Although I like my thermal lunch jars, the bulk and weight of the jars themselves keep me from using them as often as regular bento boxes. But when searching for the right container to hold today’s meal, I realized that there’s no reason not to use the internal containers on their own as little round bento boxes, and pack them stacked inside a wine carrying bag. This lunch didn’t necessarily call for extended chilling or warming, so…
Contents: Nests of spinach zarusoba with kizami-nori, green onions, wasabi and dipping sauce in the soup container. Bottom containers hold cherries, grapes, and a tinga of Salvadorean chorizo, fresh corn, yellow bell peppers, pinto beans and chili sauce. To eat the zarusoba, mix the green onions and wasabi into the dipping sauce, dip a bundle of noodles and a little nori into the sauce to flavor and loosen the noodles, and eat. Great hot weather dish.
Morning prep time: 15 minutes. The chorizo tinga was leftover from dinner, the zarusoba dipping sauce for the noodles was store-bought, and the nori was sold already cut up. The only thing I made fresh was boiling the noodles and chopping the green onions — it just takes a certain amount of time to bring water to a boil. During that time I was able to prepare and pack everything else for the three lunches. Once the noodles were cooked, rinsed and drained, I curled them into bite-sized nests on chopsticks for easy eating. This also works well with somen and any other noodles for dipping. To make looser nests, twirl the noodles around your fingers instead of chopsticks.
Packing: Since I’d decided not to use the thermal jar itself, just the internal containers, I was free to substitute a smaller metal container for the fruit instead of using the large rice container. I was drawn to the thermal jar containers because of the excellent watertight soup container with screw-on lid, which holds the dipping sauce in this meal. I stacked both this and my husband’s meal (packed in take-and-toss Gladware, below) in a single wine bottle gift bag, with chopsticks and a spoon tucked down the side. This was inspired by Japanese-language bento book “Watashitachi no Obento“, which showed a stack of little round tupperware-type containers in a fabric wine bag. Clever!
Contents: Same as mine, with the addition of kaiware (daikon sprouts) for the noodles, cherry tomatoes and a mini pudding cup (Kiku brand Petit Pudding, sold in Asian & Japanese markets).
Packing: As proof of concept that bento meals don’t necessarily need to be packed in expensive boxes, I packed my husband’s meal in disposable Gladware plastic containers and stacked them with my lunch inside of a wine bag. The containers nested inside of each other when empty, saving space on the way home. I used reusable silicone mini-muffin cups to hold the noodle garnishes, and the mini spoon for the pudding also acted as a divider to hold back the cherries and grapes.
Bug’s lunch has the same contents, with orange slices, noodle dipping sauce in a sauce container, and an animal surprise cap on top of the chorizo tinga to keep it from shifting around during transport. Packed in a 350ml Asvel box (Bug also wound up eating my grapes).
Lunch in a Box is nominated for Best Food Blog in the Blogger’s Choice Awards. If you’d like to cast your vote for speedy lunch packing, click here (you can vote for multiple blogs in the same category).
- Need for speed: A mommy’s lunch manifesto
- How to pack a bento lunch and use “gap fillers”
- Choosing the right size bento box
- Packed lunch food safety
- Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews