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Posted on May 11, 2007 in Bento, Equipment, Fish or Seafood, For Kids, Onigiri or Sushi, Potatoes, Recipe | 34 comments

Croquette bento lunches and metal containers

Croquette bento lunches and metal containers


Croquette lunch for preschooler

Contents: Corn cream croquettes with tonkatsu sauce (a popular kids’ bento item), sliced cucumber, plain rice ball with strips of pre-cut nori, sliced takuan pickles, and slices of kamaboko (fish cake) cut to loosely resemble rabbits. The side dish holds cherries and grapes. Bug devoured the croquettes as finger food right off the bat, then the fruit. He wasn’t much interested in the kamaboko or takuan — some days he is, some days he isn’t.

Morning prep time:
10 minutes to pack, 10 minutes to let everything totally cool before closing the lids. The croquettes were frozen from a store, and just needed to be deep fried in a little pot for 3.5 minutes. For best food safety, I heated the kamaboko through (in hot water I was making something else in). The rice was refrigerated leftovers, so I heated it in the microwave and quickly shaped it with salted, wet hands (you could also use the twisted plastic wrap method).

Packing: The takuan pickles turned the kamaboko yellow where they touched, so if Bug were sensitive about things like that I could use a food divider or a piece of lettuce. I did use a food divider to keep the moist cucumber away from the crispy croquettes, and let the lunches totally cool before closing the lid to avoid soggy croquettes. I also let the croquettes cool on a little wire rack before packing them in the box (they take extra time, but kids inhale them!).

Stainless steel food containers

I found some stainless steel bento boxes and side container dishes for US$1.50 each at Daiso (Japanese dollar store with stores internationally) in Daly City CA, good for people concerned about using plastic food containers. They’re not totally metal, but you could put a layer of lettuce, waxed paper, etc. over the top of the food if you’re worried about food touching the lid. The large one is 480ml, and the smaller ones about 190ml and 220ml (measured with the water method). These containers were originally meant for fast freezing of food: some had little date dials on the lids to track freshness, but these had the normal lids. There were other shapes, too (a rectangle side dish, a larger round side dish, etc.). Other metal lunch containers include: the To-Go Ware two-tier box, the multiple-tier Chinese lunchbox, the Sigg watertight aluminum box, the Totoro aluminum bento box, the Totoro “Mei” aluminum bento box, and the large two-tier aluminum bento box. Do you have a favorite metal lunch container? Tell us about it!

Croquette lunch

Contents: Corn cream croquettes with tonkatsu sauce, kamaboko, takuan, cucumber, grapes and cherries.

Morning prep time:
10 minutes, plus 10 minutes cooling time.

Packing: Same as above, packed in the 480ml stainless steel box.

I can get cheap tonkatsu sauce from my local Asian markets, but if you can’t get it locally and don’t want to order it online, you can make an approximation yourself. I actually prefer the bottled stuff, but maybe that’s just my Japanese food nostalgia kicking in.

Tonkatsu Sauce (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

1/2 tsp. dry powdered mustard
1 tsp. water
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tb Worcestershire sauce
2.25 tsp. soy sauce1. Mix mustard with water until smooth.
2. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the mustard powder/water with the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.

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. Did you make the croquettes yourself?

  2. No, these were frozen store-bought croquettes (Shirakiku brand). I’ve also got some ham ones from Goya in the freezer I’ve been meaning to try out as well. One of these days!

  3. beautiful colors!

    Your croquettes look gorgeous… I was wondering if you fry them in a pan or with a deep frying machine? XD mine never turn out that good looking.

  4. My kids love Corn cream croquettes, too! So easy and tasty. There are some brands that their croquettes can be cooked in microwave for 1 minute. I usually wrap one or two croquettes in paper towl and nuke them…

  5. I deep-fried these in a 2-quart Windsor pan between 340-350 deg. F. Thanks!

  6. Good tip on the microwave croquettes! Ooh, now I have a craving for crab cream croquettes — do you know a good place to get them? I don’t remember seeing them at Nijiya.

  7. Hi, I came across your lj from the bento flickr community. Your ideas and recipes look awesome so I added you! Cant wait to try some of the tips! Thanks. M.

  8. Thanks shaunandtamara! You might also want to check out the Flickr groups linked in the left-hand column — there’s a wealth of different lunch photos there (bentos, kid lunches, thermal lunch jars, Laptop Lunches).

  9. Thanks xlostandbrokenx! Let me know if you run into any problems with the tips and I’ll try to troubleshoot as best I can from a distance.

  10. This is the coolest thing ever!!! I’m going to add you & vote for you!

    Do you mind telling me what the little sauce container is? It’s charming & I’d love one!

  11. The little sauce container is in the shape of a pig (pink and blue, with stickers for eyes and wings — you can write what kind of sauce is inside on the wing stickers). I got a good-sized package of them for US$1 at Ichiban Kan in San Francisco’s Japantown (info in my SF Bay Area Shopping Guide, linked in the column on the left). eBay sellers probably have them, try as she’s local and gets a lot of her inventory from Ichiban Kan and Daiso (but figure in a healthy markup).

  12. I know, have been looking but can’t find any small size frozen crab croquettes here that I used to get in Japan, but a place called “Delica rf-1″ at Ferry Building carries very tasty take-out crab cream croquettes. Not so reasonable, though!

  13. I think I saw you post something over at . If you don’t mind, I added you so I could see updates on all the cool stuff you’re posting.

  14. Thanks for the tip! If they’re that expensive, though, maybe I’ll make my own. One of these days!

  15. I absolutely don’t mind, it’s very flattering — thank you. I hope you enjoy my posts, kidmissile!

  16. Thanks vanillacupcake! Too bad about Casa Lucas — I hope the market a block and a half west on 24th (south side of the street) has some as I’m on my last bottle! I seem to recall that the big Mexican market in San Mateo a few doors down from Lullaby Lane also has it, but it’d be worth a phone call before driving down.

    As for my LJ name, Biggie is short for Bigfoot — an old nickname. Unfortunately “Biggie” and other variations were already taken on LJ when I was creating an account, so I just tacked on SS. Super Speedy? Silly String? Sassy Santa?

  17. Those cherries are gorgeous.

  18. can you pls tell me how to make ‘Corn cream croquettes ‘ they look so deliccious

  19. @21 from mahek:
    I actually got these pre-made and frozen from my local Japanese grocery store — just had to fry and they were done. Plain croquettes aren’t that hard to make (bread & fry mashed vegetables), it’s when you start to do the cream-stuffed croquettes that it gets a little more involved. Much like with xiao long bao dumplings, you can first freeze little portions of your creamy filling (stew, curry, creamed corn, etc.), put the frozen filling inside of the mashed vegetable outside, bread and fry. I haven’t gotten around to testing/writing up a proper recipe yet — sorry!

  20. Hi Biggie!

    I found your pictures on Flickr and have been reading your website for a few weeks. It’s been so helpful! I went to Daiso yesterday and bought the same metal containers with the plastic lids. I don’t read Japanese so I can’t translate the label - are these microwavable?

  21. @23 from Archangeli:
    Welcome to the fold! ;-) The metal containers are not microwavable, so save them for side dishes best eaten cool or at room temp (I just packed fruit in one this morning). The metal conducts cool well, though, so if you put an ice pack near it it’ll keep foods nice and cool.

  22. I love the recipes and ideas. There great. I am in the U.S. and have been searching for years for the stainless steel bento boxes. I cant find them anywhere…not even the net. Can you pls help.

  23. @25 from Ginny: Hmm, how is the stainless steel bento box you’re looking for different from the boxes linked above? I want to help you, but don’t quite have a clear mental picture of what you’re looking for.

  24. Hi! Me again. I guess I don’t care too much if the croquettes are warm, but when I brought some to school, they got very soggy. Is that what the cooling time is for?

  25. @27 fro Pockyreiko: To keep fried food crispy and not soggy in a bento, be sure to thoroughly cool them (i.e. on a rack) before packing them and try to keep them away from moist foods. If you’re still experiencing problems, try putting the fried food like croquettes on a little piece of paper towel or a paper napkin to absorb any oil or moisture. Play around!

  26. Ok, so I am totally in love with those stainless steel containers pictured above that you got from that Daiso store. Unfortunately I live in FL and we don’t have that store here. How on earth can I get some of those? I just want the smaller ones. I spent over an hour tonight googling it and came up with nothing. Especially when you consider the price of $1.50. Please help!

  27. I have the To-Go Ware 2-tier round stainless steel containers. I love them, except I’m usually in a hurry and don’t use the outer case that keeps them tightly together. They’re better than the plastic covered ones here from a health standpoint, but worse in that they close with simple lids but if you tip them over, they will open or leak if you don’t put them in the tight outer fitting.

    I also have To-Go Ware’s bamboo utensils and I love these too!

  28. @30 from Ali W: Thanks for the feedback on the To-Go Ware container, Ali W! I’ve opened them up in stores to check them out, but that’s not the same as using them to actually pack meals. Cheers!

  29. Hi. I try to use non-plastic lunchware as much as possible. Most days when I’m not reheating anything, I use a stainless steel oval food container made by a Thai company called Zebra. Both the box as well as the lid are made from high quality 18-10 stainless steel. The lid stays on via 2 locking clips at the sides. It holds a nice amount of food (which helps with portion control) and keeps sandwiches or other lunch goodness from being crushed. It does NOT have a seal around the rim of the cover (like the Sigg food container has)-but as I always manage to keep the box horizontal while transporting, leakage has never been an issue for me. I’ve seen Sundog Outfitters list them on eBay-but I actually just bought mine direct from their online website. The only quibble I have is that they are hard to find and so when you do find them-they’re a little pricey. Expect to spend around $16 for one.

  30. @34 from Linda: Thanks for the info on the Zera containers. What’s their website URL? I also just came across another site with cute stainless steel food containers with plastic lids, similar to the Daiso ones above (but pricier): Kids Konserve

  31. I have been searching high and low for inexpensive metal lunch containerss-you should buy them at Daiso and sell them to desperate people like me! ;P

  32. I have been looking EVERYWHERE for a metal bento box — finally found the PlanetBox ( any of you used one? I think they are based in N. CA, but I can’t find any reviews on the product.

  33. What about here for the Daiso boxes?