Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's in my Lunchbox -Week 1

Nearing the end of last year, I began to notice the steady decline of funds in my bank account. Mostly due to dining out. Mostly because I had to get up at 6am to make the 7am bus to make my 8am starts at uni. Every day. For those of you that know me, you'll know that I'll happily sacrifice breakfast and lunch making time for a little more sleep and then happily munch on a mince and cheese pie during a lecture (yes naughty, I know). But that was the old Lucy. New Lucy wants to save herself a little cash moneys for trips, the gym and better food! Which brings us to this..

The three tiered lunchbox -the most Asian-tastic one I could find in $3 Japan
Yes. Those are matching chopsticks. Yes. That is a BELT for my lunchbox. I know you're jealous.
Anyone who has been to Auckland's CBD will have heard of $3 Japan (now known as $3 + G.S.T Japan due to something to do with commerce that I don't really understand). This store is full of the cutest gadgets, stationary, make up, soft toys and dining equipment. Everything is adorable! I bought this baby on special for $5 (perhaps they're charging per layer?) and it took everything in me not to buy the cute cookie cutters, onigiri mold sets and seaweed cutters! I will probably be back soon though.

Sushi Sandwich, Cucumber and Pickled Daikon Salad, Rice Wine Egg-Cucumber-Daikon Sushi
 So my plan for the uni year is to pack my own lunch more often and eat fast food less frequently so I save money for more important things like fancier meals! My secondary objective is also to make them student friendly (aka cheap and accessible) so others in my situation (aka poor student) can feed themselves with quality food without breaking the bank.

Pickled Daikon -$2.50, 10 Sheets of Nori -$2.20, 1 Egg -really cheap, 1 Cucumber -$1.20, Bowl of Rice -Also really cheap
One of the most popular things I see students buy on campus is sushi with the cheapest, most basic types going for $1.20 each while the fancy types (with eel or bean curd) going for about $2.20 -this was over a year ago and prices have risen this year. This means $6 for 5 pieces of basic sushi which doesn't feed anybody except anorexic people. Prepare to spend close to $10 for a yummy, filling lunch. This may not seem like much but, if you were to do this every day, it's $50 a week plus more if you're like me and need food to concentrate. For a student, this can be a hard ask.

Adding powdered Sushi vinegar -$2.50 for two packets. Does about 3 cups of rice.
You know what's not a hard ask? Buying the ingredients yourself! 

Mix it in gooood
Can you believe I got all my sushi ingredients for less than $10? That will feed me for a week, guys. Do you hear me? A whole week!! With leftovers (maybe you have hungry friends?).

To be fair, I didn't include the cost of rice or the egg. Being Chinese, my family buys rice in bulk -you know, like 25kg bags? And we also have lots of eggs. There is always 2 trays of eggs in my pantry. Always. 

You don't even need fancy equipment! This is me frying an egg.
I hardly think rice and eggs would bring the total up to $50 though.

Pickled Daikon, Sliced Cucumber, Egg cut into strips
If this reason doesn't entice you, it's probably not worth your while to read the rest of my entry as you're obviously not into saving money and eating well. If you do like having an extra $40 or so, read on. As you can see from my pictures, I'm not feeding myself cans of $0.98 baked beans and spaghetti. I'm eating actual food with actual nutritional value. Protein and vegetables and carbs. It's even vegetarian. Excellent.

Assembling my Sushi (bottom to top): Sheet of nori, layer of rice, egg strips, cucumber and pickled daikon
The only piece of equipment you may not have in your kitchen is the bamboo sushi mat (I assume most flats have a frying pan, knife and chopping board). This will stop the seaweed from sticking to your hands and making a big mess. This one cost me 10 cents at a garage sale. I'm sure you can purchase these from your local $2 store -you can purchase one with the money you're about to save in lunch!

Starting to roll
The hardest part about sushi is probably rolling it -which actually isn't that hard. Just make sure to tuck and press with each step of rolling. And don't get too eager and wrap the mat inside (don't laugh, it's been done before). Check out this video for pro sushi rolling instructions. Too much rice on her sushi though..

Slice sushi into your preferred thickness
Oh yeah, have a SHARP knife. This is very important.A dull knife will pull the fillings and nori with the blade, and be unable to achieve clean cuts. A damp towel to moisten your knife edge between cuts will help.

While we're on the subject of cool things I own, look at this:

Cookie Cutter Set
 My friend, Asia, got this as part of my present on my 21st birthday. She obviously knew my love for baking. What she didn't know was that I would, one day, use these as molds for sushi making.

Bottom layer of rice
Middle layer: Canned tuna and Japanese mayonnaise mix
These sushi sandwich things have started popping up in sushi bars everywhere and are very popular with students. Forgive me, I have no idea what they're called -the sushi book I have calls it sushi for non-Japanese. All you have to do is find a suitable mold -you can buy special ones at Japanese and Korean stores (and $2 shops) but cookie cutters work fine.

 You start off with one layer of sushi rice at the bottom, making sure to fully press the rice down to the edges of the mold. Add a middle layer of whatever you want (preferably something malleable) and top with another layer of sushi rice being careful to pat each layer down so it doesn't fall apart.

Top with Furikake. Beautiful.
 I topped mine with a little Furikake I found in my pantry. Furikake are flavoured sprinkles that go on top of rice to make it more tasty as well as more aesthetically pleasing. A small amount of sprinkles go a long way. 

Savings, week 1: Around $40. Awesome.

Sushi Ingredients (serves as many as you wish)

Sushi Vinegar
Nori sheets

Any meats you can think of
Any vegetables you can think of 

Do you see what I mean? You can tailor sushi to your tastes -it's the Japanese version of pizza. And it's so easy! I don't want to hear anyone complain about being poor and not being able to feed themselves anymore -I expect all you poor students to have sushi for lunch!

All recipes are on Petitchef


  1. oh my god you are a genius! I am on Trademe right now looking up sushi rolling mats. Thank you for the excellent idea!

    PS the lunchbox is FANTASTIC.

  2. That lunchbox is -so- cute!! Love it!! And I've never heard of a sushi sandwich before ... I may need to dig out some cookie cutters and give it a go. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Lucy that flower sushi is gorgeous! And I always go wild at the 100yen stores in Tokyo! :)