One nice thing about bento lunches is that they’re practically waste-free, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to toss the whole container when you’re done. Today my husband went on a business trip, so I packed him a bento lunch for the plane. This morning when I mentioned that I’d made him a bento, his first question was, “Is it in a collapsible container?” He was jazzed when he heard that it was actually disposable, so he wouldn’t have to keep track of a bento box on his trip and bring it home. In Japan, parents are occasionally asked to pack their children lunches in disposable containers for school excursions, so this is established ground. (More info on using disposable containers below in the Packing Notes.)
Contents: Donut nectarine, black Mission fig, and fried rice with Italian sausage, fresh corn, mushrooms, yellow bell peppers, egg, green onions and Korean chogochujang sauce (sauce recipe here). A recent mutation of the donut peach, the donut nectarine is flat and just the right size to pack whole in a bento lunch.
Morning prep time: 2 minutes, using leftover fried rice packed the night before when cleaning up from dinner.
Packing: This meal posed a few challenges. Airport security meant no liquids, no gels, and no metal knives. The flimsy plastic clamshell box with practically no seal called for food on the dry side, with nothing that could give off liquid. Fried rice and whole fruits were a good fit. I used an antibacterial food divider to separate the rice from the fruit, and stemmed and halved the ripe fig. I closed the container with a little rubber band, tucked a plastic fork under the rubber band, and wrapped the whole thing up tightly with a regular table napkin for extra security (multitasking benefit: you can use the napkin when eating). In Japan, you see a lot of people wrapping up their bento boxes this way with furoshiki (lunch cloths), and last year the Japanese Ministry of the Environment produced this illustrated how-to wrapping chart as part of an effort to reduce disposable bag waste. This is the traditional bento-wrapping style (first on the chart — the Otsukai Tsusumi).
Gear: When Bug and I went on a trip to Philly a couple months ago, I brought collapsible sandwich cases and little bento boxes as I knew we’d use them regularly while we were there. My husband’s not going to need to pack his own meals on his trip, so different circumstances called for different equipment. I picked up a pack of 10 disposable plastic clamshell boxes for US$1 at Ichiban Kan in San Francisco, but equivalent containers are actually pretty common if you look around (I’ve seen them in bulk at stores like Smart & Final, Daiso, and even Amazon).
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