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Review: The Manga Cookbook

I’ve been meaning to write a review of The Manga Cookbookfor about a month now, but never could really find the time. It’s an older book, presented by the Manga University Culinary Institute, originally published in 2007 by Japanime Co. Ltd. Check out their site, as they’ve just launched an online cooking show by the chef behind the book, Yoko Ishihara.

I’d seen this book come up a lot while doing Amazon searches for English bento cookbooks, but never quite got around to buying this one because I really wasn’t sure what it was. The title was confusing and I didn’t really understand that it was an actual cookbook done in manga. I finally bought it a couple of months ago and was pleasantly surprised by what I found inside.

The cookbook is in black and white, but the introduction and first 16 pages of the book are a color photo gallery of the final product recipes in the book. It even includes instructions on how to use chopsticks.

While they aren’t exactly professional looking photos, they do give you an accurate idea of what the food should look like in real life. The recipes themselves have step by step illustrations drawn by Chihiro Hattori.

The book is hosted by three characters: Miyuki (the girl seen above), Coo (her little Pokemon-looking mascot), and Miyuki’s boyfriend Hiroshi (seen on the cover). Miyuki, Coo, and Hiroshi take you through each recipe, giving you tips on cooking and explaining the background of some of the foods.

Although this is more of a Japanese food cookbook in general, most of the recipes in the book are perfect for bento, including things such as Nikumaki (meat & veggie rolls), Onigiri, Tonkatsu, Apple Bunnies, and Bunny and Chick Eggs.

In the above photo, you can see that they also include stovetop cooking instructions for rice, which is great for people who don’t own rice cookers. I haven’t had the right amount of motivation to try it yet because it’s hard to convince myself it’s worth it when a rice cooker is but a few feet from my stove. Plus, it reeks of the kind of recipe I’d totally screw up, especially since part of the instructions includes turning the pot of rice upside down. In my universe, such things should not be done lest you want rice on the floor because what can go wrong, will go wrong. I’d bet it’ll work just fine for you though!

After certain recipes, there is a section for “Miyuki’s Notes” in which she will give you further advice or insight on the food she describes how to prepare. In the back of the book, there are 26 pages for you to make your own notes on cooking.

In total, the book is 160 pages and features 29 recipes, though two of them are instructions for making specific bento lunches (train bento and garden bento). With step by step instructions, easy to follow illustrations, and cute characters to guide you through it all, I find this book to be a great starter for people wanting to get into making cute Japanese lunches. All of the recipes (save for the desserts and the kamaboko in the California Roll, which is usually imitation crab anyway) call for common ingredients that can be found in any supermarket. My only complaint is that the book doesn’t stay open very well. If you’re a big manga fan and want to give Japanese cooking or bento a try, this is definitely the book for you.

Amazon even sells the book bundled together with a bento box in a Manga Cookbook Gift Box Set.

Manga University had contacted me back when the New York Times article came out and offered to send me a book for review, but since I’d already purchased it, I asked if they’d be willing to give that book away to one of my readers. So, if you’d like to try and win a copy of The Manga Cookbook, post a comment here telling me why you’d like to win this book. I’ll accept comments until next Monday (December 7) and then randomly draw a winner.

Also, one last order of business was the little commenting event I held last month:

I ended up with just under 100 comments, so I donated $25.00 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Thanks to everyone for the comments!