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501 Bento Lunches: 501 Unique Recipes for Brilliant Bento Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Graffito Books (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0955339855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955339851
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Long on ideas but short on recipes, this guide to eye-catching bento box lunches delivers its promised 501 variants on the iconic Japanese single-portion takeout meal, even if the final product may be out of reach for its readers. Roughly organized by theme-art, cute, colorful, traditional, stylish, holidays-contributors provide plenty of ideas for vibrant, healthy lunches. After a brief overview of basics from Dye-quick assembly, packing for maximum efficiency-the volume sets some high standards with showpieces featuring edible geese made out of mushrooms and a whimsical green eggs-and-ham meal, before moving to more traditional fare incorporating sushi, teriyaki chicken and yakitori. Menus stretch beyond the Pacific rim, with easy-to-assemble staples like beef stew and, for younger diners, sandwiches in the shape of scowls or grins. Some empty-the-fridge scavenger hunts (wraps, taco kits) can feel like little more than repackaged leftovers, and some impractical suggestions (french fries, eggs or pancakes, arcane ingredients) prove misleading. Still, these are the exceptions to the rule, which includes practical instructions, emphasizes assembly rather than preparation, and employs a wide range of kitchen tools. Those well-versed in Japanese cuisine and who own lots of culinary doodads will benefit most; novice cooks looking for simple, whimsical school lunches will likely be overwhelmed.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Most Americans may be unfamiliar with bento boxes. Ubiquitous in Japan, these lacquered boxes or partitioned trays serve to pack lunches or dinners for easy transportation. Mothers pack bento boxes with children’s school meals, and travelers grab prepackaged boxes at station kiosks before boarding trains. This little book aims to educate Westerners in the art of the bento box. Although it has a few brief recipes for the pictured foods, they are too abstract for those not adept in Japanese culinary practice. The book’s real value lies in its illustrations, which show what the fertile imagination can do to turn the bento box into a panoply of artistic invention. Rice takes on fantastic hues, vegetables get carved into just about every conceivable shape, and meats combine to create animal shapes, flower arrangements, echoes of museum paintings, and many, many more. Food stylists can glean plenty of ideas here. --Mark Knoblauch

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 13 customer reviews
It has ideas for bentos, not recipes.
Brett A. McNamara
Maybe this book is more for beginners rather than those with a lot of experience at this art.
WLS
That being said, I am not happy at all with the way the book turned out.
Crystal Watanabe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Crystal Watanabe on October 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
Before I start my review, I'd like to mention that I'm one of the contributors for this book.

That being said, I am not happy at all with the way the book turned out. I was approached by the publisher and was so excited to be published that I didn't think through things carefully. When I sent my images in, I believe I stated that all of them had been touched up with Photoshop for my blog. When they were published, however, they were published as is.

When I first started my bento blog I knew absolutely nothing about lighting. I took my photos in my kitchen with a point and shoot while standing over my bento blocking the light. I had hoped that a book publisher would recognize that the second they looked at the images, so I don't know if they had a new graphic artist or they simply didn't have the time to touch them all up, but my dark and sometimes blurry photos are now printed on paper for the world to see.

Don't be fooled by the title, there are very few recipes in here. The "recipes" are actually instructions for putting the bento together, which are useful, but probably not what people were imagining. The format of the instructions is very compacted and difficult to read. If there is a recipe in there, it's very difficult to find because the ingredients list is all in one paragraph instead of a list.

Since these were obtained with permission from bento bloggers, you can find all of these online. It makes a decent coffee book due to its volume, but as other people mention, it's physical size is very small. The cover is bright and inviting, but the images inside are completely different.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Brett A. McNamara on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
After waiting months for the arrival of this book, I am sorely disappointed.
It has ideas for bentos, not recipes.
It's well organised, but the format is difficult, the text is miniscule, the photos are hard to parse.

My hope and expectation was for a book which dealt with cooking the small amounts appropriate to single servings, and for good pairings of items for meals.
What you get is a tight, cluttered list of ingredients, a dense set of basic instruction, and a photograph of the hoped-for result.

It's fine for experienced bento-makers who want more ideas, but for those of us who have a passing interest and a taste for home-style Japanese food, it's a bit of a clunker.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By WLS on July 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I seem to be in the minority, but I really like this book and I'm happy I purchased it. I am a very visual person and the bright gorgeous pictures provided a lot of inspiration to me to begin creating my own bento works of art. There are recipes and instructions so you can duplicate any of the orginial creations. I'm going to start creating my own when I go back to work in the fall. Maybe this book is more for beginners rather than those with a lot of experience at this art. I found it to be a lot fun and really inspiring.
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31 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Kikaida on June 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ya know, I was hoping for some good recipes and combination ideas. But instead I got an elementary school kids food-art project book.

That's right, this is a food-art book for kids. Not a recipe book. Now if you are into making some nauseatingly cute lunches then you NEED this book! If you are looking for creative recipes that work in bento boxes? Save your money, this book has nothing to offer you at all.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By cynical_reader on September 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a little book, about 7 inches square. It does have 501 bentos in it, squeezed in with tiny tiny text that is hard on the eyes and abbreviated recipes (each bento gets about 1 x 2 inches of space!) If you have seen the book called Face Food, this is comparable to that, with a lot more bentos and rudimentary recipes. The photo quality...well let's just say that it look like they just used the photos submitted by the bento creators that were on their web pages, and not optimized for print at all. Some photos (even on the cover!) are pixelated, some have poor contrast, and so on.

As for the content, there is a heavy emphasis on the cute and visual school of bentos. The tone is set by the introductory chapter, written by someone who likes to use food dye to color her rice a really bright blue. Perhaps you will like the creativity. It does not look at all appetizing to me.

The bentos are all taken from bento bloggers (and not individually credited, which is a shame, though there's a listing of contributors in the back) so you can use it as a guide to finding those blogs, where you are likely to get much more detailed recipes and instructions.

In summary, if you want a compact picture book of bentos with interesting profiles of the creators, but no recipes, get Face Food. If you want a compact picture book with hard to read or use recipes and no background on the bentos or their creators, get this one. Neither one is a good cookbook or instructional for bento boxes, but this one just feels like a slapped together rush job.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Tong on November 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first know about this book from various bento bloggers across the internet bento community, found on Livejournal mostly, and then on Flickr. This book is a mix up of some of the more well known bento bloggers, and some of the not-so well known ones, which is not a big deal.

In buying this book, I was hoping for good pictorial ideas in laying out my bentos, as well as more suggestions, much like some of the Japanese bento books that were published (sections on actual bentos, what goes in them and recipes for the main stuff in them. then a seperate section on "fillers" on the side). And of course, I constantly buy recipe books and foodie books for the sake of the photography on them.

On those aspects, I was mostly disappointed. While it did fulfil my need for ideas, which can also be easily quenched online, the photography was a sad failure. I have seen some of the photos online before, and expected the book to at least replicate the quality of the pictures. what turned out was darker, sometimes murkier, than the original photos on the internet.

The recipes were almost non-existent. what is there is a bare, rushed "how to throw this together" type of instructions that is no more than 30 words or so on an average. and sometimes, not even that.

While sections were divided up into cute bentos, pictorial bentos, etc, there really isn't much difference between one section to the other.

yes, there is 501 bentos in there I believe, but I think I get more out of surfing the internet and copying and pasting them into word documents than having this book.
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