Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go, by Naomi Kijima
I got this cookbook for my
birthday. I was so excited.
Not sure how many vegan
recipes would be inside, I
kept my expectations low.
While every recipe has a full
color photo, I was more
impressed by the variety of
vegetable side dishes. Usually
when I look at bento photos I
am looking for "eye candy".
But while the photos are nice,
the simple recipes are even better. Plenty of vegan fare, and lots that is easily veganizable. I'd say 1/2-2/3 of the recipes in the book can be animal-free with simple substitutions or omissions. Pretty good for a Japanese cookbook printed in Japan. Even the English grammar and spelling are good!
The first section is heavy on meat and seafood. But later sections contain easy donburi, rice casserole, rice ball, fried rice & noodle recipes that often use tofu or can do just as well with the meat elements omitted. I chose to make substitutions in most cases such as tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, or soy meat analogs. I especially appreciated a few recipes designed for a rice cooker (my favourite kitchen gadget). The bento helpers section in the back of the book has over a dozen vegan ideas using various beans, seaweed, vegetables...even peanuts.
This cookbook is strictly about recipes. There is minimal introduction or other text, no bento making tips, no kyaraben (charcter bentos). What it contains is traditional Japanese bento fare.
There is a very brief blurb about measurement conversion in the beginning, and 3 simple soup recipes on the last page.
If you're vegan or vegetarian and not confident changing recipes a bit on your own, then this may not be the bento cookbook for you. But I am very pleased to add it to my collection.