Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

501bentoboxlunches.jpg

501 Bento Lunches: 501 Unique Recipes for Brilliant Bento is a cute little book (about 6 inches / 15cm square, or the size of a small bento box as you can see from the photo). As the title says, it contains 501 bento box meals within its compact covers. If you’ve been a bento fan for any length of time, you’ll probably recognize many of the bentos in the book from blogs and Flickr pages around the web. There’s a brief recipe (in most cases more of an assembly how-to rather than recipes for individual components) for each bento, plus an introductory chapter with a how-to section and more detailed recipes by Amorette Dye, a.k.a. Sakurako Kitsa, one of the better known charaben artists in the English speaking world.

The bentos featured in 501 Bento Lunches lean rather heavily towards the cute and colorful, though not all are charaben/kyaraben. Pros: While you could spend many hours of internet browsing to see all of these bentos online, it’s nice to have them all in one book. Cons: The photos are in full color, but unfortunately the quality does vary a bit, depending on the skill of the photographer. The font used for the recipes is tiny, and to my eyes hard to read. That coupled with the format of the book, which is like one of the pocket-sized art books that make great little gifts rather than a cookbook, it might be hard to use this as an actual cookbook in the kitchen. However, it can provide hours and hours of colorful inspiration for your future bento creations.

(Full disclosure: I was invited to contribute my bentos to this book, but declined.)

  • Format/Size: Paperback, 288 pages, about 6 inches/15cm square
  • Publisher: Graffito Books
  • Amazon.com link; Amazon UK link (On Amazon UK it’s still called ‘500 Bento Lunches’ - they must have added one before the book went to print.)

The giveaway part!

I’m giving away one copy of 501 Bento Lunches, courtesy of the publisher, Graffito Books - the copy you see in the photo, minus the chopsticks. If you’d like a chance at it, just leave a comment to this post. To make it interesting (because as with all the giveaways around here, I think just a bunch of “please enter me” comments are boring) tell us what your one favorite bento making tool is. Is it an egg mold? Cookie cutter? Favorite knife? If you can link to a photo, all the better!

Deadline: Your comment must be posted here on or before 23:59:59 of Tuesday, July 7th.

Eligibility: Anyone!

The giveaway is now closed. The winner will be announced very shortly! Thank you to all for entering!

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

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Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Hi Maki,
Thank you so much for your site. I'm an Australian living in Japan who just married a wonderful Japanese man 2 months ago. Since then I have turned into an obento making machine! I love preparing obento for him everyday but coming up with ideas is difficult. Finding your site has been a lifesaver! Your obento staples section has been so helpful and he has been happily surprised by meat and egg soboro obentos and noriben, he hadn't had these since childhood. My favourite tool is the special houchou (big kitchen knife) with my name engraved on it that my husband bought for me. Nerida

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite tools are my silicone baking cups, because they help me get the portion size right and keep things neat and orderly in my bento!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My comment is just that I would like to thank you for giving me the inspiration to make myself bento lunches. I love receiving your emails every day and I love how good I feel when I finish making a lunch :) My favourite tool is my flower cutter that makes pretty flowers out of carrots :)

xx

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I haven't started making bento lunches yet but I plan to when my daughter starts school in the fall. We are already talking about lunches that she can take.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

HEY, enter me, please! :D My favorite tools ARE: Yes, my Zojiruchi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker, my tamago pan, onigiri and other rice molds, and a vintage 70's hard-boiled egg cuber! Yes. And, loots of furikake.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Yes, and also, little muffin cups. :D

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I have only been making bentos for a year. I am most certainly hooked and so willing to learn more. Between school lunches for my eldest son and meals for my hubby's weird work hours I would have to say.... silicone baking cups. Great to make little verisons of a mid week meal (then freeze, if I have to) and they can also double as dividers in the bento for olives or gerkins. Simple, yes - but a great tool.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I haven't received my bento box or tools yet (they're on their way via USPS!) so I don't have a favorite anything yet so a book would be great to have when I get started!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I'm hardly a pro at making bento boxes - mostly because of my own lack of patience - so my favorite bento tool is more part of the bento than for making the bento. I love my silicone cupcake lines. They're the perfect size for rice balls, veggies, salads, cut up fruit, you name it. I also have some mini paper cupcake liners (can't find in the minis in silicone), which are perfect for blueberries, almonds, candy, mini pretzels, and other snack food.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

To be honest my favorite bento making tool is my bento box itself. I have the rice ball makers and such but just the box is what encourages me to make a bento style lunch. I'm always happy when I make a bento lunch for several reasons.
First off I bring a greater variety of foods because I have to fill up each and every speck of room in the upper and lower sections.
Second I know I'm keeping to my calorie limit because of the size
Third I love the little matching insulated bag that my box fits into because the temperature here is around 100°
Fourth I love opening my bento. It makes me happy to see the food in separate sections, yet harmoniously arranged
Fifth packing my lunch into a bento makes me thoughtful about it. I don't just throw things into plastic bags and go. It's meditative.
I would love the book for new ideas.
Thanks,
Renee

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I would love this book as I am new to bento. I used to love my rice cooker, but it is broken sadly. I enjoy your website and ideas very much. I have yet to try bento for myself, except for gathering leftovers from the day before. I'm very excited to get into it however.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento tool? Hmmm...it would have to be my hands! Haha. I'm only 17 and so I don't have much time to prepare bentos so the most I do is chop up leftovers and mold riceballs.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favourite bento item has to be the freezer. I'm so busy with work and school that I love being able to pull out a variety of things from the freezer and be ready to go.

I love my rice molds!

I love my rice molds! Onigiri is my favorite traditional bento element.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Count me in the running! :)

My fave bento tool is my new Santoku knife! It's amazing what a good quality knife can do!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento tool is this pocket sandwich cutter. It's really convenient to have around, especially since I pack mini-sandwiches in my bento more often than rice or noodles. It seals the edges and creates a pillow-like sandwich without bread crusts! I laav it.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Mine favorite bento making tool would have to be a little bear shaped rice ball mold my mom bought me. I now make little bear head shaped rice balls with little faces :) I almost think they're too cute to eat, but my friends have no problem.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento toy is my nori stamps. It's the perfect and quick way to make anything in your bento super cute!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I had this preordered on Amazon for months, and some day Amazon just dropped it off my order list because it wasn't available, now I am really curious and can't wait to finally get my hands on it.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I don't really have a favourite bento tool, (although the cute bunny shaped egg molds are SO CUTE) but I do have a favourite kind of bento box! My fave has got to be my one-tiered oval black bento box. Wish i still know where it is... I used it during elementary school in Asia~ T__T good memories~ Aw..i missed the days when I got bento boxes for lunch...T_T

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento tool is the box itself. I like being challenged to see what I can fit in there.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite Bento tool... I have samo very cute Onigiri Wraps that my friend sent me. I haven't figured out how to use them (some are paper, some are plastic) but they are so cute to look at.

Favourite bento tool I actually use: a four-box set, themed the Very hungry Caterpillar (one of my favourite childhood books) and my chopstick that look like yellow pencils.

=)

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento tools are my cute pink and red heart-shaped silicone baking cups.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favroite tool... hum, probably my Z (I can't spell the name but it's a common Japanese model/brand) rice cooker. I bought it 3 yrs ago and it gets regular use weekly and keeps kicking. Now that I've deicied to bring lunchs (healthier eatting & cost cutting) it's become my favorite friend. My bento's are mainly leftover's from the night before with a good helping of white rice.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento-making tool is my mini cutting board. It's only about 6 inches wide, but it's just right for cutting small items, very handy and small enough to leave on the counter all the time without getting in the way of the rest of my kitchen paraphernalia. I've had it for years, use it nearly every day.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favourite bento tools are sillicone cupcake cases. They're easy to wash out and can be filled with small amounts of pickles, fruit or sauces and nestled in amongst the rice, noodles or vegetables. They look really pretty and keep the flavours from mixing/ keep things crisp. I also use them to hold toasted seeds on the days I take salads so the seeds retain their crunch and salty coating, and if I take an empty one, it makes a great container for dipping sauces.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I wish I had more bento items XD I think, though, out of my small repertoire of items, I'd have to say my silicon cupcake cups are my favorite things~ I LOVE them! lol. They really are life savers because it's so nice to just be able to put anything in them and keep it nicely separated from everything else. Lol. I just wish I had bought them a long time ago XD

My second fave would be my steel mini cookie cutters! The fun shapes are so great especially for kids :] I have animal and flower-shaped cutters and I use them for all kinds of things: fruit, cheese, and as stencils :3

Here's some pictures of them!!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/37198067@N08/3622300748/in/set-721576198103...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/37198067@N08/3582840936/

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Looks appetizing!!!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Love the cookie cutters! I have oodles of them and I sometimes let my kids pick, but they prefer to be surprised. I have food markers that I use to make eyes/mouth on the animals that they think is hysterical too. Thanks.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Silicone baking cups -- they are perfect for keeping the bento nice and dry and sequestering wet items!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I have to say my favourite tool is my small paring knife, because it can be used to cut or peel anything =D

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

i have to say first, I have been following on and off this and the sister site and i have tried some of the recipes. very yummy!!

my favorite tool is the egg shaper. what person would not like a hard boiled egg in the shape of a star, bunny or bear?! Umm, I love them anyway...

I have to actually find more since I bought these at ichibankan and they are closing soon. :(

I want to give a set to my friends - for their bentos at least to let the kids have fun with them.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Wah my favorite tools have got to be the cookie cutters :D I dont have several but I think i like them best because they just make eating meals that much more fun. Not to mention, after i finish cutting them into cute shapes I find myself oddly full o__O

I dont have a bento picture of when i used it but i have a random one from when i found a cute star cookie cutter in my house and had to play with it.

http://i39.tinypic.com/167ukuh.jpg

The stars are pancakes. xD Sorry about the image quality.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

Don't have a decision to make here -- Hands down, my favorite bento/kitchen tool is my EmberGlo commercial steamer. This thing is a beast! It is not for everyone nor will it fit in many kitchens. It is a solid piece of restaurant equipment. Ugly, awsome, and when the timer runs down the buzzer will wake the dead - it is calibrated for a loud restaurant kitchen.

I can rinse my rice and put it in the serving bowl, salt, oil, a little piece of kelp -- throw it in this thing, twirl the timer, whack a button, and hissssss, hisssss, BUZZZZZ - cooked to perfection, right in the serving bowl. A few broccoli florets, or some carrot slices, or edamame, or shrimp, or.... perfection.

I found this one on eBay and didn't pay all that much. New they are north of $1K US.

In my kitchen this monster carries quite a load - I love it and, yes, please forgive me, I know I am gloating about it.

On the other end of the spectrum - is my Kyocera ceramic slicer. Someone mentioned the knives - which are great (also expensive), this little contraption is like a mandoline. It makes cucumber slices that you can almost see through. Unfortunately, it will take off the skin on your finger tips effortlessly. It comes with a guard but I find it awkward, I prefer a kevlar glove. I think three versions are available, adjustable, julienne, and non-adjustable. Mine is the basic, non adjustable version (~$20 US.) But please be careful with this or any similar slicer. Respect them - I do, but I learned to the hard way. In fact, were I am musician or anyone who would be inconvenienced, by having their fingertips out of commission for a while -- well, this might not be a good tool for those people - be warned.

Pick Black Curry!

I think the best tool of all is your bare hands regardless if your shaping things like rice balls or trying to assemble something your hands are the best tool.

If food is prepared with love and care it would taste and look good. Thats some of the principles i follow.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I'm addicted to Onigiri and have been using this AWESOME rice ball thingy that has little slits in the side to make cutting the triangular shapes easy peasy. I'm kind of boring with my bentos, and getting really bored with them, so this little book would come in handy. Your recipe for the spicy carrots with sesame seeds is awesome, btw. I cannot remember the name but it is DELICIOUS!!!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I think my favorite bento tool so far is actually this site. I definitely do love my handy tea-cup for making onigiri, and my Washoku cookbook for reference, and my grater, and my knives (I love my knives and use them all the time!) -- but for bento making, I always come to this site. It give me ideas, guidance, recipes, background, inspiration, and a place to ask questions. I may not pipe up a lot here, but I use this site more than any other bento tool. :)

Thanks for holding this contest and others. It's really great seeing what others have to write and what sort of bentos they make.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

That's really hard! I'd have to say my nori face punches and mayo cups, especially the shinzi katoh apple one because they "cuten" up my bento effortlessly. Unlike sauce bottles, mayo cups are easily cleaned and filled.they are also great because they fill gaps, and add color to drab or empty looking bento. Nori face punches are a lifesaver because they save time and are much cuter than what I can cut by hand.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I am new to the world of bento making, but reading sites like yours (which is--quite honestly!--my favorite) inspire me to keep packing lunches that are both healthy and beautiful. Since I'm new, I don't have any bento goodies yet, but I do love my parasite pals lunchbox from Archie McPhee that has become my bento box. :)

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite? Egg molds, probably! They're just so... Odd... Eating a heart shaped egg never gets old! :)

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

This sounds like a great book! My favorite bento tools would be vegetable/cookie cutters and toothpicks. They're so handy and I use them all the time.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

One of my favorite tools is colorful toothpicks. They're great at holding things together and in place. Also, they can be a good eating utensil for fruit, cheese, and other chunky items.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I love my plastic bun steamer. I chop up a carrot and anything else to steam and put it in the microwave. It's fast and easy to clean up.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I have no cool japanese bento-making items, so I'm using mainly stuff that I found at the local shops and think about using it in different ways. My favourite item then would be my silicon cupcake liners. I had them before I fell into the bento craze, and got insipired to use them by your site. And they are brilliant! Reusable, washable, keep stuff from melting into each other, perfect. And I didn't have to buy them, as they were already in my kitchen. And the best thing: I can even use them for making cupcakes in them! Such a multi-functional item.. :)

The book looks great!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

i like my silicone cupcakeforms best, because they help organize my food, are colourful and in 3 shapes(round, square, heart) and they help preventing all my food getting soggy if their content rolls around (berries, small tomato or so)

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento tool? Hm. I think my mandolin slicer (recommended by you, btw). It's so useful! I use it around the kitchen a lot, not just for bento-ing, too.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favourite tool is a small, old pot I cook the rice in. It is the perfect size and I don't even need to lift the lid to know that the rice is ready.
I know now exactly how much water I need to pour in and how long it takes for the rice to be the perfect consistency without sticking down.

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favorite bento tool. That's hard. Hmm.. I think I really love the tiny little cookie cutters that I have in many different shapes. I go crazy every time I see the tiny wilton sets in the store during seasonal times and have to get each new set. I mostly use them to cut out cheese and lunch meat and bread for tiny cute sandwiches (which I haven't put into bento yet, shame on me!). They're also great for veggies like carrots and peppers. :)

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

I definitely want a part of this giveaway! I don't have much of a selection of bento tools, though I've been working on them for a year. I'd have to say though that the favorite out of the ones I have would have to be my rice cooker...I used to make rice on the stove, but I hated losing the rice touching the pot, and I couldn't for the life of me stop it from burning. Go rice cooker! No more burnt rice!!!

Re: Book review and giveaway: 501 Bento Box Lunches

My favourite tool is the small (500 ml), old pot I cook the rice in. I have found out through experimenting, how much water I need to pour in and how long I need to cook the rice to reach the perfect consistency without sticking down.