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O-Hanami Bento (25-03-2012)

On Sunday March 25th we had a very special — BIG — picnic bento to celebrate spring with our friends. Like every year, we held our own Hanami Matsuri (cherry blossom feast) in the Amsterdamse Bos sakura garden. Unfortunately the Japanese cherry trees were only just starting to bloom, but there hasn’t been a better spring day afterwards so we were lucky anyway!

First of all I had to bake ‘something cherry’. Browsing brought me to a Martha Stewart recipe for vegan chocolate cupcakes with a cherry frosting, tried by BakedBree (substituting raspberry vinegar for plain and using cherries from a jar as fresh are not in season). Bree and her omni friends were quite positive so the choice was easily made!

Chocolat-Cherry Cupcakes for O-Hanami Bento (#178)

At the risk of sounding immodest: don’t you think they look awesome?? :) And yes, they were nice as well.. but I don’t think I’ll make them again. I didn’t much care for the buttery topping and you can’t really have the cupcakes without.

Here’s the rest of what we brought to the picnic.

O-Hanami Bento (25-03-2012)

Up front is my sakura box loaded with tofu puffs or inarizushi (a recipe from The Vegetarian Table: Japan cookbook by Victoria Wise), onigiri rice balls filled with umeboshi (pickled plum) and chickpea-wasabi mixture, rolled in respectively plum furikake and nori seaweed.

Both tiers of my yellow Circle bento box are filled with raspberries; behind that stands a small bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce. There’s an oval tier with Japanese style coated peanuts (the other two contain more sushi), a can of wasabi peas (which we didn’t eat) and white chocolate Mikado “Pocky’s” that are not vegan but a leftover from my life as a vegetarian that I wanted to get rid of. ;)

For drinks: plum wine, sake and lots of hot water for a choice of sakura hoija tea, plum vert, sencha, gyokuro asahi and genmaicha.

Dôh, of course we overdid it. But it’s o-hanami only once a year, so who cares? ;)

And if you thought that would be all… There’s more! Because our friends are foodies too. :D They contributed their own yummy goodies, like vegan apple pie, dolmas, dorayakis (sweet red bean paste pancakes) and cheese cookies for the non-vegans among us, cucumber and more nibbles. We think alike because additional batches of inarizushi and onigiri (with cucumber and plum filling) were brought to the party.

Here’s a picture of our belly-pleasing banquet…

Hanami 2012 picnic in Amsterdamse Bos

Are you getting hungry yet? ;)

Next up is my Bihun Bento!

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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

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Bento Lunch


Yesterday we had our yearly celebration of Hanami: cherry blossom viewing, in the Amsterdam Woods’ Japanese sakura garden. The weather was FABULOUS and I have not seen so many people in the blossom parc before! A sign with flowers in remembrance of the earthquake/tsunami victims attracted quite some attention too.

Sakura close-up

Mr Gnoe was reading part 3 of Murakami’s 1q84 but Poor Me had to do some homework for my film review class: writing about Barney’s Version — a movie that was more entertaining than I had expected and evoked thoughts about Rossetti, Dante, (William Blake), heaven and hell. I wonder if my fellow classmates had the same associations.

Hanami 2011 Bento (#139)

Hanami 2011 Bento, 10-04-2011

Of course there can be no Hanami Matsuri without a picnic — meaning: bento. I didn’t have much time to prepare so it was a small afternoon snack/late Sunday lunch. But GOOOOD. :) Unfortunately my cute usagi picnic bento *died* on the way back from Amsterdam Woods two years ago and I still haven’t gotten myself another Big Box. So we used some Emsa lock & lock containers instead. They’re leak-proof and that’s always great for transport. ;)


  • Italian Linghue crackers with rosemary
  • Root vegetable crisps
  • Cherry tomatoes & Cherry Belle or Champion radishes (de ‘ballenbak’)
  • Cucumber
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Sesame bread sticks
  • Edamame hummus — another yummy recipe from the La Dolce Vegan! cookbook I got on my birthday
  • Apricot-coconut treats from Vegalicious (super easy!)
  • Drinks: shincha tea (first flush sencha) and ‘prosecco royale’

Quick Snack Bento (#140)

Quick Snack Bento, 11-04-2011

Since I had to finish and mail my review of Barney’s Version when we got home from our day under the sakura trees, I had only a little time to make a Monday bento. So it was just regular sammies today, accompanied by an apple, banana and this snack box. No complaints here though! ;)


  • Edamame hummus
  • Sesame breadsticks
  • Nuts & dried fruit: apricots, cranberries, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • Vegetables: spinach leaves, gherkin, radishes, cucumber, cherry tomato, caper berries, parsley

Have you been celebrating the blossoming of trees?

Cherry Blossom Park in Amsterdamse Bos

Hurray, it’s time for Hanami! On Sunday we went to view the cherry blossoms in the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Woods) and had our yearly picnic. In 2000 the Japan Women’s Club planted 400 cherry trees in celebration of 400 years of trade between Holland and Japan.

I absolutely love this part of the Amsterdamse Bos, which is called Kersentuin (Cherry Garden).

We went there exactly 365 days ago (one of our pictures of that visit was included in the Amsterdam Schwap Guide!), but… it was much colder this time around! :( Still, the blossoms were at their prettiest, so postponing our outing seemed not a good idea. Furthermore, Bento-Babe was organizing a little party that we liked to join. We enjoyed meeting her friends and Marion (& dan_e), whom I have known in cyberspace for quite some time now! So I didn’t really mind ending my readathon early for it. The fun thing is that the 2nd sentence I read that morning actually was:

“Robert woke up early to the sound of church bells and thought, Today is the perfect day to picnic in Postman’s Park.” [Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger), p.184]

How suitable :)

Hanami Bento #95 (11-04-2010)

Our contribution to the hanami party was bento #97. A picnic under the cherry blossoms was the perfect excuse to finally make those poppy seed scones I had been planning for a while! At first I was afraid that it had all gone wrong, but they were actually quite good! We ate them with some raspberry jelly and mascarpone. The recipe for poppy seed scones will be up on Graasland in the near future. The recipe for the scones can be found on Graasland!

The other foodies in our hanami bento are sugar snap salad with garlic & wasabi and miso tamago (miso marinated egg; recipe below) on a bed of red salad and accompanied by tomatoes that had to hold everything together ;) The white sakura flowers you find laying between the eggs are ice cubes. Aren’t they cute? After a long search for appropriate cool-thingies I found these at the Dutch department store HEMA. A great tip for bento lovers in (or visiting) Holland!

Leftover Easter eggs for hanamiI forgot to include our leftover Easter eggs in my cute sakura bag in the picture, hence the seperate photograph.

Beverages we brought along (not shown): our traditional kir royale (prosecco wine with creme de cassis), pink grapefruit juice, gyokuro classic sencha tea and plain tab water.

Some things the others brought to our picnic: homemade walnut bread, rice fishies & spicy curry-peanut furikake, mini kiwi’s, wasabi nuts, mouthwatering sakura cupcakes, pineapple, pickled cucumber, onigiri, veggie mix and more…

White sakura chopsticksBento-Babe had a kind surprise for us: sakura chopsticks! I really adore them; they’re exactly like my black ones that you see in the picture above, but white. I now have a complete set!

Celebrating O-Hanami is not common in The Netherlands. But it is one of the major festivities in Japan!

Wikipedia (edited): Hanami (lit. ‘flower viewing’) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms or ume blossoms (prune). In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during daytime or at night. The practice of hanami is many centuries old. It was first used as a term analogous to cherry blossom viewing in the Heian era novel Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu; often considered to be the very first work of literature. Whilst a wisteria viewing party was also described, from this point on the terms “hanami” and “flower party” were only used to describe cherry blossom viewing. The delicate flowers are seen as a metaphor for life itself, luminous and beautiful yet fleeting and ephemeral.

I have read part of Genji Monogatari (not all) and it might just be how Mr Gnoe and I came to have our own hanami here in Holland!

Cherry Blossom (sakura)

Miso tamago recipe

Preparing miso tamagoMarinating eggs in miso is really easy! It just takes a bit of patience… The original recipe for miso tamago on Justbento contains white miso and maple syrup. Since we only have red miso in our fridge at the moment (which tastes much saltier), and maple syrup also tilts to the salty, I’ve replaced the syrup with molasses (schenkstroop). Here’s the recipe per egg, so you can make as many as you want ;)


  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 2 tablespoon red miso
  • 1 teaspoon or egg spoon molasses
  • 1 piece of clingwrap, big enough to fold around the egg


  1. Peel the egg.
  2. Mix miso with syrup; if necessary add a tiny bit of warm water to make it smooth.
  3. Spread the mixture in the middle of your piece of plastic, put the egg in the middle and wrap the cling film around the egg. Twist the plastic shut at the top, and gently squish the miso so that is completely covering the egg.
  4. Put the egg(s) in a container in your refridgerator and let rest for at least 5 hours, preferably a day. According to Maki from Justbento it can be kept up to a week.
  5. Remove the cling film when you want to use the egg. I prefer to wipe off the remaining marinade with some kitchen paper. You can leave it on if you like, but red miso is pretty strong..!

How wonderful: April’s Hello Japan! mini challenge is all about spring & sakura too! Our task is to celebrate spring, and in particular the beloved sakura. Well, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing! :) Giving life to an old tradition on the other side the world.

For a finale I’ll leave you with the 3:54 Pizzicato Five song Sakura Sakura (of whom I’ve talked before in a Hello Japan! Music Lesson), written by Konishi. It’s different from the common children’s song ;)

Sakura, sakura

Sakura, sakura
It was under the cherry tree
That I learned what love was

It was spring and I was 19
Cherry blossoms were dancing in the air
And it was in a room at the Imperial Hotel
That I learned what love was
Sakura, sakura

Flowers have such short lives
And men are all such liars
Wasn’t that what you said

You know somebody used to say
Underneath cherry blossoms in bloom
There lie corpses
And so my love has also died
Cherry blossoms viewing, booze, and cherry rice cakes

Sakura are blooming in the Ueno woods
Sakura are blooming in Chigorigafuchi too
Wasn’t that what you said

Sakura, sakura

Sakura, sakura
It was in that room at the Imperial Hotel
That my love died like the cherry blossoms

It was in that room at the Imperial Hotel
That I wrote on the mirror with my lipstick
Wasn’t that what you said

Links mijn favo bentobox, rechts de nieuwe Utrechtse

Links mijn favo bentobox, rechts de nieuwe Utrechtse

Een ‘probleem’ voor bentoliefhebbers is dat je voor je hardware bent aangewezen op winkels in Japan en de VS, kortom: op internet. Dat maakt de spullen vaak prijzig, en niet in de laatste plaats vanwege de verzendkosten. Ik viel dus stijl achterover toen ik in mijn hometown Utrecht spulletjes vond van Japanware, het merk van mijn favoriete bentobox! Niet zo mooi als mijn lunchbox natuurlijk, maar wel bijpassend ;)

Helaas heeft de winkelier aan de Vismarkt vooral ‘Hollandse’ spulletjes geïmporteerd: het meest ‘Oosters’ zijn eigenlijk de doosjes voor eetstokjes. Maar die leken wat aan de korte kant zodat ik mij heb kunnen beheersen en alleen een enkelvoudig doosje heb gekocht dat met een elastiek erom dienst kan doen als simpele bentobox. Of als botervloot want daar zit ik ook om te springen ;)


Het dienblad met de paarse print van mijn oorspronkelijke bentobox, de leuke gebloemde schaal en de chopsticks houder die ik in eerste instantie in de klauwen had, heb ik braaf weer teruggelegd. Dan kan ik beter een écht mooie nieuwe bentobox kopen via eBay of J-List… Dat mag, want op de terugreis van onze paas-hanamiviering in de Japanse kersenbloesemtuin is een van mijn usagi-dozen gesneuveld :(

witte bloesem


Gisteren hebben wij hier ons eigen Hanami gevierd: het feest van het ‘bloesem kijken’. In Japan wordt dat jaarlijks gevierd als de kersenbloesem bloeit. Wanneer dat moment precies is (eind maart-begin april), wordt nauwlettend in de gaten gehouden via speciale sakura-voorspellingen na het weerbericht en op websites. Als het zo ver is trekt heel Japan naar buiten om met vrienden en familie of collega’s te picknicken onder de kersenbloesem. De bloesem is maar kort op zijn top en staat daarom symbool voor de vergankelijkheid van de schoonheid en het leven.


Het bloesemkijkfeest werd voor het eerst genoemd in de oudste roman van Japan Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), van Murasaki Shikibu, ongeveer uit het jaar 1000. Een groot deel van dit (superdikke) boek heb ik in 2005 gelezen en daar ben ik blij om want ik herken daardoor veel in modernere Japanse literatuur, zoals boeken van Haruki Murakami of Taichi Yamada (welke auteurs ik graag lees). Maar dit terzijde.


roze bloesemWij hebben de mazzel dat we in een groene wijk van Utrecht wonen en omringd zijn door bloesembomen. Helaas zijn er afgelopen jaar een paar gekapt vanwege bomenziekte, maar daarvoor zijn andere (kleinere roze) in de plaats gekomen. We keken dus vol verwachting uit naar het moment dat alles hier in volle bloei zou staan. En deze week is het zo ver! Wat heerlijk dus dat we dit weekend mooi weer hebben, zodat we een Hollandse Hanami konden vieren in het park. Dat moest wel een beetje in Japanse stijl, dus met toepasselijke gerechten in de kleuren van kersenbloesem (roze en wit, groen voor het blad en bruin van de stam).

De picknick

alles voor de picknickOm te beginnen hebben we het traditionele dango gemaakt, gestoomde balletjes van rijstemeel, kersensmaak en teriyakisaus. We hadden het nog nooit gegeten en wisten dus niet wat we daarvan konden verwachten. Ehm, hoewel ze naar ons idee wel zijn gelukt vonden we het eigenlijk niet te eten : De roze leken op grote hompen supertaaie kauwgom! Brrr, niet opgegeten dus. Tja, ieder bakavontuur kan mislukken. En gelukkig hadden we nog andere lekkere dingen!

Heerlijke Hollandse frambozen, de black bottom cupcakes (ze smaken nog prima als ze uit de vriezer komen :), edamame oftewel gekookte sojabonen in de peul met zeezout (yummy), wasabi-erwtjes en sojacrackers, en Aziatische Sky Flakes toastjes voor de paddestoelen-cashewnotenpaté, een recept met silken tofu dat we een aantal jaren terug in Toronto hebben gescoord.

de picknickTe drinken hadden we genmaicha thee en prosecco wijn met biologisch zwarte-bessensap, een soort kir royale dus :)

Komende week komt er weer regen en wind, dus dan zal alle bloesem wel snel weg of lelijk zijn. Wat een geluk dat wij er nu volop van hebben genoten!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


Currently grazing

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Gnoe herding...