The Japanese Bento Box is traditionally a single-portion lunch box comprised of protein vegetables and carbs, all of which are separated by dividers. Preparation ranges from simple to elaborate and the final result is intended to be both healthy and pleasing to the eye.
For the salad
½ cup Red Cabbage, chiffonade
A few Romaine lettuce leaves, chiffonade
3 medium radishes, grated
Half an Avocado, thinly sliced
½ cup extra firm tofu (drained and pressed with paper towel, cubed, placed in a single layer on a baking sheet and baked at 350 F for 25-45 minutes–tossing every 10 mins)
1 cup butternut squash, cubed and “healthy sautéed”* (so that they are cooked but firm–About 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes)
For the dressing
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
11/2 tsp Kiss Me Organic Culinary Matcha
11/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, matcha and lemon juice.
Arrange the cabbage, romaine leaves, radishes, avocado, butternut squash and baked tofu in sections on a plate.
Serve the dressing on the side.
*add about ¼ cup of water and the chopped butternut squash to a large saucepan, place covered on high heat for 5-7 minutes, until you can easily put your fork through one of the cubes but they remain firm.
Matcha has become the latest trend with health nuts, foodies, celebrities and tea drinkers alike, and for good reason. It’s known for inducing a calming caffeine kick that provides a serious energy boost without any anxiety or irritability. Although it’s been around for centuries, it’s just recently stepped into the limelight as the new “it drink.” Matcha cafes are springing up from San Fransisco to New York and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz are all sipping on the green sauce.
What’s all the buzz about?
Research has suggested plenty of health benefits to drinking matcha, including regulation of cholesterol, blood sugar and harmful blood fats, as well as protection against kidney damage. Some studies also suggest that matcha may prevent age-related cognitive impairment, reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes, keep blood pressure in check, strengthen bones, and help prevent several forms of cancer. In addition to the long list of health benefits, 1 to 2 teaspoons of the stuff gives you a focused and calm energy boost that lasts longer than coffee and doesn’t produce any of the side-effects.
As if all that weren’t incentive enough to give it a try, it’s also seriously yummy. So yummy, in fact, that you can find a matcha recipe for almost anything from cornbread to curry to cupcakes. Health nuts may swear by matcha for its long list of benefits, but foodies are passionate about its flavor.
The #Matcha Movement
With over a million posts on Instagram, #matcha is a testament to its growing popularity, highlighting the hundreds of ways matcha-loving foodies are enjoying, and experimenting with, their new favorite ingredient. Those who love it are not only replacing their coffee with matcha, they’re throwing it in everything from desserts to soups to salad dressings and sauces.
The fact that not all incarnations of matcha are completely healthy (some are downright sinful) attests to the fact that the deliciousness of matcha is independent of its health benefits. You probably wouldn’t put kale into brownies if you weren’t interested in healthy eating, but you’d definitely throw in some matcha for the flavor profile itself. Matcha has plenty of health benefits, but what makes delicious matcha creations like Matcha Dusted Scallops and this absolutely exquisite parfait possible is the uniquely versatile, subtly sweet, and savory earthy flavor of matcha that the Japanese refer to as “umami.”
As an ingredient, culinary grade matcha can add a unique savoriness to a range of recipes as it compliments almost any dish. As a straight drink, though, there are different qualities of matcha and many ways to prepare it. You won’t get the complex flavor of a ceremonial grade cup of whisked matcha from your Starbucks “matcha” latte, for example.
The Routine and Ritual of Matcha, Then and Now
There are lots of reasons to love matcha. People are drawn to its vibrant green color, savory sweetness, health benefits and energy boost, but they’re also drawn to the ritual. Matcha exploded on to the scene almost over night, so many avid drinkers of the green stuff have to whisk it up at home and the ritual is part of the fun. Matcha preparation requires active participation in measuring and whisking. The preparation lends itself to a moment of focused meditation, which is the very reason Buddhist monks created meditative matcha rituals around its preparation centuries ago.
Matcha may be the newest fuel for our daily hustle, but people all over Asia have been communing with it for centuries, making matcha both the newest health craze and an age-old tradition. This is great news for people who are reluctant to jump on the match-bandwagon. While it may be the beverage of the moment, it has already proven itself to be so much more than a passing fad.