The Manga Cookbook has been out for a while, but I have a copy to give away courtesy of the publisher, so here’s a short review. While this is not a bento cookbook, it has a few bento-friendly recipes in it. Besides, the cute manga format will probably appeal to many Just Bento readers (which is why this review is here on Just Bento rather than on Just Hungry).
This is a little paperback, with several easy Japanese recipes in manga format. (Just in case you don’t know, manga are Japanese comics. Wait a second…if you’re reading this site, how could you not know manga!?! ^_^) Instructional mangas are quite common in Japan, but I don’t know of any in English besides this one (though I bet someone will tell me there are many more). The recipes are introduced by a cute manga girl and a rather hyper animal character that is supposed to be a fox, which looks rather like it belongs in the Pikachu world. The manga, and the recipes, look to be written in English rather than translated from Japanese. If they are translated, they’ve done a really good job of it. In addition, the book reads from left to right rather than the more usual (for Japanese manga) right to left.
As for the recipes, provided you can get a hold of the ingredients (and they do not stray too far from the basics like rice, soy sauce, and so on), anyone should be able to make all of them easily, even kids (with adult supervision in some cases). There are color and black and white photographs of the recipes to refer to, besides the manga instruction. Most of the recipes are standard-issue Japanese classics, like onigiri, ebifurai (breaded fried shrimp), kushi dango (sweet rice dumplings on a stick) and so on. A couple are not exactly standard, but that doesn’t mean they don’t belong in the book. All of the recipes are of the type that appeal to kids - or at least, Japanese kids. No strongly flavored or strange ‘adult’ food here. For the charaben enthusiast there are nice manga step-by-steps for making things like usagi ringo (apple bunnies) and boiled eggs with faces on them.
The only major quibble I have with this book is that about 24 pages out of the stated 144 total are essentially blank! These have a photocopy-like image of a page ripped out of a notebook that say “Cook’s Notes” on top. I’ve seen this in other cookbooks too, but not for so many pages proportionate to the overall page count. I can’t help but wonder if they somehow ran out of money or something and couldn’t afford to fill up the rest of the book with more recipes and manga. Another, lesser quibble is that the photographs are not of very good quality. But I think that this little book is still a good value though (around $11 from Amazon.com). It would make a great present for a child or teenager who is into manga or anime and is curious about the ‘weird’ Japanese food that he or she sees in them, or an adult who wants a friendly introduction to some Japanese home cooking recipes.
All you have to do to enter the giveaway is to leave a comment on this post. As always, to make it more interesting, let us know the one Japanese dish that you haven’t made yet that you are most curious about trying to make. The deadline for leaving your comment/entry is 23:59:59 CET on Sunday, November 22nd. I’ll try to get the book to you before Christmas.
(Note: The giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone for entering! I’ll announce the winner shortly.)
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