BOOKS | Bento Boxes…not your ho hum box lunch


Bento Boxes, those beautiful, creative, delicious  looking lunch boxes used in Japan and throughout the world, are now captured in a new cookbook: 501 Bento Box Lunches.

Published in 2009 by  Graffito Press, the box-sized  book features bento photos,  recipes, and directions created by fifteen authors. Each  has a personal reason for his  or her fascination with bentos, for this amazing collection of box lunch choices.  They range from a professional bento designer, to food  writer, mother, weaver, copywriter, and more.

According to the publisher, authentic bento boxes  contain food in a 3.2.1 ratio –  three parts starches, two parts  vegetables, one part protein.  But, with 501 bento box recipes there are a number that  don’t fit those guidelines exactly.  However, they are all  beautiful, colorful, and appetizing – things every lunch  should be but are sometimes  lacking. And, it is amazing  how foods creatively presented take on a new importance.  Spinach Bento, for example, has sections of stir-fried  spinach, cooked rice and red  shiso furikake topped with nori  stars, egg pancake rolls, red  pepper slices, and green grapes  – a scene in red, green and  white with a variety of textures.  Then there are bentos including food not normally associated with Japan like the  Lion Bento that includes a  chicken nugget, hot dog,  steamed broccoli, rice, and  cherry tomato.

Some are just fun to look at  like the Panda Bento featuring  cheese, pineapple, salami, cucumber and bell pepper.  And some are just fun to  eat like the Korean BBQ  Chicken Bento, or just silly  like the Happy Worm Bento.  There are holiday bentos,  traditional bentos, sushi bentos, burger bentos, meatloaf  bentos – well, you get the  idea. With 501 to choose from,  there’s a bento for just about  any food.

Available now in bookstores at the soft cover price of  $19.95, “501 Bento Boxes” is  sure to brighten all those dull  lunches in the New Year and  beyond.  Happy New Year

Phyllis Louise Harris is a cookbook author, food writer and  cooking teacher specializing in Asian foods. She is founder of  the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes Ltd. dedicated to the  preservation, understanding and enjoyment of the culinary arts  of the Asia Pacific Rim. For information about ACAI’s programs  call 612-813-1757 or visit the website at www.asian