Come July, the heat is on. Bare feet scorch on sizzling pavement and even shady trees provide little relief. The only thing that appeals for lunch is either cool, cold, or straight-up frozen. There’s no place for a hot entree on this picnic table.
Luckily, Popit! is here to help! Since both their plastic and glass containers are ideal for advanced prep, you can pull a meal, ready to eat, right out of the fridge. That means you only need to suffer the brief heat of the kitchen once to reap the rewards all week long.
When I saw the small Popit! bread box, also billed as a “lettuce container,” I must admit, I didn’t think about using it as storage for a fresh loaf or salad fixings. One thing came to mind immediately: Zaru soba.
Chilled buckwheat noodles served with a light, brothy dipping sauce is the quintessential summer dish of Japan. Served on a special tray with elevated slats, the mat at the bottom allows excess water to run off, keeping the noodles from getting soggy. With that in mind, I couldn’t see these unique rectangular boxes in any other way. It was simply too perfect to do anything but build a warm weather bento box around that eastern inspiration.
Mentsuyu, the deeply savory dip that accompanies those chewy soba strands, traditionally contains bonito dashi, or fish stock, but is easily veganized by naturally umami dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu seaweed instead. Packed away in a small Popit! snack container, it fits flush right inside the main box. There’s no risk of leakage with those airtight lids locked tightly into place. Perfect for travel and eating alfresco, it also helps prevent messy drips by keeping everything close together.
Lightly blanched spinach is served on the side for a healthy serving of dark leafy greens, enhanced by the nutty flavor of toasted sesame. Tender pods of salted edamame provide all the plant protein you could want in a fun finger food. All together, it becomes a well-balanced, refreshing, and highly versatile meal that will help you keep your cool.
Grab your chopsticks and chill out. Don’t forget to slurp for maximum enjoyment!
- 1/4 Cup Sake
- 1/2 Cup Mirin
- 1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock
- 1 2x2-Inch Square Kombu
- 2 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, Roughly Chopped
- 12 - 14 Ounces Fresh Spinach
- 2 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Rice vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Seeds
- 12 Ounces Buckwheat Soba
- 3 - 4 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
- 2 Cups Edamame in Shells
- 2 Medium Carrots, Peeled and Sliced
- For the oshitashi spinach, fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Drop about a quart of the spinach in at a time, stir to submerge, and cook very briefly until bright green; just 1 - 2 minutes. Fish it out with a mesh strainer and immediately rinse with cold water. Press firmly to squeeze out the excess moisture. Place in a medium bowl and repeat with the remaining spinach.
- Once all the spinach is blanched, drizzle the sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar on top. Toss thoroughly to coat, and divide between four 1.3 cup Popit! rectangular snack containers, arranging it off to one side to leave space for the edamame. Sprinkle each portion lightly with sesame seeds.
- For the mentsuyu, combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a full boil before covering and reducing the heat to low. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, turn off the stove, and allow the mixture to sit, undisturbed, until fully cool. This will allow the flavors to mingle slowly infuse throughout the liquid.
- Strain out the spent mushrooms and kombu and either compost or save for another use. I like to either chop them and add them to cooked sticky rice, or dry them and grind them into furikake.
- Divide the resulting dipping sauce between four .7 cup Popit! snack containers, placing them off to the side of four 4.7 cup Popit! "lettuce" containers. You can also double or even triple this formula and store the extra in the fridge for up to a month.
- To assemble, cook the soba noodles according to the package and immediately rinse with cold water. Thoroughly drain dividing between the four "lettuce" containers, next to the dipping sauce. Top with sliced scallions and chill until ready to serve.
- Complete the side dishes by dividing the edamame equally between the four 1.3 cup Popit! rectangular snack containers, next to the spinach, and finish with a sprinkle of salt and a few pieces of sliced carrots. Carving the carrots artfully into flower shapes is entirely optional! Close up the containers and store in the fridge.
The completed bento boxes will keep in the fridge for up to five days.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 672Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2435mgCarbohydrates: 103gFiber: 35gSugar: 22gProtein: 53g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.