What’s the USP? The latest entry in the Japaneasy series of cookbooks keeps it simple, offering up a selection of simple to make dishes that recall the bento options found at conbini convenience stores across Japan. There’s also, as the name suggests, a heavy focus on food served in bowls – which is very often the most comforting way to have one’s food served.
Who wrote it? Tim Anderson, the American-born, British-based Masterchef winner who specialises in Japanese cooking. Like, really specialises in it. Anderson is currently knocking out a cookbook a year, it seems, and they’re usually very accessible and filled with delicious ideas.
Is it good bedtime reading? Cookbooks that focus on simplicity often carry that through to every element of their composition too, from design to the food writing itself. Thankfully, while Anderson sticks with the clean, attractive layouts returning readers will be used to, he also continues to inject a few sections to peruse between recipes. As well as your standard equipment sections, there are asides on bento culture, and the best way to enjoy rice. They aren’t exactly essays, but they make for a much more readable and enjoyable experience than comparable offerings from other publishers.
Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Anderson tries, as ever, to keep his dishes as accessible as possible. There’ll be plenty of requests for staple ingredients of the cuisine, like mirin, dashi powder and sesame oil, but none of these are particularly hard to source these days. Where more unusual ingredients are suggested, Anderson offers a readily accessible alternative.
What’s the faff factor? As the title suggests, everything here will be relatively simple to knock together in your kitchen at home. Thankfully, he’s dropped the often terrible puns that the otherwise brilliant Vegan Japaneasy insisted highlighting said ease with. Now the dishes speak for themselves, and are all the better for it.
How often will I cook from the book? This is the sort of book that could be pulled off the shelf weekly. It is filled with simple dinners that will offer new options for a quick meal after work. With its focus on bento lending the book a ‘small plates’ vibe at times, there’s also plenty of opportunity to put on a fairly impressive, hassle-free Japanese dinner party.
What will I love? Japaneasy Bowls and Bento is a bit of an all-rounder. As well as a good selection of weeknight-friendly dinners, the bento-led focus of the book means it also offers great ideas for your packed lunch, or for a dinner party of small plates.
What won’t I love? It’s a small thing, but the lovely shiny blue lettering on the cover is not up to much at all – it only took one trip to my kitchen work-top for some of it to wear away. But all good cookbooks look a little worn in the end – perhaps this one is just keen to skip to that stage.
Killer recipes: Enoki bacon rolls, Microwaved runner beans with yuzu ginger miso, Pork belly bowl with salted leek relish, Crab and spinach doria
Should I buy it? The big question for many will be whether or not they already own a Tim Anderson book. While Japaneasy Bowls and Bento is a solid cookbook with plenty of tempting recipes for easy weeknight meals, earlier titles in the range offer a similar selection. This doesn’t break and new ground, so it’s worth heading to your local bookshop and comparing each title to figure out which one works best for you.
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars
Buy this book: Japaneasy Bowls and Bento
Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas