncooked Japanese short grain rice

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2-3 sheets of nori, cut into thin strips

  • Soy sauce, for dipping

Green Salad Filling:

  • 1 avocado, flesh scooped out and cubed

  • ⅓ cup edamame, removed from pods

  • ⅓ cup cucumber, finely diced

  • The greens of one scallion, thinly sliced

  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

  • 2 tsp honey

  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

  • 1 tsp grated ginger

  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

  • 1 tsp salt

  • ½ tsp black pepper

The spicy beef filling is definitely the star of the show!

Spicy Beef Filling:

  • 4-5 oz beef, thinly sliced

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tbsp miso paste

  • 2 tsp sriracha

  • 1 tsp dried red chili flakes

  • ½ tsp black pepper

  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

  • ¼ tsp cloves

  • 1 tbsp neutral oil

  • The whites of one scallion, thinly sliced

  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

  • 1 tsp grated ginger

Tuna Salad Filling:

  • 1 cup canned tuna, liquid drained

  • ½ cup watercress, finely chopped

  • ½ stalk celery, finely diced

  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, finely diced

  • ⅓ cup Kewpie mayonnaise

  • The juice of one lime

  • 1 tsp soy sauce

  • ½ tsp black pepper


PREPARATION

For green salad filling:

  1. Add chopped cucumber, avocado, edamame beans, scallions, and cilantro to a medium bowl.

  2. Whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until well combined. Stir into salad. Top with sesame seeds. Set aside.

For spicy beef filling:

  1. Slice beef as thin as possible. Add to a bowl or plastic ziploc bag along with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, miso paste, sriracha, chili flake, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves.

  2. Mix together until well combined and meat is thoroughly coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap/tightly seal bag and marinate in the fridge for about 1 hour.

  3. Heat oil in a pan or wok. Cook scallion, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

  4. Add beef and simmer until fully cooked. Thicken sauce with a cornstarch slurry if desired. Set aside.

For tuna salad filling:

  1. Add tuna, chopped watercress, celery, and water chestnuts to a medium bowl.

  2. Add Kewpie mayo, lime juice, soy sauce, and black pepper to taste. Mix until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Assembly:

  1. Cook rice according to directions on package. Set aside and allow to cool.

  2. While rice is still somewhat warm but cool enough to handle, grab a small handful with wet hands (to avoid sticking) and form into a disc. Add a small scoop of filling in the centre and encase in the rice, forming into a ball (you'll really want to pack it together, it can be hard to get them to keep their shape!)

  3. Wrap with a thin strip of nori. Continue with each filling to make several rice balls, serve with soy sauce if desired. (if you have leftover ingredients or don't want to make it all into rice balls, you can also serve in the form of a rice bowl, or lettuce wraps!)



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