Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shoyu Chicken Froggie Bento

TinySprite's bento today contains my old childhood favorite: shoyu chicken and rice. I used the Secrets of the Red Lantern recipe again, with a whole bunch of drumsticks.


Soy Chicken Drumsticks Recipe (adapted from Secrets of the Red Lantern, By Pauline Nguyen, Luke Nguyen, Mark Jensen)

4 and a half pounds chicken drumsticks
3 Tbl fish sauce
3 Tbl shoyu (I used gluten-free tamari)
1/2 cup shaoxing Chinese cooking wine (I omitted)
1 cup coconut juice
1 Tbl sesame oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbl cracked black pepper
1 onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl ginger, sliced
2 cups chicken stock
2 scallions, sliced, for garnish
cilantro, for garnish

Marinate drumsticks for 4 hours with the rest of the ingredients, except the chicken stock, and use only 1 Tbl each of the onion and garlic.
Remove from marinade, pat dry, then wok fry on all sides until golden brown. Place into crockpot.
Fry the remaining onion and garlic until golden. Add to crockpot with reserved marinade and chicken stock.
Cook on high for 3 hours, or until meat is cooked and tender.
Remove lid, turn to low for an additional hour or so, to reduce sauce. Mine didn't reduce much.
Once cooked, the chicken should fall off the bone.
Transfer chicken to serving platter, boil the sauce to reduce further, then pour over. Garnish with scallions and cilantro.


I like making this in the slow-cooker, and especially on busy afternoons, because then I can run in and out of the house while the meat gets more and more tender all by itself. To make things easier for my preschooler, I pulled the meat off the bones (really, it fell off) before I packed it into this two-tier froggie bento, layering it atop a white/black rice mix alongside steamed broccoli. It's even better the next day, after you skim the fat off the top. I added a radishroom for a pop of color, and the top tier holds chunks of cara cara oranges, blackberries, carrots, and a perfect little baby white peach. So good!

Happy Little Bento has been getting a bit of press lately, which is pretty exciting! A few months ago, I got an email from an educator who wanted to use my bento pictures for a passage she was writing for a 5th grade reading workbook by ECS Learning Systems. I can't show you the passage, but it's been published and I suppose some 5th graders are now learning about "Lunch Art". Last week, a high school classmate of mine talked about bento as an art medium, using my creations as an example, for her advertising/marketing company website. Then today I saw my radish star tutorial get a plug at Dotcoms for Moms, along with other cute ways to make mealtime fun for kids; and also today another plug over at MentalFloss, in a piece on What Kids Eat around the world. More exposure means meeting lots more people, and I often get emails from parents who tell me they look here and realize: "hey, I can do that!" I just got a couple today, and that always makes my day ^_^


  1. You *deserve* a lot of press!

    And this lunch is again one that I want someone to make for *me*! Looks so yummy!

  2. Congrats for lots of publications, Sheri :)
    your talent is amazing

  3. Hi Sheri- couple questions regarding the chicken... since you're gluten free, did you use shoyu or tamari? Is coconut juice, coconut milk or cocunut water? Did you pre-cook the chicken like in the recipe or just throw the chicken in with the other ingredients into the crockpot? Thanks for this recipe. I'm still looking for the ingredients for mapo tofu - do you know of any good websites to order ingredients?

    1. Hi Becky,

      I use tamari. Coconut juice is similar to coconut water, but you should look for the cans used for cooking rather than the bottles with added sugar for drinking. I find them in my Asian market in the canned goods section. As for the chicken, I browned them in a pan prior to cooking in the crockpot. I think I'll put the recipe up top so it's clear exactly how I did it.
      And for ma po, I use a sweet bean paste that I *think* is wheat-free, since it's not listed on the label. I don't use the chili bean paste for the kids since they don't like it spicy. I found it at the same grocery. I actually haven't ordered ingredients online since I live near several Asian markets. I usually shop in person so I can compare what I'm getting.
      Thanks for your interest, and I hope this helps!

  4. Oh cool! Congrats on all the press, that's awesome! Bentos for everybody!!

  5. Awesome!!!! So many features, you are the coolest mother in the world (well, at least MY world!!) ^_^. So nice to see the word of healthy bento being spread around, you are my super talented bento friend!!!
    I can see the fruits are so fresh!! Ooooh, summer is coming! Wohooo! I bought some nectarines the other day but they were so sour my girls refused to eat >_<... I think I need to wait a bit more...
    Hmm... now to dream about shoyu chicken..... :9

    1. Lily,
      You're always so encouraging; I really appreciate it. I'm certainly not the most talented bentomaker around, but I'm happy to expose as many parents to healthy bento as possible!
      Whoops, it's hard to resist stone fruit when you see it in the market, even as early as it seems...I'm the same way. Ours can stand to be sweeter too, just a few more weeks I think!
      Thank you so much sweetie!!!

  6. The rice and the broccoli look great on their own! ^^ And its great that you're getting more publicity - you're one of my favorite bento-makers, Sheri!