Japanese Food Ideas: Bento Boxes & Sushi


Disclosure: I was sent copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Have you been watching the Olympics? This year is the first time I have really watched in a long time. I love watching the women's gymnastics but always hated how it was shown so late. I love the live streaming videos that I can watch any time. With the Summer Games in Tokyo and where spectators are not allowed, I thought it was the perfect time to explore Tokyo and Japan. Today I'm going to share some cookbooks to bring home a bit of the Japanese culture with food and it is food your kids may enjoy! These books are also perfect for getting ready for school lunches, parties and more! We will start with Ultimate Bento by Marc Matsumoto and Maki Ogawa. 

From the Publisher: 

**2020 Gourmand Food Culture Award Winner**

With these fun, easy and delicious recipes, anyone can venture into the world of bento boxes—no special tools or containers necessary!

Hosts of popular NHK World cooking show Bento Expo, Marc Matsumoto and Maki Ogawa share their bento-making expertise on the pages of this stunningly photographed cookbook. As a Japanese-American, Marc is ideally placed to help Western readers add Japanese touches to their lunches with easy-to-find ingredients. As a Japanese mom of teenage boys, Maki is an expert at creating simple yet delicious bento box combinations that can be put together easily every morning. Together they have created an accessible, authentic bento cookbook that everyone will enjoy.

Ultimate Bento is packed with practical techniques, step-by-step instructions, and useful tips for 85 recipes that can be mixed-and-matched for 25 nutritionally balanced bento box lunches. Each bento in this book costs under $3 per serving, so you and your family can save money while also eating healthier.

Recipes include:
  • Summer Rolls
  • Japanese-style Coleslaw
  • Wasabi Chicken
  • Snap Pea Stir-Fry
  • Yakitori Chicken Skewers
  • Mini Stuffed Peppers
  • Ginger Pork

From Me:

Bento boxes have been a bit of a rage in the past ten years. I will be honest I don't feel like I have time to make cute lunches. However reading Ultimate Bento, I see there is more to bento boxes then just cute character lunches. In the introduction Marc Matsumoto describes them as making sure you are packing balanced meals and teaching kids about how to eat healthy. He also describes the feeling of making one as wrapping a gift that you know a loved one will absolutely love. That made me really interested. 

Now the book provides step by step instructions for 25 bento box lunches. The steps include recipes as well as how to pack each bento box. Before the 25 specific bento box tutorials is information about the actual containers, tools, and more. It includes some ideas for the cute lunches but also shares how to make the lunches healthy and how to pack them so they don't shift and/or mix.

There are so many fun lunch ideas in this book. I may have to try some this fall. 

Now another Japanese favorite food is sushi. It is a trend my family has not picked up on, but our next book is all about making adorable sushi. It is Sushi Party: Kawaii Sushi Made Easy! by Ken Kawasumi.

From the Publisher:

The ultimate finger food, cute and colorful sushi is perfect for entertaining!

Easy to eat, gorgeous to look at, and healthy, too—it's no wonder sushi is one of the world's favorite foods. This book shows you the simple techniques used to make kawaii decorative sushi that will delight everyone who sees them!

Renowned Japanese sushi chef Ken Kawasumi has assembled 55 super-cute sushi recipes, including:
  • Adorable animals, including turtles, monkeys, swans, pandas and dolphins
  • Fabulous flowers, including cherry blossom, hibiscus and chrysanthemum
  • Colorful rolls that look like watermelon slices, ice cream sundaes and Japanese dolls
  • Stunning sushi rice-bowl art, including a breathtaking landscape of Mount Fuji

Each recipe has detailed step-by-step instructions with photographs showing the individual stages, assembly techniques and the finished dish. There is also a comprehensive guide to basic sushi rice preparation, rolling techniques and handling seafood safely. The glossary sorts the sushi creations by color, allowing you to easily plan your theme and color-coordinate your party.

If you're looking for a cute and crafty way to liven up a special occasion and impress your guests, look no further!

From Me: 

It is amazing what you can do with sushi. As a person who does not like seafood, I have for the most part stayed away from sushi, but have shared a book on vegetable sushi previously. I have also bought some for Hazel to try before. I do not have the equipment to make my own sushi so I have not tried any of the tutorials in this book, but they are definitely step-by-step with many photos!

I love how they show you how to make the fun shapes and the shapes range from animals to ice cream and so much more! The types of sushi in this book also range. Some do have seafood and others are vegetarian or just rice and nori.

There are basic instructions as well as steps to roll sushi and other general things to help such as equipment basics and more. There is even a Japanese food glossary for people like me who do not have the lingo all down.

The tutorials are also rated for difficulty. Some will be harder to create than others and certainly some shapes will be harder to make. There is even a section for special occasions where you might want to put forth more effort for your creations. Plus there is the section on scattered sushi which is where the Mt. Fuji picture comes in. (Be sure to check out this jigsaw puzzle of Mt. Fuji.)

So whether you want to make cute and beautiful sushi or pack fun bento box meals these books will help introduce a bit of Japanese culture to your family while the athletes are in Tokyo competing for the gold! All week I will be sharing about Japan so be sure to come back and be sure to check out our past Japan posts!