(Clockwise from top left) Chicken teriyaki, cherry tomato gratin & Korean style beansprouts & carrot cold appetizer, Sakura onigiri covered with sakura denbu, stir-fried garlic prawn and paprika, rolled ham & cheese chicken katsu, tamago yaki & stuffed chikuwa.
Selections of sandwiches (ham & cheese, egg, and tuna), Steamed pork-mushrooms-and-chives shuumai, spiced tofu, cherry tomatoes cups stuffed with egg salad, steamed broccoli, ebi fry.
Salad, more stuffed chikuwa, horenso (spinach) tamago-yaki, stir-fried beef with worchestershire sauce served with steamed carrots and french beans, steamed koshihikari rice.
Ten hours of preparations. 80 gigantic dollars spent. A sleepless night.
That's what it took for a complete amateur like me to prepare these bentou boxes. All I can say is phew! I have never enslaved myself in the kitchen to such degree before. Ever! For those experienced bentou makers, this bentou spread might look simple, but for me, it was hell to make. Thank goodness everything went as planned.
This rather lavish bentou boxes were made in the occasion of the big Sydney new year's eve fireworks-watching in Sydney harbor. I haven't watched this famed best-in-the-world fireworks display in 11 years (the last time being 1997), so I was excited to prepare everything to ensure the enjoyment of this experience.
So, my brother and I, along with some people went to Sydney harbor (Circular Quay, near the Opera House) at 10am, because we wanted to secure the BEST seats possible to view the magnificent fireworks. When we got there, some of the best seats (well, there were no seats per se, people sat on the floor) were taken, but we've managed to get a pretty good spot. It was a long, arduous, and not to mention burning HOT wait (the sun was like, an INCH away from our faces for 10 hours!), but it was somewhat worth it. There were 2 firework displays, one was the smaller one on 9pm ('family fireworks' - especially designed for families so that families with children can leave earlier so that the kids can be at bed by 10 or 11pm), and the gigantic one on 12 midnight.The fireworks were absolutely stunning, Sydney really showed the whole world how fireworks should be done.
The downside is, I've got some pretty severe SUNBURN! My skin still aches and burns as I typed this entry! I was so preoccupied with the bentou preparations I forgot to pack the sunscreen. Bad news is, none of the irresponsible people in my party remembered to bring some sunscreen, too! That's because I'm the responsible one in the group and everyone thought I've taken care of everything! Darn.
Also, I've got some really bad muscle sores because of the 12 hours+ sitting on the hard floor. Ouch.
Anyway, back to the bentou boxes...
I had to carefully design the contents of these bentou box, taking into consideration the sizes of each ingredients against the sizes of the boxes. After which, a 'blueprint' was made, and then followed by a general flowchart of cooking the ingredients. Then, more detailed flowcharts were made, as well as shopping list and schedule. Careful preparations and timings were assigned so that everything can be ready by 8am, on the 31st of December, 2008. This is what happens when an OCD sufferer like myself attempts to prepare a big bentou, LOL
The order in which the dishes were cooked also played a big part in ensuring the success of this bentou box, because some dishes can be packed into the boxes straight away, while some needed to cool down first so that they don't produce steam and dampen the whole box. Dishes such as the ebi fry and katsu were cooked last (but prepared the night before) so that it will be as crispy as possible when consumed.
Anyway, the bentou boxes attracted so many peoples' eyes. Some passer-bys even took pictures of these boxes (some without my permission! Grr!). I'm not kidding! It was so embarrasing, especially for my brother and friends who felt awkward eating while people were looking at us and commenting! LOL
So, will I do this again next year? The answer is absolutely NO. I don't even want to watch the fireworks again next year. The wait was simply too hard. I have all these sunburns to remind me! And even if I decided to go for it again next year, I'll do it sans the self-made bentou boxes and just pack some big macs and nasi goreng bought from chinatown like everyone else.
Anyhoo, have a happy 2009, everyone!
(*) Oomisoka no hanabi taikai bentou = New year's eve fireworks lunch box.