Nourishment means nurturing in Japan, and nowhere does this hold more true than in the daily bento.

The Just Bento Cookbook, by Makiko Itoh.
128 pages
KODANSHA, Nonfiction.

Gaining popularity around the world for its many healthy and money-saving benefits, bento is not just for doting mothers aiming to please their children or out-cute their peers. Take a look at the essential English introduction to this creative culinary art from Japan Times columnist Makiko Itoh in “The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go.”

Itoh’s straightforward approach merges recipes with informative passages detailing everything from how to pack bento to essential equipment, using bento for weight loss and how to cook perfect rice. Including but transcending standard fare like rice balls or fried egg, menus are divided between “Japanese-Style” and “Not-So Japanese” bentos.

The recipes themselves are not only predictably delicious, trying as they do to please both the Japanese and Western palates — Itoh also offers a wide range of variations for each dish, allowing the reader to learn easy-to-remember bento blueprints for added diversity on future menus.

Alongside a traditional blanched spinach with sesame-seed dressing recipe, for example, Itoh offers five other green vegetable sides as variations. With a handy glossary of Japanese ingredients and tips for speedy preparation, this book neatly packages all you need to get started on healthy, delicious lunches.

Read archived reviews of Japanese classics at jtimes.jp/essential.

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