Thanks to the shopping tips from Frank Tastes in the comments here, I have this new acquisition, an Asvel brand bento box, which I have a feeling might turn out to be my favourite box. It’s from Japan and specifically meant for packing bento. Lunch in a Box recently reviewed her son’s new Asvel box and FrankTastes uses a similar one too (see comments below).
There were two other sizes, one about 490ml for a child, and another about 900ml for an adult man. This one is 630ml – theoretically just about the ideal size for me, and in practice too, holds exactly the right amount to fill me for a meal. The main box is microwaveable, though not the lid, it’s got a liquid-tight rubber seal which can be easily removed for cleaning, and it also has a tiny hole for steam release which also has it’s own removable rubber seal. Inside, there’s a removable, moveable divider. I also like the minimalist white interior which provides a neutral yet opaque backdrop for the colours of the food inside. Very importantly, as it’s shallow and wide, foods can be packed tightly up to the lid to prevent them moving around.
One key feature of this purpose-made bento box that distinguishes it from generic plastic containers is the perfectly see-through lid. I guess that this must be a high-quality plastic going by the fact that only ‘Premium’ range Lock & Lock have fully-transparent plastic (body only, lids are semi-opaque coloured plastic). A see-through lid is of greater significance in bento culture because of the emphasis placed on the way the food inside is presented. A box like this allows one to admire the display within in the manner of admiring an artwork within a frame, and without having to open the lid. Of course, there are many Japanese bento receptacles which are fully opaque, and there the function is different: opening the lid, one has a sense of anticipation in looking forward to a surprising and unexpected arrangement of an array of jewel-like food items.
Although I have a wide range of Lock & Lock boxes and two-tier cutesy bento boxes from Daiso, many of them have some drawback or other. The Daiso boxes are a bit too small for a meal, are non-microwaveable, and are non-liquid-tight, requiring elastic bands to hold shut – cute but rather fiddly. There are a couple of Lock & Lock (or L&L copycat brand) boxes meant as lunchboxes, such as this one and this one, but both of those at 900ml+ are way too big for a single meal for me (but are the ideal size for men’s bento). Other Lock & Lock may be the right volume but are too deep for rice bento; they are very useful for sandwich bento though. None of my other boxes have this special see-through lid too.
Here is my first meal in the new box:
1) Brown rice decorated with carrot slices. The carrot had dislodged by the time I opened the box at lunchtime though, so the aesthetic attempt was pointless :).
2) Cauliflower stir-fried with garlic, salt and carrots (which I extracted for decorating the rice).
3) Stir-fry of squid, egg, tomatoes, leeks, spring onions, garlic and salt. I deconstructed the dish to pack the components separately for aesthetic reasons. It seems to me that Japanese cuisine presents foods as individual components whereas Chinese cooking tends to combine many ingredients and colours into a single dish?
Recently got my second Asvel bento box, identical to the first, because on Boxing Day last year, my Asvel bento box died. The sad thing was, it wasn’t totally dead, just that a miniscule knob that held the hinge mechanism of the lock-tight lid broke off and that was the end of the lid. It lasted just under one year :(.
Here are more details of the box from the packing.
1) Silver ion anti-bacterial.
2) -20°C to 140°C
3) 184mm x 135mm x 52mm
4) Made in China by Shanghai Asvel factory.
Place of purchase: Hong Kong — City Super, IFC.