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Book Review: Kawaii Bento Boxes

Kawaii Bento Boxes coverThere aren’t many bento cookbooks written in English, so of course I’m curious when a new one comes out. I’m a big fan of Japanese-language cookbooks for their glanceable step-by-step photos and intuitive graphic presentation of complex material. Kawaii Bento Boxes: Cute and Convenient Japanese Meals on the Go, newly published by Japan Publications Trading’s Boutique-Sha, really captures the essence of fun, kids-oriented Japanese bento cookbooks.

As I was leafing through it, though, something started to seem oddly familiar. A quick browse through my kitchen bookshelf revealed why I was experiencing deja vu: it’s a straight translation of the same publisher’s Japanese-language cookbook Ichinenju Yakudatsu Tsuen Obento: Daisukina Kondate ga Ippai: (“Children’s Bentos that are Helpful Year-round: Lots of Favorite Menus”), with identical photos, layout, and text.

Now, there are both good and bad aspects to a straight translation of a bento cookbook written for the Japanese market. It’s extremely well suited for bento enthusiasts or Japanophiles already familiar with Japanese food, but may miss the mark for others… Read the rest of this entry »

Published by Biggie on September 10th, 2009 tagged bento, decorative, for kids, review | 26 Comments »

Review: Kids Konserve metal lunch kit

I know some of you are looking for alternatives to plastic bento boxes because of concerns about the health effects of food packed or heated in plastic, so I’ve been playing around with metal bento containers. Most multi-tier latching tiffin tins are plain-looking and too big for a one-person bento-style lunch, so I was pleased to find a smaller metal alternative with a dash of style, from Kids Konserve.

Kids Konserve metal lunch set

I tried out their green lunch set, which consists of a cloth napkin/placemat, two 250ml stainless steel bowls with green plastic lids, a drink bottle, a reusable sandwich wrapper, and a cloth carrying bag with handles and a velcro closure (shown below). I was also curious about their smaller, all-metal 80ml condiment containers, pictured above at the bottom/middle. I had a few questions and concerns going in, namely about how watertight the containers were and how well the sandwich wrapper would work. (Read on for the full review and a sample lunch packed inside.) Read the rest of this entry »

Published by Biggie on March 25th, 2009 tagged bento, fish or seafood, for kids, meat, phyllo or pancake or other, review | 24 Comments »


Silicone lunch accessories

Silicone dividers for bento lunches

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.

Small food dividers for bento lunches ("baran")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…)

Read the rest of this entry »

Published by Biggie on February 22nd, 2009 tagged decorative, review | 17 Comments »

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