Wednesday, August 19, 2009

BENTO LOVE: New Cookbook

RATING: ***** 5 Stars on the BENTOMETER!!

Bento Love: Easy Japanese Cooking, by Kentaro Kobayashi, just came out and I had pre-ordered a copy from Amazon for $17.50. It looks like it will really help me move up to the next level in my Japanese cooking, because it is really a "how-to" cookbook rather than just a list of recipes and ingredients.

For example, take this paragraph on how to prepare a chicken thigh for cooking:

"Keep in mind: chicken cooks slowly. So don't forget to cover it and let it cook through. Enjoy the flavor of yakitori-style chicken for lunch!...

Take a single chicken thigh and poke about a dozen holes through the skin with a knife for even cooking and to prevent skin from shriveling up. Remove fat with cooking scissors and slice the surface of the meat repeatedly to break up tendons. Rub a very generous amount of salt (about 1 Tbsp) into both sides and sprinkle with pepper. Now you're ready to cook..."

Did you know all these tricks? The book is full of them. The author loves meat so the bento suggestions are often meat plus rice plus a small amount of veg.

Here's a look at the table of contents so you can see if you're interested:

I'm sorry that blogger's photo uploader is deciding these pics must be sideways; I can't figure out how to short-circuit that.

Here's one bento I plan to try to replicate very soon; the idea of yummy salted turnip greens over rice is just calling my name:

But almost every bento looks so good I think I'll have some terrific ideas and know-how to make the coming academic year really SUPERBENTO!!

The book is not purely Japanese food either, though its American and European influenced bento menus have the neat touch of strangeness that characterizes Planet Bento in my mind. So we get one lunch that consists of two small sub sandwiches: one with an avocado omelet in it, the other with a sausage. You see what I mean.

The only disappointment I had with the book was this: Mr. Kobayashi appears to be unaware of the essential food group known as dessert. If we want sweets in our bento or on the side, we are on our own. I went confidently to the back of the book, that ghetto where desserts usually reside in our cookbooks, and lo there was nothing but an explanation of common ingredients. No cute rice puddings, no home-made Pocky, no cute moshi. it's as if dessert did not even exist.

Well Mr. Kobayashi, man does not live by meat and rice alone.

However this is a small thing and a true sweets-hound like myself does not really need much help to figure out ways to stuff those crucial calories into a corner of a bento box.

I think you'll like this book if you are not an expert cook of Japanese food already, and if you want some ideas to refine your preparation process. If you have sometimes had the thought, "This just ought to taste better!" about some of your Japanese cooking, as I have, this book will definitely bridge the gap in many areas.


  1. OOOOHHHH geeeeeeee thanks a lot. Now I have to buy this. I will send ya the bill in the mail.... X_____X

  2. awesome review! i too will also have to check this out~

  3. Thanks ladies! And the author is a hotttie also...:)

  4. I can't wait for my order to come in!! It looks heavenly.

  5. HOT AUTHOR!??!? WHA???!?!? *goes to google*

  6. Witch Baby: Hope you like it as much as as I do!

    Avie: Yes and he loves his mama too -- thanks her for all the great bento lunches when he was a schoolboy. Somebody marry this guy.