Some books begin with quite a journey. Sara Kiyo Popowa was born in Sweden to a Bulgarian mother and Japanese father. The family moved to Japan, mother and dad separated, and Sara grew up in Sweden with her mom. Eventually, she visited Japan, reunited with her father, became captivated with Japanese cuisines and now lives and writes in London. In that journey, she became a talented cook and an exceptional artist. Her artistic medium? Food.

Bento are small boxes in Japan used for a breakfast or luncheon meal. In Japanese restaurants, the boxes tend to be rectangles, lacquered, and divided up into areas with each area dedicated to one component of a multi-flavored meal.

A Japanese meal, including a bento box, should have the four “fives:”

  • Five colors: white, black, red, yellow, and green
  • Five tastes: salty, sweet, acidic, bitter, umami
  • Five preparations: raw, steamed, boiled, broiled, and fried
  • Five food types: grains, leafy greens, protein, fruit and vegetables, sprinkles and boosts

In real life, a bento box is hard-pressed to have all these elements. Back in London Sara fashions her style of boxes that are more veggie oriented, healthier. There is less mat, less fried food. But the resulting dishes she fashions have the bento “compartmentalization” while unveiling a parade of color, texture and flavor.

Look at that book cover rich is veggies and fruit and rice. Or there is there is the Tamago-yaki Bento and Seed Omelet Bento combination:


Or this riff on Asian summer rolls, her No-Wrap Summer Roll Bento.


Each of the dishes here is jam-packed with elements, typical of the bento box. Although as you can see, these “bento” boxes often do not have the internal compartments. Instead, all the ingredients are positioned in cozy assembly: bright, tight, and ready for your chopsticks.

Bento Power will suggest that you change your luncheon menu. And surely make your meal a beautiful experience. It’s a clever book and will intrigue you. And whet your appetite.