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Not having been brought up on or with burgers, they retain an aura of exoticism for me which, mixed with the comforting mouthfuls they provide, make them a special treat. The burger I've chosen from this collection is not, however, anything you'd expect: it's meat free and Japanese-flavoured, and inspiringly quirky.

by Parragon Books, 2012

Bento Burgers

These Japanese vegan snacks are made with cooked rice pressed into the shape of buns, crisp on the outside, with savoury spinach inside.

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus resting

Cook time: 15 minutes

Makes 5


  • 8 shiitake mushrooms, stalks removed
  • 450g/1lb washed spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 225ml/8 fl oz lukewarm water
  • 425g/15oz short- or medium-grain rice, rinsed and cooked and kept warm
  • 2 tsp sesame oil, for frying


  1. Preheat the grill to high. Arrange the mushrooms on the grill pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side until brown and tender. Thinly slice the mushrooms and place in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 1 minute. Drain, cool under cold running water, then squeeze dry. Add the mushrooms to the spinach, then add the soy sauce, mirin and sesame seeds and combine.
  3. Dissolve the salt in the warm water. Place the rice in a wide bowl and divide into ten equal-sized portions. Wet your hands with the water and very firmly press each portion into a rice bun. Wet your hands each time you make a bun. Leave to set for 20 minutes.
  4. Place a non-stick frying pan or ridged griddle pan over a medium heat and lightly coat the base with oil. Add the buns and cook for 4 minutes on each side (turning very gently) until brown.
  5. Put the spinach mixture on top of half the rice buns, then top with the remaining buns. Wrap the burgers in squares of baking paper to hold them together prior to serving and serve within 2 hours.