178 of 182 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2010
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.
114 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2010
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.
183 of 197 people found the following review helpful
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 justhungry.com and justbento.com.
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". She shows you how to create the stir-fry with a recipe, plus how to make instant cabbage and cucumber pickles and blanched broccoli. Also, information on how to prepare basic white rice.
She also has a time line of how long it takes to create the dish as well.
After you make the dish, she then features how to prepare the food and place it into a single-tier and two-tier box.
So, these are easy-to-follow instructions.
So, what about the rolled up egg? How do they roll it up? No problem, she has pictures on how she does it.
What about the zig zagged vegetables? No problem, she explains how to do it as well.
And it's important to note that the ingredients featured on the Japanese recipes are ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. Especially if you have an Asian grocery store nearby. Granted, sesame salt or kabocha squash may not be at your local grocery store, but the goal is to improvise if you don't find some of these ingredients.
Now, by using Makiko Itoh's "Just Bento Cookbook", you may be thinking...great, we got the recipe down, ingredients for the Japanese and non-Japanese dishes can be found but what about the actual bento box and equipment that Makiko uses. Now, this is the cool part of the book where she actually showcases bento boxes and accessories and where you can purchase them.
Itoh also goes into foods that can be refrigerated or frozen and for those who are not familiar with the Japanese ingredients, she also has a glossary at the end of the book. So, for those who read and are not sure what "bonito flakes", "miso" or what "edamame" are... no problem, she explains what they are.
Overall, this is a fantastic book for those wanting to prepare bento dishes. Sometimes blogs on how to prepare bento are hard to follow and Itoh recognizes the weaknesses of what others have tried to do and focuses on making the experience as easy as possible for those creating bento for the first time.
So, if you are interested in making bento, I can easily say that "The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go" is perhaps the best book I have reviewed on bento thus far.
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2011
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!
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2014
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!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2010
This book is everything I had hoped it would be, and my hopes were very high, since I saw the quality of the author's food blogs and subscribe to her Just Bento newsletter.
The recipes are easy to follow, and have a lot of variations for both main dishes and sides. They're also widely varied. It shows just how much you can do with your bento!
There are beautiful photographs that show the meals in lots of different styles of bento boxes.
There are also lots of tips for making your food the best, most efficient way possible. The time lines are a great way to plan out your bento making (though I'm not as fast as she is yet!).
I highly recommend this book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2012
I can't say enough about this book; it's absolutely everything you need to get into making and enjoying bento lunches. I was looking for something alternative to bring in my everyday work lunches and have been a longtime fan of Japanese culture. I stumbled upon Makiko's blog about a year ago and, after trying several of the recipes she has posted there and being very satisfied with them, I decided to purchase her book.
I have never been more satisfied with a cookbook in my 20+ years of cooking! The recipes are straight forward, easy to follow and incredibly good. What I liked most about this book was that the author kept the Western cook in mind and gave helpful tips throughout the recipes regarding where best to find specific ingredients or, if necessary, the author also tell you how to make or where to buy a substitute. I can't honestly think of one American cookbook that does that well!
Another thing that really impressed me is that the author included sections on how to select the right bento box to meet your needs, what accessories (silicone dividers/cups, vegetable cutters, etc.) she found useful, and even takes the time to discuss how to properly prepare your rice. She also includes a really helpful section on food safety and a section on bento meal planning.
I have been extremely satisfied with each recipe that I've tried and each one was a truly flavorful, thoughtful pairing of delicious and very attractive food. I really, really liked how each entree was broken down into it's component dishes and how there's a quick but informative write-up of what the dish is (how it tastes, why it's popular/liked in Japan, etc.) paired with the instructions to make that particular component of the entree.
Finally, I highly recommend the ginger pork and new potatoes recipe! I loved it so much I quadrupled the recipe and now serve it at home for dinner. My kids devour this dish and ask for seconds! I'm completely "converted" - no more boring sandwich lunches again for me. In my opinion, there's no greater joy than opening your lunch box to a meal you prepared yourself that looks as beautiful as it is satisfying and nutritious! And this book will help you do it!
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I worked for a Japanese view camera manufacturer for many years (before digital took over the world) and spent quite a bit of time traveling between major Japanese cities via the Shinkansen (Bullet Train). It was then that I fell in love with the bento box. Although they served food on the trains experienced travelers waited until they pulled into a station to rush out and grab a bento box from one of the many vendors that occupied the various terminals. I would buy the biggest, most expensive one that they had (I was on an expense account back then, plus, being a big man I eat as much as an average Japanese family) and then hurry back to my seat in the Green Car. My culinary treasures varied from city to city. Fresh fish, oysters, uni, sea weed, rice, cucumbers, radishes, fruit, edible flowers and so much more. Not to evoke a cliche but to me a bento box evokes the essence of Zen philosophy. Simple yet amazingly complex. I seldom visit Japan anymore (unfortunately) but my love for the country and its food is as strong as ever.
My oldest son - who first visited Japan when he was 12 - recently married a wonderful young woman from Kyoto. Spending time with her and her family reminded me of why I love both their country and their food culture. I bought a really nice bento container and decided to find a cookbook that I could use here in San Antonio. Although I admire the traditional bento form I understand that it is impractical to try to recreate it here in the US. The 'Just Bento Cookbook' understands this. Written by a Japanese woman living in the US the author wisely avoided fresh items that would be either impossible to find in the US or prohibitively expensive. There are still Japanese inspired dishes to be sure, along with a few unique Mediterranean and American influenced recipes. Fortunately the author created recipes the are very easy to shop for. There are a lot of good ideas as well as instructions in this book and I am sure that I will be using it often.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2010
I waited for this book since Makikoh Itoh announced it on her website. It's fantastic and better than I expected.
Her recipes are simple enough that someone who isn't a cooking master can make, but not so simple that people who want a challenge are left bored. They're all quick and make amazing lunches. I've made several of her recipes before and they are just fantastic.
It is definitely not the kind of Bento book with cute pictures of chara-ben and how to make ham and cheese rolls. No, no, it is MUCH more than that. It teaches you the basics you should know for making healthy, delicious lunches, even if you don't want to make them cute and fancy.
If you're interested in starting to make your own bento, stop looking and start here.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2010
This is a great book. Even if you already follow[...], you will see lots of NEW recipes with Maki's excellent directions and suggestions for variations. I started packing lunches after finding her site, and it definitely makes your day more enjoyable when you have a great lunch to look forward to!