Thursday, 8 May 2008

Bento - Tuna & Courgette Ribbons with Douban Jiang

Economical Bento filler to eat with rice.
Time required: 1 hour
Total cooking/preparation time: 5-10 minutes

Cut 2 or 3 slim courgettes/zuchini into ribbons using a potato peeler (or Dutch style cheese slicer).
Put the ribbons in a colander and coat them in a few teaspoons of salt. Leave them to drain for 30 minutes to an hour.
Boil a pot of water and add the drained courgette ribbons. Boil for 1 minute (careful not to boil for longer as the courgettes will get mushy).
Empty the courgettes into a colander and rinse/refresh with cold water, leave to drain thoroughly.

Alternatively: Cut and salt cucumber in the same way and leave to leach for an hour. Rinse and drain thoroughly. No need to boil.

Drain a can of tuna.

In a bowl, mix together 1 or 2 teaspoons of douban jiang, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 of hondashi (optional), 1 of sesame oil. If you have some, add a teaspoon of powdered/flaked bonito (katsuo boshi).

Combine together the drained courgette ribbons, the tuna and the douban jiang sauce.

Add to Bento box with generous portion of cooked rice.

Notes on Douban Jiang

This is a classic condiment used in Sichuan cooking made of fermented broad beans and chilli. Alhough it's well known in Japan (being an important ingredient in Mabo Doufu/Mapo Dofu) where premium versions of this condiment are available, it's not so easy to find in the UK. The Cantonese name for this condiment is Toban Djang. An acceptable version of this sauce is made by Lee Kum Kee
under the label Chilli Bean Paste (on my jar, Toban Djang is barely visible in the label's small print). This seems to be the simplest to find.

If you do get your hands on authentic douban jiang, consider frying it for 30 seconds or so before using it. And if you get the really good stuff, you may need to chop it into a paste yourself.
Do be wary of douban jiang that does not include broad beans/fava beans in the list of ingredients.

Best I've found in London has been at Seewoo, Lisle Street
You can see it on this web page
Under the name
The wicker basket contains two soft plastic packs of the sauce and costs GBP2.25. This is superior in every way to the Lee Kum Kee version and considerably less salty. Highly recommended.

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