This lovely megawappa (bentwood) bento box was handmade by artisans of Yoshinobu Shibata Shoten using cedar wood of Akita prefecture. I have been wanting to own one of this beautiful craftwork by the 74 year-old Yoshinobu Shibata. I was very surprised by how lightweight the box is and the velvety soft feel of the wood. Its truly a nice addition to my bento collection and its one of those that I can pass down to generations with many bento stories.
I bought 2 boxes from Yoshinobu Shibata Shoten in Asakusa, Tokyo. The first shop is very easy to locate, just 4-5 minutes walk from the famous Kaminari gates (Kaminarimon) of the Sensōji Temple (浅草寺).
They have recently opened a second shop just across the road in a smaller lane.
There are many different megawappa products for various uses and occasions, all so beautifully made, I could not stop myself for wanting to buy more.
The cedar wood is known to keep the rice moist for a longer time and its faint natural scent adds a lovely flavour to the food. These crafts are not cheap to invest. I bought the basic megawappa box without lacquer, those which are given a lovely natural red lacquer are more expensive.
I am so used to arranging the food in rectangular and oval shaped bentos that it took me a while to practice placing the food items in a round shaped box. The box is 2 tiered, the swallower one is usually for food items other than rice and the deeper one is for rice. However, for this lunch, I switched them around. In the swallow tiered box, I mixed vinegared rice with well-minced myoga and shiso leaf. I got this recipe from a nice Japanese gentleman during our dinner at Sushi Yoshitake who claimed that he only cooked once a month. And I loved the recipe! So simple and yet the mix adds a refreshing minty flavour to the rice. I can just eat this with tsukemono (Japanese Pickles).
The other box contains steamed chicken thigh with ume paste, steamed sweet potato, grilled shisamo and okra.
Steamed Chicken Thighs with Ume Paste
This recipe was spun out of sudden hunger for supper recently. There was a packet of chicken thighs which I had marinated in with ginger, mirin and shoyu sitting in the fridge. So I decided to add some ume paste(recently bought in Tokyo) and microwaved it. The combination was great! This time, I decided to steam it.
Ingredients: 4 or 5 chicken thighs ( cut into halves), 1 knob of 2-3 cm ginger grated, 2-3 tablespoons of shoyu, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of mirin and sake each, 1 or 1 1/2 tablespoon ume paste (I used shiso neriume, しそねり梅, adjust the amount of paste used accordingly as it is salty in nature)
Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients except ume paste overnight. Brown the chicken pieces for 3 minutes first before transferring them to a dish for steaming. Mix with the ume paste and steam it over simmering water for 20 minutes or until the meat is cooked. Make sure the dish is well covered with a aluminium foil before placing it in a steamer covered tightly with a lid. This is to ensure the flavour are re-absorbed back into the chicken.
I hope you like this easy recipe.