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A Bentomaker’s Bookshelf

For a while now, I’ve had my bento-related books sitting around all over the place, making Mr. Pikko pop blood vessels in his head every time he saw them. Now that our house looks decently clean though, my books are all on my bookshelf, nicely arranged in a little bento section next to a bunch of cookbooks I have on hand for me to conveniently not use. People have been enjoying my reviews over the last couple of months, so if you’ve always wondered what’s on my bookshelf, today you get to find out.

It’s funny how I was under the impression that there wasn’t much out there for people to read if they wanted to get into bento, but I guess all I needed to do was organize my cookbooks to find that there’s actually a good deal of resources to get people started into this crazy, addicting food habit. (and that I own most of them!)

Amazon’s last day for Christmas arrival shipping is coming up soon, so if you’re still looking for a gift for that special bento-minded person, consider one of these titles. I don’t have reviews for all of them, unfortunately. Starting from left to right:

  • The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight’s Dinner – I’ve only tried the Beef with Broccoli recipe so far and haven’t had a chance to do a full review yet, but I loved the dish. It was hands down the tastiest and most delish beef broccoli recipe I’ve ever tried. It’s a bit pricey at $18.45 from Amazon, but 101 recipes is quite a lot and if they’re all as good as the one I tried, that’s definitely money well spent. The photography is phenomenal!
  • Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking: Simple, Elegant Recipes for Contemporary TastesI tried a couple of recipes a couple of years ago, but despite the title, it seemed a little complicated for me and I think that’s why I never went back to it. I need to give it another try though, as I shouldn’t let a recipe for how to make your own tofu at home discourage me. Keep in mind I am pretty disastrous in the kitchen, so this bias is what chases away my cookbook usage most of the time. For example, I decided not to buy eggs today, even though I’m baking a crapton of cookies tonight. This almost 95% guarantees that I’ll either a) have expired eggs at home or 2) run out of eggs in the middle of baking.
  • How To Make Decorated Rolled Sushi – I bought this from J-List a couple months ago but haven’t had the time to do anything out of it yet, mostly because the book is in Japanese and is already complicated to begin with. It’s got the  most insane sushi rolls you ever did see and provides you wish instructions on how to roll each one. Official review to come eventually.
  • Easy Japanese Pickling in Five Minutes to One Day: 101 Full-Color Recipes for Authentic Tsukemono – Yet another book that I haven’t utilized enough, this book on making pickled vegetables offers tons and tons of different pickles and step by step instructions in English. It’s full of lots of interesting information on pickling, including how to make nuka-zuke, which is something I had never heard of and still don’t know how to do because I don’t know where to get the nuka. Still, it was interesting to read about and I’d love to give it a try when I have time. This book has quite a few “fast” recipes that you can make and eat within minutes of making it.
  • Kawaii Bento Boxes: Cute and Convenient Japanese Meals on the Go – Read my review of this book to see if it’s right for you. It’s chock full of pretty pictures and features a lot of bento to draw inspiration from! A great book to convince someone that bento is a good idea!
  • Waku Waku Kyaraben Obento – This book is flat out amazing, but it appears to be sold out at J-List right now. I got this as a gift from one of my ZAM co-workers who lives in Japan.
  • Japanese Homestyle Dishes: Quick and Delicious Favorites (Learn to Cook Series) – I bought this and several similar books at our University Bookstore. I’ve tried a couple of recipes here and there and find them in general to be very beautifully photographed and the recipes are written nice and simple.
  • Fabulous Asian Homestyle Recipes: Nutritious Meals in Minutes (Learn to Cook Series) – The same type of book as the previous one, this one covers all types of Asian cooking.
  • Hawaii’s Bento Box Cookbook: Fun Lunches for Kids – Written by Hawaii chef Susan Yuen, this book is great for making adorable lunches for your kids. The only drawback is that many of her lunches rely on ingredients that may be hard to get on the mainland or in foreign countries. It’s called the “Hawaii Bento Box Cookbook” for good reason! It’s still a great inspiration for cute food, though. All you need to do is improvise.
  • The Manga Cookbook – I recently did a review on this book, but haven’t yet done any of the recipes. It’s got great starter recipes with easy to access ingredients, the perfect gift for a manga/foodie fan. I have not done any of the recipes in this cookbook yet.
  • At the Japanese Table: New and Traditional Recipes – I have no feedback on this book at this time. It appears to be out of print and I recently bought a used copy on eBay for really cheap. I haven’t had time to look through it yet, but it’s been on my wishlist for a very long time.
  • Easy Japanese Cooking: Bento Love – Due to its easy factor, this is the book that I’ve tested the most recipes from. You can read about the various recipes I’ve tried from the book or read my full review. This is an excellent book for men wanting to pack their own hearty, tasty bento or for women wanting to do this for their significant others. With large portions, this book is definitely for those with bigger appetites.
  • Cute Yummy Time: 70 Recipes for the Cutest Food You’ll Ever Eat – This isn’t exactly high on my list of recommendations, but it’s on my bookshelf anyway. You can read my review about it here and use it to inspire your own cute food creations.
  • Face Food:The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes and Face Food Recipes – Serial coffee table books on the hardcore charaben from Japan, these books are exceptional conversation pieces but contain very few recipes. Buy these for oogling and a bit of history of popular bento makers in Japan. Read my review here.
  • 501 Bento Lunches: 501 Unique Recipes for Brilliant Bento – I’m a contributor for this book, though I’m not proud to be, as evidenced by my review of it. It’s a vast collection of some of the best of the bento blogs out there, but the photographs weren’t touched up at all, leaving the inner photos terribly dark and hard to see. More coffee table stuff, but of way less quality than the two Face Food books.

Other books you could try, though I have no idea about them:

So, that’s it! Have you learned anything? I know I have. For one, bento books and Japanese cooking books sure do love their epic long book titles…

Hopefully this gives you some insight as to what adorns my shelf and collects dust just a teensy bit less than my other cookbooks. I had told myself I was going to use all my cookbooks more often this year and I stayed true to that because last year I don’t think I opened a cookbook more than two or three times, even though I am clearly addicted to buying them.

Read through the reviews and hopefully you’ll make someone happy next week!