Silicone lunch accessories
On my last trip to Ichiban Kan and Daiso discount stores, I picked up some cheap new silicone versions of bento accessories that actually make sense in silicone. I’ve started reaching for them recently in favor of standard paper or plastic ones as they’re reusable, flexible, dishwasher-friendly, and you can heat them up.
The first are silicone food dividers (baran) that separate different foods in a bento lunch, keeping flavors from mingling and keeping textures intact. They’re washable and reusable — I’ve had good results with putting them in a utensil basket in the dishwasher to keep them from flying around. (Time to update my bento care & maintenance post…) At US$1 for a pack of three (bears or grass versions available online), they’re still reasonable. I’ve also heard of people cutting up flexible cutting mats to use as dividers.
Up to now I’ve been using edible dividers or lightweight plastic dividers (shown at right) that are meant to be disposable, but I wash and reuse them until they’re torn, worn or lost. The drawback with these is that they don’t do as well in the dishwasher, and they’re so flimsy that they do get torn and worn. They are adorable, though, so I’ll keep them in rotation to liven things up a little. (Read on for shaped silicone food cups…)
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The other silicone bento accessories that I picked up are flexible food cups in different sizes and shapes (round, square, and triangular) that sit down inside of a larger bento lunch, containing food and keeping it away from other items. They’re good at temperatures from -40 deg. F (-40 deg. C) to 446 deg. F (230 deg. C), so they can be used in the freezer, microwave, and oven (but not in a toaster oven or frying pan). Their straight sides and heat resistance means you can make small batches of hot food in these and either pack right away, or freeze for later use. I got them for US$1.50 per pack at Daiso in Daly City.
These can take the place of paper baking cups, hard plastic food cups, or traditional silicone baking cups shaped for making muffins.
The newer food cups are similar to the silicone baking cups above, but the shapes are different. The triangular and square food cups fit neatly into corners and along edges of rectangular bento boxes, and the straight sides may work better with some foods/boxes than the flared baking cups.
Here are the hard plastic food cups in fun shapes that I’ve been using. These are great for little juice jello jigglers and room temperature food, but can’t be heated.
These extra-thick aluminum foil cups from Daiso are designed to cook food in; the drawback is that they’re disposable instead of reusable. Their advantage is that they can withstand really high heat, so you can put them right in a toaster oven or frying pan, which is not recommended with the silicone cups.
And here are the standard paper baking cups in different shapes and sizes. They’re really cute and flexible, and can be squished into odd shapes to fit the available space in your bento box. The drawback is that they’re not reusable and you can’t really cook in them.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Ichiban Kan, Daiso, etc.