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The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go Paperback – December 9, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description
Bento fever has recently swept across the West, fueled not just by an interest in cute, decorative food, but by the desire for an economical, healthy approach to eating in these times of recession. A leading light in the popularization of bento has been Makiko Itoh, whose blog, Just Bento, boasts hundreds of thousands of subscribers, all of whom love her delicious recipes and practical bento-making tips.

Now, for the first time, Itoh's expertise has been packaged in book form. The Just Bento Cookbook contains twenty-five attractive bento menus and more than 150 recipes, all of which have been especially created for this book and are divided into two main sections, Japanese and Not-so-Japanese. The Japanese section includes classic bento menus such as Salted Salmon Bento and Chicken Karaage Bento, while the Not-so-Japanese section shows how Western food can be adapted to the bento concept, with delicious menus such as Summer Vegetable Gratin Bento and Everyone-Loves-a-Pie Bento.

In addition to the recipes, Itoh includes sections on bento-making equipment, bento staples to make and stock, basic cooking techniques, and a glossary. A planning-chart section is included, showing readers how they might organize their weekly bento making.

In a market full of bento books that emphasize the cute and the decorative, this book stands out for its emphasis on the health and economic benefits of the bento, and for the very practical guidelines on how to ensure that a daily bento lunch is something that can easily be incorporated into anyone's lifestyle. This is the perfect book for the bento beginner, but will also provide a wealth of new bento recipe ideas and tips for bento aficionados.

From Just Bento: Deconstructed Salade Niçoise Bento

Salade Niçoise is a classic composed salad that originates from the sunny town of Nice in the south of France. It’s perfect for a summer bento lunch.

Makes 1 serving.


  • 1 medium potato
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6–8 quail eggs, or 1 chicken egg
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon-style mustard


Make ready three bento boxes: a large one to hold the lettuce and greens; a medium one for the potato, eggs, and tomatoes; and a small one for the tuna, olives, and dressing that fits inside the large one if possible. Wash, peel, and cut up the potato into ½ inch (1cm) cubes. Put the potato pieces in a small pan and add enough cold salted water to cover. Boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well. Coat lightly with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Carefully pierce the rounded end of each quail egg with a thin needle before boiling; this will make them easier to peel. Quail eggs only need to be boiled for 4 minutes to achieve the hard-boiled state. Peel the eggs. Make a simple vinaigrette by combining the rest of the olive oil, the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in the small bento box. Mix well.

To Assemble This Bento

Put the potato and eggs in the medium bento box. Decorate with the cherry tomatoes. Put the well-drained tuna, the capers, and the olives in the small bento box with the vinaigrette. Fill the largest bento box with the salad greens and lettuce. Nestle the small bento box in the greens, and put on the lid. You may want to pack everything together with an ice pack in hot weather. When ready to eat, simply put all the salad components into the large bento box: the potato and eggs first, and the tuna mixture on top. Mix well and enjoy!


Prepare the potato, eggs, and tuna the night before and store in the refrigerator. Wash and dry the salad greens beforehand also. Pack the greens into the bento box in the morning for optimum freshness. If you eat a lot of salads, you could make vinaigrette in quantity and stock it in the refrigerator. I like to use a screw-top jar for this, and give it a good shake before using.

From Just Bento: Chicken and Three-Color Pepper Stir-fry Bento

This beginner bento is made with everyday ingredients that you may already have in your pantry. It can be assembled in twenty minutes or less without any advance preparation. It’s a good one to start your bento-making adventures with.

Makes 1 serving.


  • Chicken and Three-Color Pepper Stir-fry
  • Instant Cabbage and Cucumber Pickles
  • Blanched Broccoli
  • Basic White Rice
  • Cherry Tomatoes

Chicken and Three-Color Pepper Stir-fry

You can spice up this versatile and colorful stir-fry by adding some hot pepper sauce such as sriracha to taste. To ensure fast and even cooking, cut the peppers into small, regular cubes.
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive or other vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp roughly chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/3 each medium-sized red, green, and yellow sweet peppers, de-seeded and cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) chunks
  • salt, for sprinkling
  • 2 oz (60g) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) chunks
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • lettuce or shiso leaves used as dividers, optional

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the green onion and ginger and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes until the oil is fragrant. Turn the heat up to the highest setting and add the peppers to the pan. Stir-fry with a spatula or long chopsticks. Sprinkle in some salt—this draws out moisture from the vegetables and cooks them a bit faster. Continue stir-frying for 4–5 minutes, until the peppers are cooked. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan, and add the chicken to the exposed bottom. Leave for a couple of minutes, then turn over to cook the other side. Stir everything together, and add black pepper and soy sauce. Turn the stir-fry from the pan onto a cold plate so that it cools rapidly. When cooled, pack into the bento box, using the lettuce or shiso leaves as a divider. Ahead-of-time note: Cut up the vegetables and chicken the night before, so everything is ready to just cook. Be sure to keep the raw chicken stored separately from the vegetables for safety.

Instant Cabbage and Cucumber Pickles

Instant or overnight pickled vegetables are very popular in Japan. They are like dressing-less salads, and the salty, slightly sour crunch provides a nice contrast to other foods. They can be eaten immediately or kept stored in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.
  • 1 large green cabbage leaf
  • 2-inch-long (5 cm) English cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Cut out the tough vein of the cabbage leaf, and slice the rest into strips. Sprinkle the cabbage and cucumber with the salt, and massage well with your hands until the vegetables go limp. Let rest for at least 5 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Squeeze out any excess moisture before packing into a bento box. I like to put the pickles in a bento divider cup or cupcake liner to prevent the flavors from mingling with other flavors in the box.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Itoh guides readers to build a beautiful bento lunch that is also nutritious and filling for both adults and children. Recommended for fans of bento lunches and anyone trying to get out of a lunch rut! --Library Journal

Equal parts recipe book and bento how-to, The Just Bento Cookbook is an elegant guide to making lunch more fun.Filled with lovely boxed lunch ideas that can be made for one or more, depending on how many lunches you plan on packing.  --Serious Eats

The Just Bento Cookbook is packed with recipes for savory dishes that will make a tasty dinner or lunch. Most of the recipes include several variations using different proteins and make-ahead tips. --Seattle Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA (December 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568363931
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568363936
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (368 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Makiko (Maki) Itoh first became aware of her deep rooted love for the food of her home country, Japan, when she moved far away. Living in a place with only limited access to Japanese ingredients, she began to improvise ways to recreate the flavors of her childhood. Her first food blog,, was born as a result.

A few years later she became obsessed with bento box lunches, those compact portable meals her mother used to make for her to bring to school back in Tokyo. Convinced that healthy, tasty more-than-a-sandwich-in-a-brown-bag meals would be popular around the world, she started a second food blog 2007 called

A former graphic and web designer and tech writer, she approaches the subject of food and cooking instruction in much the same way as tackling a programming problem, breaking it down into manageable parts and presenting the steps methodically. Ever a nomad, after living in Japan, the U.S., the U.K. and Switzerland, she now lives in a village in southern France with her husband, aka "The Guy".

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

183 of 187 people found the following review helpful By Justin Cozart on November 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the best and most accessible bento box I've ever seen.

Its for grown ups. Chucking out most of the cute bits and hard-to-find ingredients, this book is perfect for someone who wants to have a fun lunch but not make a scene in the breakroom because of a smiley face on a sandwich (not that there is anything wrong with that!).

Most ingredients in the book are easy to find (cherry tomatoes, egg, chicken, etc), and some of the more specialized ingredients (mirin, dashi stock, etc) are available any almost any asian grocery store or online. There are tons of recipes, with pages followed by variations on those recipes, cooking time charts and timelines, and even a glossary of Japanese food terms. Fantastic.
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117 of 121 people found the following review helpful By J. BARTLETT on December 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not a showcase of selected posts from Makiko Itoh's excellent blog; it contains 150 especially created recipes, and instructive and attractive photos and diagrams and tips you won't find there. The recipes are practical enough for everyday use, with ingredients that won't leave you lost at the supermarket, and much effort has gone into explaining and illustrating the preparation of sushi rolls, onigiri, tamago, and so on; even explaining how to properly lay ingredients into single or two-tier boxes. Makiko has succeeded in distilling her experience making bentos in countries where staple Japanese ingredients are obscure and exotic, into a volume that's readably succinct yet shows impeccable attention to the needs of her audience. She even groups recipes into complete bento meals, with timelines showing how to prepare multiple parts of a meal simultaneously. It's clear that a great deal of effort has gone into producing a bento recipe book intended for everyday use rather than mere novelty.
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Format: Paperback
For many non-Japanese who enjoy Japanese culture, especially the pop culture and have watched many anime series or drama series, or even read the manga, it is no surprise if you are curious about bento. The way they are put together and how creative they are (as well as economical), it's no surprise that more people outside of Japan are catching bento fever and wanting to make bento at home.

So, what is bento? Think Japanese version of the school lunch but instead of a big thick lunchbox, there is creativity on the portions of what one eats and are typically set in a special container in which food is split. There is no big bulky apples or bananas or a big sandwich, for the Japanese, you have your steam rice, egg, vegetables, meats, etc. and it all fits into a container.

And it's no surprise that bento boxes have become popular outside of Japan. People wanting to create economically cool bento boxes and who best to write about it than food blogger Makiko Itoh, owner of and

Makiko has written "The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go" featuring 25 attractive bento menus and features more than 150 recipes which include the Sushi Roll Bento, the Chicken Karaage Bento but as it does feature Japanese style bentos, she also has a not-so-Japanese section which has a Summer Vegetable Casserole Beto and Every Loves a Pie Bento.

And what is important is that Makiko doesn't focus on cuteness or for the sake of having cute bento, she writes with care about nutrition and has easy-to-read, concise instructions that go along with photos.

For example, using the cover image (featured above), the photo is for "Chicken and Three-color Pepper Stir-fry Bento".
Read more ›
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Heather on March 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have never done bento before. When I decided to find a way to eat healthier lunches and stop buying the sodium-packed and carb-crammed "Healthy Choice" packs, I stumbled upon the concept of a bento box. I already loved Japanese culture as a whole; the people, traditions, history, everything! I even have several anime I adore. When I started reading up on what a bento was, I knew it was for me. I realized I probably couldn't just whip up a bunch of stir-fry and shove it in a Gladware, so I splurged on a real bento box, rice molds, sauce squeezers, and this book.

I was absolutely blown away at how much information is in this book and the ease of its use. It gives step by step instructions on not only how to prepare the bento-specific meals, but how to pack the box itself, along with tons of other helpful info. I was worried that I wouldn't have time in the mornings to cook the food and have it fresh the same day, but the timelines are a huge help.

There are countless tips, tricks, and hints throughout the book to make bento fun, easy, and healthy. The author even has website addresses in the back linking to their website with even more information, including a bento meal planner (HUGE help).

Overall, definitely the book to buy for the bento beginner!
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By scottjl on June 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
Received this book and a bento box for my birthday from a friend. i knew what bento lunches were but never attempted to make one before although i am a good home cook.and bag lunches to work often.

The book is well written, friendly and easy going, with clear explanations and beautiful photos. a good history and description of bento boxes is provided as well as some background on the author and motivation for writing the book. The recipes are easy to follow and use mostly ingredients that should be easy enough to find in any supermarket with an Asian section. Lots of diversity in the recipes provided from meat, fish, salads and treats. Included with each main recipe are a number of variations which help mix things up.

This is a great little cookbook and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for small meal ideas, even if you don't use a bento box this is good food!
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