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Posted on Jun 15, 2007 in Beans, Bento, Equipment, For Kids, Lactose Free, Meat, Pasta or Noodles, Thermal Lunch Jar, Tips, Tutorial or How-to, Vegetarian | 15 comments

Wine bag holds lunch jar innards

Wine bag holds lunch jar innards

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…

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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.

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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.

070614cPacking: 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-toss070614b 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!

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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.

070614dBug’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).

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  1. Seeing your toddler eat such ‘grown up’ foods gives me hope for my future kids someday. All the things you pack are really lovely. :) I LOVE THIS BLOG!

    • I don’t have any children but my nieces are all for veggies (the family are omnivorous) but it took years before the older of them would touch a regular sausage or anything remotely what you’d regard as “kid-friendly”. At a recent upscale restaurant visit we ate rare steak and delicacies from the buffet. The children ate broccoli ;), other veggies and fruits, berries. At half price but still. Weird how kids are huh?!

      • Second that on kids being weird with food! Its always a surprise to me what they will and won’t eat. (crosses fingers that Bug’s current omnivorous trend continues…)

  2. The tinga looks delicious…would you share the recipe?

  3. I never tought about packing Soba noodles in a lunch box (and tsuyu -sauce)! Wow, amazing. Just a little tip – some kids have reactions to soy sauce or soba tsuyu when the sauce get all over their face. My brother used to have a itchy face whenever he ate noodles. Would be nice to have wet napkins or paper towel handy ;)

    • Ah, good point. We don’t react to soy sauce, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. I’ve got a little Shinkansen oshibori (washcloth) and case for Bug; I’ll break it out when he starts school and I’m not around with diaper wipes… :-)

  4. That’s a clever idea. I’m all for re-useable cloth bags. How do you decide on the time fractions (no need for extended chilling or heating)?

    I miss japanese puddings. Who has the time to make french creme brulee when there was a japanese creme brulee pudding ;-)?
    In the smallish town where I live there are no good asian shops. I do shop these ready made and rather tiny containers of fruit jelly when I can. I tend to consume them rather rapidly though.

    • Jessica, I decided it would be fine at room temperature by the bento food safety guidelines — nothing highly perishable like dairy (and the chile sauce in the tinga has antibacterial properties). Nothing I really craved warm either, so…

      I’d totally forgotten about Japanese puddings until I started with bentos. Mmmm, creme brule!

      • Oh I had read the food safety, then conveniently forgot — oops. And I who was all for FAQ ;). Maybe one of these days it will seem more obvious to me. I do have the possibility to refrigerate lunch in most cases and nuke right before eating, otherwise I think about it more.

        I ran into Japanese puddings by happenstance. I worked close to Momoyama station in Kyoto but I lived some stations away. So I browsed through the supermarket before going home and whoops, some pudding containers slipped in almost every day ;).

  5. I second the request for the tinga recipe. It looks amazing.

    • I just posted the recipe in response to Jeri’s comment above. Enjoy!

  6. I love the noodle idea! How do you get them started on the chopsticks so they won’t fall? I just found out my DD will start preschool in September and is expected to bring her lunches everyday. I can’t wait to bust out my bento skills, as hubs does not do cute. I know you do the more practical bentos, but as a possible inspiration to you, I saw these on the TV today..http://www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/DessertSushi, there are many links for other similar “dessert sushi” too. Thanks!

    • Monica, I just grab a few noodles with chopsticks in the standard way, then use my other (clean!) hand to loop the rest of the noodles around. Come to think of it, there’s no reason not to use a fork for this if that’s handier.

  7. I ordre my reusable wine bags and the gift bags from http://www.thegreenaura.com

    The bags are elegant and the shipping is free.

    Thanks

  8. @15 from funtush: Are you affiliated with The Green Aura?