Indian tiffin–inspired bento recipe

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A tiffin is a midday meal in India, carried in a portable, stacked container that is itself called a tiffin. This is a tiffin-inspired bento with spicy bean nuggets, a quick curry, and a version of raita, the cooling yogurt and cucumber salad. It’s packed in a thermal bento to keep the warm dishes hot until lunchtime.

  • Yield: 2 Servings


Coconut and Kidney Bean Nuggets
  • 15 oz (425 g) can kidney beans, well drained
  • 2 Tbsp desiccated coconut flakes
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon peel
  • ¼ tsp red chili powder, or to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup (15 g) roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • lettuce to line the container
Quick South Asian–style Chicken Curry
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped into small chunks
  • 2 Tbsp garam masala
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • ½ Tbsp red chili powder, or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 oz (425 g) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup (120 ml) coconut milk
  • ½ cup (130 g) any kind precooked or frozen vegetables—green beans, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, corn, etc.
  • 6 oz (170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
  • black pepper, to taste
How to Make It
    Coconut and Kidney Bean Nuggets
  1. Put all the ingredients, except the vegetable oil and the lettuce, in a food processor and process until combined. Form into little round flat patties, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
  2. In a frying pan, heat ½ inch (1 cm) of vegetable oil over high heat until the oil is smoking slightly. Lower the heat to medium. Fry the nuggets for about 4–5 minutes on each side until browned and crispy. Drain well on paper towels and let cool before arranging on a bed of lettuce.
  3. Quick South Asian–style Chicken Curry
  4. In a medium-sized saucepan, sauté the onion in the olive oil over high heat until the onion is limp and lightly browned. Add the ginger, garlic, and carrot. Lower the heat to medium, then add the spices and stir briefly—they will emit a wonderful fragrance into your kitchen.
  5. Add the salt, tomatoes, and coconut milk to the pan, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Put in the vegetables and bring the sauce back up to a boil. Add the chicken and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through—this should only take 3–4 minutes. Add the black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  6. Chunky Cucumber Raita
  7. Sprinkle the cucumber slices with the salt, massage with your hands to rub the salt in, then squeeze to expel excess moisture.
  8. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl and add the cucumber.
  9. This can be eaten immediately or made the night before.
  10. Basic Brown Rice
  11. Either set the timer on your rice cooker the night before so that the rice is ready in the morning or defrost some precooked frozen rice in the microwave.

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