BOOK REVIEW: Bento boxes, cute and edible

Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches

By Crystal Watanabe and Maki Ogawa.

(Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2010, 143 pp., $16.95, paperback)

What do “Baby Bear,” “Fluffy Lamb,” “Hawaii Sun,” “Guardian Angel,” and “Beach Party Hot Dog” have in common? They’re all the given names of just a few of the particular bento types detailed out in “Yum-Yum Bento Box.”

This book is, far from being facetious, extremely serious about bento. Many Japanese housewives, enthusiastic about expressing their love for their children through carefully crafted food, developed an industry and an art around the bento that is quickly becoming a fascination here in the USA.

Each recipe is neatly planned out with estimated time, steps for cutting shapes in egg, seaweed, or soy paper, and rolling rice or cutting bread. The pictures are impeccable and often times hilarious — for example, bento “I’m Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee” contains a quail egg, hardboiled, rolled evenly in curry powder then striped with and given a face of nori seaweed to resemble a smiling bumblebee with wings of white cheese residing in a “Flower Garden” of mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and pink rice.

Creativity knows no bounds in “Yum-Yum Bento,” and the book even contains pasta and sandwich options in addition to the plethora of rice variations. Not for the faint of heart, “Yum-Yum Bento Box” will not fail to delight the aficionado of Japanese culture nor any lover of all things cute and edible.

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