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Posted on Aug 18, 2006 in Equipment, Meat, Sandwich Case, Sandwich or Wrap | 23 comments

Collapsible sandwich case debut

Collapsible sandwich case debut

Yesterday I tried out a new collapsible sandwich holder that I got for $8 from my local Sanrio store (yup, the cover is the Shinkansen character). I’d seen these in Japanese bento cookbooks before but had never noticed them here in San Francisco. I was initially puzzled by the ventilated sides but it turned out there’s some method behind the design madness. Here’s yesterday’s lunch packed up:

Mixed meat sandwich in collapsible sandwich holder

  • whole mixed meat sandwich (ham, peppered salami, cheddar, lettuce, mayo and Zinfandel/garlic mustard on toasted buttermilk sandwich bread), cut in half
  • cut veggies with a container of doctored ranch dressing for dipping

Here’s the case, exploded:

Collapsible sandwich holder (exploded)

Collapsed, and assembled (it’s quite deep, and the divider is movable):
Collapsible sandwich holder (folded) Collapsible sandwich holder (assembled)

When I saw this, I was excited that it would collapse flat after lunch and slip into our regular bags. When I opened it up, though, I had a number of doubts, primarily — what’s up with the holes in the sides? Wouldn’t it make the bread go stale and litter crumbs all over in transit? What side dishes would work without leaking juice? How does it stay together? I’d seen these cases in Japanese cookbooks and bento blogs before — now it was time to go back and do my homework on the details.

Our initial run showed no crumbs in my husband’s new black bag (that he unceremoniously shoves his lunches into vertically for a subway commute). Also the bread didn’t go stale — evidently the ventilated sides are to keep the bread from going soggy, especially if the filling is initially warm or moist. The books and sites I saw with these cases all included dry side dishes like a piece of fruit, a wrapped cheese, etc., so I did likewise. I wasn’t impressed with the security of the latch, so I put an elastic band around the whole thing. Next time I’ll pop the entire case inside a kinchaku (lunch carrying bag) just to be sure nothing gets out. And my husband, who generally has an allergy to “cute” or “kawaii”, has decided that the Shinkansen character on the lid makes it cool! Very surprising! (Edited to add: I’ve since tried lining these sandwich cases with a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper to contain crumbs with good results.)

Final verdict: interesting idea — I’ll continue to use it for sandwiches (especially for bringing along a meal for a plane trip), but won’t rule out the Laptop Lunchbox or other containers for sandwiches, especially if I want to pack a moist side dish. If I see a collapsible sandwich case without holes on our trip to Japan, I’ll pick it up and give it a whirl.

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  1. NEATO! I’d be freaked about the ventilated sides too, but how cool is that? :)

  2. thats an interesting design…

    too bad its not down here too u__u

  3. No Sanrio stores in Melbourne? :-(

  4. noo… ;0;

    It seems all the Morning Glory Stores closed down D:

    And most of the cutesy stores I been to..don’t even have any of these bento items…its more of like bags, clothes and what not D:
    but thats why ebay is there for right? ^^;

  5. Absolutely!

  6. I actually have this Shinkansen collapsible container but wasn’t braved enough to use it cause I thought it’ll be messy to put food inside. But after reading this post I think I’ll give it a try & see what my son thinks LOL.

  7. @7 from Macky: If you’ve got messy sandwich fillings you could also try lining the container with plastic wrap, waxed paper or aluminum foil…

  8. Hi, Which Sanrio store did you get the Shinkansen collapsible lunch box from ? I live in the bay area too !!
    THank you soo much for all the tips and reviews !

  9. @9 from juliani: I got it from the Sanrio store in Stonestown Mall. I was there yesterday, though, and they didn’t have any more sandwich cases in stock — check back with them as I’ve seen Cinnamoroll cases there before too. They actually have a nice little stash of bento equipment there: utensil sets, bento boxes, oshibori & cases, kinchaku, insulated lunch bags, bags for cups, thermoses (thermi?), etc. Not cheap, but not insane prices for character gear either.

  10. @11 from Sugar_Kill: Where are you located? Are you in SF? I’ve never seen them in person anywhere other than the Sanrio store in Stonestown Mall, but I’m curious about the big Sanrio store in Union Square… Maybe worth a call to all of your local Sanrio stores? Maybe they’ll special order one for you…

  11. I’m in Orlando. I saw it once at the Sanrio in Millenia Mall, the only official one in this area, but of course they don’t have them anymore and can’t order. (Though I’m pretty sure they don’t even have a clue as to what I’m talking about.)

  12. @13 from Sugar_Kill: How weird that they can’t order them for you. In Japanese the packaging says “sandwich case” in katakana, so it shouldn’t be a translation problem…

  13. wow! i’ve always wondered about these sandwich boxes. thanks for clarifying and showing them to us! i’m definitely going to buy one just to try it out now =D

  14. @15 from Shie: My pleasure! The sandwich cases seemed weird and counterintuitive the first few times I tried them out, but now I’m quite taken with them. Hope you like it!

  15. I work at the Sanrio store in Millenia (orlando) and we used to have those. The reason why we can’t order those is because it’s called “Pre-order” and usually pre-order items are special items that come straight from Japan and there is a certain limit as to how much we’re allowed to order.

  16. IT’S SOOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE!!!!!!
    ;)

    seriously, i wish i had one of those, i think i would lose a few pounds, from my veiw, it looks tiny,……….. but still cute!

  17. @19 from holy snap: This particular Shinkansen one is the largest collapsible sandwich case I have — and the only one with a divider (very convenient). Bug has his own little kid-sized one that’s much smaller (and Charlie Brown, Snoopy et al on the cover)!

  18. Thank you so much!! I’ve seen this at the Japanese Discount Store near my house but I had no idea what it was for… Sandwiches! Who would have thought… Thanks!

  19. I just got two the other day (on that well-known auction site) and mine collapse completely different. I think your style would be more secure. Mine the side pop-up and then you have to snap them together. I haven’t used them yet, but they don’t look to secure to me. Will definitely “borrow” your idea of using a bento belt. No dividers either. :(

  20. It’s not quite bento, but there are reusable sandwich bags such as this:
    http://www.lunchskins.com
    They have different shapes and sizes. I’m not sure about stores and shipping, but you can get them in NY. I originally saw something similar to this on a local news channel. It’s just sort of an interesting alternative. (BTW, I have no affiliation with this company or any other reusable bag company).

  21. The bento container that gets used most often in my stash is my sandwich box! I have a Keroppi box from my local Sanrio store, its awesome because the collapsible sandwich part (which is just big enough to hold a well-stuffed sandwich cut in half) sits on top of a closed, lidded compartment so I can pack ‘wet’ things with it! Its perfect for when I want a small green salad or sliced fruit with my sandwich.

  22. What the trick to make bento sandwich? I mean which layer I should put mayo? Do i need to completely dry the lettuce first? I am really new at this.

    Also what do you usually make for hot summer day bento?

    Thanks!