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Posted on Mar 29, 2007 in Bento, Eggs, Food Jar, For Kids, Gluten Free, Lactose Free, Meat, Rice, Soup or Stew, Thermal Lunch Jar, Tips | 16 comments

Stew in thermal lunch jars

Stew in thermal lunch jars


Morning prep time: 8 minutes each (15 minutes for two lunches). What’s unique about this lunch is the way I packed the stew and rice in my thermal lunch jar. When packing hot stew (or curry, etc.) in the bottom of the rice container, if you pack a layer of rice on top of the stew to create a rice “lid”: 1) it keeps both rice and stew warm, 2) you’re able to enjoy both flavors separately, and 3) it keeps the liquidy stew from leaking if the lunch container is manhandled in transit. I saw this tip in a Japanese bento cookbook, originally for packing Japanese curry for a child in one of the little insulated bento sets like the one Bug used below. This is particularly helpful with my adult thermal lunch jars, as the biggest container is for rice, and the seal on the lid is not water-tight. Using this packing method I was able to pack the largest container with my main dish without leakage. This technique also works with regular thermal food jars, keeping hot food hot for better food safety.

Sancocho in thermal lunch jar

I had leftover sancocho (Latin American stew that I made with beef, tripe, potatoes, yucca and malanga — like taro) from the night before, so when cleaning up after dinner I packed up my stew in a thermal lunch jar, chopped up Bug’s stew and put it in a microwave-safe dish, and popped both into the refrigerator overnight. It was one of the occasions when I actually made rice for dinner, so I let the rice sit in the rice cooker overnight. In the morning all I did was nuke both bowls of stew, put Bug’s hot stew into his thermal food jar, pack warm rice, nuked broccoli in my microwave mini steamer, throw some speed bento items into mine (frozen spaghetti cup, cherry tomatoes, and cheese triangle), and used the spare time to make a quick tamagoyaki (rolled egg) in my smallest tamagoyaki pan (step-by-step tutorial here). Once you get the hang of making rolled egg you can crank them out in a hurry.

Here’s my lunch when fully packed. Note the full “lid” of rice on top of the stew in the large container.

Sancocho lunch top tier

Insulated bento set

Bug’s lunch has pretty much the same items as mine, but his hot stew is packed inside of the thermal food jar that came with his insulated bento set. At 560ml total capacity, this bento set is a little large for a two-year old (according to the bento box size guidelines I translated), so I left a lot of empty room in the container for the stew so that we were able to add the rice when he was ready to eat it.

Sancocho lunch for toddler

EDIT: The Daily Tiffin food and lifestyle blog would like you to show them your lunch: details here.



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  1. Nice tip, I’ll have to try that next time I pack curry rice.

    In a slightly related question, how many bento boxes do you own? I am buying some more tomorrow, and I plan on buying a couple of different shapes and sizes for variation. I’d really like to have a big collection of really unique ones to use for different meal types.

  2. Good idea about the “rice lid” - that will come in handy for my leftover this weekend!

  3. Found you from a link on
    Hope you don’t mind that I added you b/c I will soon begin packing toddler lunches.

  4. That’s a great idea and another beautiful lunch.

    BTW, I study your FLICKR page daily. I already pack my own lunches every day, sometimes using a variety of foods and the idea of bento would really make it fun. I haven’t gotten the “tools” yet, but for right now, I’m using container I have to practice.

    I’m not stalking you, I just have a crush on your food - lol.

  5. Excellent! Leftovers rule…

  6. I don’t mind at all, it’s very flattering. For toddler/kid lunches you might also want to check out the Kid Eats group on Flickr here that I started last year:

  7. Hah ha! I don’t feel the need for a restraining order or anything! ;-)

    Seriously, more power to you in packing your lunch with whatever you have. Gear is fun and all, but you can really get by with minimal lunch packing gear if you’re creative. Don’t believe people who tell you you MUST go buy a bunch of expensive Japanese stuff just to pack your own lunch! They probably have an eBay store and a vested interest… Cynically yours, Biggie

  8. i hope when i have kids i can be inspired to be as creative as this… you have certainly helped a great deal! bug’s playmates must always be jealous!

  9. LOL, glad to hear that!

    Yeah, I am a bit compulsive, so I am using every fiber in my being not to run out and bento up! I want to see if it is really something I will continue with for more than a month before investing in more stuff I don’t really need - lol.

    Luckily, since I DO bring my lunch (and breakfast) with me every day, I do have plenty of different sized containers. I also have plenty of decorative picks, lots of cube cheeses and a penchant for leftovers!

    Wow, I’m such a geek…

  10. OT: Heya! I’m sure you don’t mind but I figured I’d let you know still. Someone was asking me about egg molds on my site so I gave them the link to your egg mold / ice cream sandwich maker tutorial along with ebay links to actual egg molds. Hope you don’t mind :D

  11. oh thanks for the tip. my thermal lunch jar has one small container which sits on top of the main part (which has no lid) and has a lid with no air-tight. this could really help to prevent leaking.

  12. Funny you should say that about Bug’s playmates — his best little girlfriend now says, “Yummy!” whenever she sees me. :-) When I pull out Bug’s lunch bag she’s right there (so now I make a little more so she can share). Her mom jokes that she’s my Biggest Fan. :-)

  13. Don’t mind at all — thanks for the heads up!

  14. I wouldn’t turn the container upside down or anything, but it certainly is more secure than just ladling the stew in the rice container as is — that definitely leaks (and covering the rice container with plastic wrap like I did on occasion is just one more step in the morning).

  15. For those than own Zojirushi’s ms. bento and mini bento sets, are the main rice compartments (I guess these are the largest ones?) (1) leakproof (so that I could put soup in it), and (2) will they keep soup hot? The set would be for my 8yo child…

  16. If you’re not going to eat rice straight after you’ve cooked it, then you need to store it in the fridge – as soon as possible, but definitely within four hours. Refrigeration won’t kill the bacteria but it will slow down its growth – any uneaten rice should be thrown out after three days in the fridge. NEVER LEAVE RICE IN A RICE COOKER ALL NIGHT - food poisoning could result.