By far, my favorite cookbook right now is : “The Just Bento Cookbook:Everyday Lunches To Go” by Makiko Itoh. Quite frankly I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon this book – but I am so happy I did. I do know I found it while searching the web for something and at the time (Nov 2011 I believe) it was sold out everywhere, which of course only made me want it all the more. I finally located it through eBay and purchased it from a guy all the way in London!. For those of you unfamiliar with “Bento” it is a home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. They are typically packed in specifically designed Bento boxes to transport the meal – and they can get quite elaborate! I like to make more traditional (read as non-character) type Bentos. And while I do not have to transport my meals since I work at home, I still like making Bento for lunch a few times a week. The recipes are very easy to follow and so far have produced very good and tasty results. One thing I love is that you can make big batches of most of the items in this book and then portion them off for freezing. This makes the lunchtime decision-making process much less painful and much healthier.
You will most likely have to make a trip to a Japanese or Oriental food store for a few ingredients – but that is the best part of trying new foods from other areas of the world isn’t it? To-date I have added mirin, nori, brown and white japanese rice, dashi, sake, dried shiitake mushrooms, furikake and sesame salt, to name a few, to my pantry. And of course I needed a fancy-schmancy rice cooker straight from Japan – sweet! My daughter loves the mini-hamburger bento (p 27). I couldn’t find the tonkatsu sauce they referred to so I made my own – delish! The next thing I could not wait to make was Tamagoyaki – a rolled omelette. These are a staple in Japan and often seen in bentos. I found it interesting that there were omelets that were made just for lunch and that were typically served cold! I made mine in a circular non-stick pan without any problems. There is a special pan just for this purpose but it is not readily available. I made a mess on my first try -I think it was because the pan was too hot. But my second go at it went great and I have had no problems since.
There are a LOT of great, easy recipes in this book, I am still trying out more of the recipes – I highly suggest you give it a try, it won’t disappoint!