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Bento Love:
Easy Japanese Cooking
By Kentaro Kobayashi
ISBN: 193428758X
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Publication date: Aug. 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Number of recipes: 87
List price: $14.95
Type: Ethnic: Japanese; Lunch
Sample recipe: Spicy Sweet Beef and Shiitake Stir-fry Bento
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: Oh my gosh! How much did we miss not growing up in Japan? Our box lunches were never like this.

And what would our kids think if we sent them to school with any of these bento box lunches? (They would think we were nuts, then they would probably thank is profusely. (Well, we imagine they would thank us profusely.))

For box lunches, they just look delicious. The stir-fries with beef or pork or chicken or fish (hiding substantial amounts of vegetables), the sandwiches (which are not particularly Japanese), the curry, the stir-fried spaghetti bento, the meals based on leftovers, the "hefty" bentos, and all the side dishes, primarily based on vegetables and rice – they certainly do not have to be dedicated only to kids. Anyone would love them. That they are generally quick and nutritious is just a huge bonus.

The title is a reference to the love that went into the Bento box lunches the author's mother made when he was a child. You may not have enough time on a weekday to make a lunch like this for yourself or your children, but certainly a picnic is not out of the question. No one should be deprived of a box lunch like this, at least now and then.

Our government would have a fit if you kept these cooked meats and eggs and vegetables and rice at room temperature for more than a couple of hours. You definitely want to keep them cool, and remind yourself that the Japanese have been eating these for how long? Generations? Looks more like it's been about 800 years….

There are some quirks that have crept into what is an English translation of a Japanese book – not a book on Japanese cooking produced specifically for an American market. Some unusual ingredients are explained here (mentaiko is pollock roe) but not there. Others are not explained as clearly as you would like or at all (konjac jelly is a gelatinous jelly made from an Asian plant. It may or may not be for sale in the United States or Europe). How do you cut 1/5-inch slices (who cares? Who is that precise, anyway?) There is a little reference guide at the back, and most, if not all, ingredients will be available at an Asian market or a really well-stocked supermarket. In many cases, the author lets you use easy-to-find substitutes.


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