2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

xmas-onigiri.pngFor some reason I’ve only done this every couple of years on JustBento, but to celebrate my Return To Blogging, I thought I’d put together a short list of bento related goodies that have caught my eye.

I’ve even hauled out Christmas Santa Sideburns Onigiri-man to bring in the cheer. Onigiri-man has evolved over the years that he’s been the JustBento mascot, and now he has a goatee instead of sideburns. But originally, he was firmly stuck in the ’70s.

There should still be plenty of time to order any of the items mentioned, although in some cases you may need to choose express shipping.

But enough with the preamble: here we go.


Oh so cute

Not all bento lovers are in it for the cute things, but I know that quite a few of you are. So here are some exceptionally cute bento related items, from tools to boxes.

Out of the numerous cute food cutters out there to prettify your bento, the Cutezcute Animal Friends Food Deco Cutter and Stamp Kit stands out, because it’s designed to work well with the typical foods used for decorative purposes in the U.S. such as sliced cheese, deli meats and bread. It’s a nice size for cutting out a cute little sandwich for example, as shown in the picture. Available from Amazon.com. The CuteZCute site has an instructional video plus many pictures showing how people are using the kit.

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Sometimes you need to keep your bento cool, for taste or safety purposes. That doesn’t mean that your ice pack has to be boring. Ice packs from Japan come in all kinds of cute shapes, such as thie piggy ice pack. Available from CasaBento.

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Decorative picks are a great way to add some cute to your bento. There are so many possibilities out there, from picks specifically meant for bentos to ones used for cupcakes. A set of pics would make a great stocking stuffer for a bento fan. I’ll just pick one set that caught my eye - it actually has tiny versions of typical bento foods such as a octopus sausage and an ebifurai (deep fried shrimp) - all with smiley faces of course. Available from All Things For Sale.

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Food cups are also an easy way to add a bit of cute to your bento. These ones are shaped like Pikachu. Available from J-List.

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And of course, the easiest way to cute-ify your lunch is with an adorable bento box. And, these are surefire (pardon the pun) winners for sure: Angry Birds bento boxes! Available in several sizes and shapes from Bento&co. They also have Angry Birds chopstick holders, an Angry Birds carrying bag, and a complete Angry Birds bento set.

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What’s cuter than a panda? A baby panda of course. This Baby Panda bento box is, just, too cute for words. Available from J-List. They also have several other panda themed bento items for the panda lover in your life.

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There are of course many manga or anime themed bento boxes, but the most popular series right now in Japan is probably One Piece. Here are a set of nested bento boxes - a very useful format, I might add - from Bento&co, available in Luffy and Chopper versions.

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Sleek and practical

Just a few years ago, bento boxes available outside of Japan tended to be either very cute or quaintly traditional looking. But these days there are a whole slew of sleek, modern looking boxes out there that are suitable for adults of either gender, as well as children with sophisticated tastes.

Last year I reviewed an adult sized, multi-compartment bento box that I thought was ideal for bento beginners. Sadly that box is out of production, but there’s a replacement: the Shikiri bento box. (Shikiri means ‘divider’ in Japanese.) I’m hoping to get a full review up of this box shortly, but in the meantime, it’s a great box for people who like to divide their food up into little compartments. Available from Bento&co.

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Monbento is a French company who designs sleek, sophisticated bento boxes in bright modern colors. Any of their color combinations are great, but I like this grey-and-white 2 teir version, which is suitable for men or women. Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon France and Amazon German.

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Shokuiku means food education in Japanese, and this Shokuiku bento set has a nautical air that is both sleek and cute I think. Available from CasaBento

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For pure practicality, you can’t beat Lock and Lock boxes. This set packages together 2 Lock and Lock bento boxes with a carrying bag and bottle for under $20 - a pretty good deal. Available from All Things For Sale.

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LunchBots stainless steel boxes are a JustBento favorite. One drawback to them up until now has been that you can’t really pack leaky food in them (see my in-depth review of the Quad box). But LunchBots now has a model called Click that seals airtight, with a clip-on plastic lid. Available from Amazon.com in two sizes - the one pictures here is the Small, which should be fine for most bentos.

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And speaking of clip-on lids, Innobaby is a new company to me. They make these very nice looking two-tier boxes with a large clip. I am guessing from the name that they are marketed towards parents with small children, but I think they are perfectly adult-appropriate too. Available in three colors (the one pictured is Honeydew), from Amazon.com.

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Tools of the trade

Bento making doesn’t need any special equipment beyond what you already have in your kitchen. But there are some tools that are nice to have, and are fun too.

I’ve had an old version of the Benriner food slicer/shredder/grater for like, decades now. It’s a wee bit stained from all the carrots and things I’ve sliced and shredded with it, but it still cuts as well as ever. It is a marvelous tool for bento making or any other cooking. There are several models available, but this one is from Amazon.com.

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For times when you want to wash and dry a small amount of greens or herbs, this little salad spinner looks great. It has a pouring spout so you can drain off the water easily, and doubles as a measuring cup (in metric of course, but hey - metric is useful to have even if you are in a land of non-metric). Available from CasaBento.

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I’ve taught you how to make a bento sized tamagoyaki (omelette) in a frying pan, but I know some of you yearn to make a perfectly squared off tamagoyaki, like the kind you see on Japanese bento blogs. For that you need a tamagoyaki pan. There are several available out there from various vendors. Just beware of the really cheap ones — you do get your pay for. You want a nice slick non-stick surface and a stable bottom. If you have made the switch to induction cooking, make sure the pan is IH-capable too. The one pictured below is from Bento&co, and fulfills all of the above.

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And if you are looking for a mega-box of bento making goodies for your favorite bento maker, this gift set from Bento&co looks great. It has a Benriner type mandoline, a roll of narrow Krewrap plastic wrap (the narrow width is great for wrapping up small portions, and Krewrap is like the sturdiest plastic wrap ever), a Cube Stocker to store tiny portions of food, an intriguing tool called a Bin-8, and a box of delicious Melty Kiss chocolates. Heck I wouldn’t mind getting this set myself for Christmas ^_^. Available from Bento&co.

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…and a book too!

Last but not least, if you don’t have the Just Bento Cookbook yet…what are you waiting for? It’s the Best Bento Book Ever. (I may be slightly biased. ^_^) In any case, I do think it would make a great present for someone starting out with bentos, or just curious about them. The Just Bento Cookbook is available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France and hopefully your favorite local bookseller.

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(Disclaimer: Many of the links above are affiliate links. By clicking on them and making a purchase, you will be helping to support the continuing existence of this site - at no additional cost to you. Thank you ^_^)

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

14 comments

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Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Great list!

I am getting some of these for my birthday / Christmas and I can't wait!

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Welcome back! Glad you are feeling better :)

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

I've been looking at some of these myself, although I probably won't get them for a while. The Benriner mandoline and the Bin-8 tool are two items I'd definitely want in my kitchen in the near future though :)

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Welcome back! I've missed you!

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Great guide. Do you know of any ceramic bento boxes?

And yes, welcome back Makiko!

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Quick question, and since it sort of relates to a recipe from the Just Bento cookbook I thought I'd ask it here.

I'm on a nitrate-free diet (for migraines), and have started eating Tofurkey sliced "meat." I know that some forms of tofu are bento-safe and others aren't. Is Tofurkey bento-safe, or should I use a cold pack with it? I have never had tofu before in my life and don't know if this is the kind you were warning about or not.

Also, is Tofurkey a decent substitute for sliced ham in those yummy ham-and-cheese vegetable rolls? I've grown very fond of those and don't want to abandon them entirely! (Nitrate-free ham, alas, does not exist in the local groceries--but Tofurkey, oddly, does.)

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Unfortunately I've never had Tofurkey, and it's not available here, so I can't say for sure. Although I am guessing that Tofurkey is quite low in moisture (if it has a ham-like texture) so it should be safe without an ice pack, except in very hot weather. The issue with tofu is its high moisture content, which needs to be drained and cooked off for it to be safe for bentos. For your other Tofurkey questions maybe someone else can help.

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Ah well. :) I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. My local tofu-eating friend doesn't really pack lunches with it. In case anyone else asks you about the stuff, Tofurkey is pretty much exactly like a deli turkey slice in consistency (hence the name).

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

I just found your book and website very recently as I've purchased some bento items for my girlfriend for the holiday season. Glad to hear you are back to blogging. I'm hooked on this site! Thank you so much.

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

welcome back!
missed ya.
:D

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Welcome back Maki! I missed you very much. May you recover in leaps and bounds!

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Wah! Everything is so cute. I've been dying to get a *good* mandolin that actually works (as opposed to uneven slices and an inability to cut through anything...) Plus those sandwich cutters are too cute for words!

I'm so glad to have you back. Coincidentally I decided to get back into Bento-making for the year 2013 so I'm really looking forward to checking back on this site again :)

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

I didn't get a pic of it, but I wanted to let you know that I saw your book at a store in Narita airport a couple of weeks ago! I started reading your blog, and making my own bento about two years ago, then got lucky enough to move to Tokyo a few months ago. I brought an embarrassing amount of bento stuff with me and have, of course, added to my bento hoard since moving here! I want to thank you for all the great information, and to say that I'm so happy you are feeling better. Welcome back!

Re: 2012 Holiday Bento Shopping Guide

Welcome back and happy 2013
Being a New year's day baby and long after the last firecracker has done its thing, I then have my birthday to look forward to but with everything closed and the few restaurants that are open have staff which are either hung over or just don't want to be there so eating out is never a option (believe me we have tried and lets just say never again).
Anyway this site and just hungry are a great inspiration for ideas or just to waste a little time (and long may that continue) and also a great place place to source gifts, I myself was lucky enough to receive the slicer (Benriner) for my birthday- as mentioned above and all I can say from the little time I have had to play with it (I think the kids are fed up of sliced,chopped,grated carrots now) its fantastic and I will use it more and more.
The only down side I have found other than the carrots staining the plastic is there is no storage container and as we have a little one who loves to play with pots and pans, I am finding this to be a tricky item to know where to store as almost every part of this could result in a trip to A&E other than that I agree this should be one item you should have in you kitchen. Thanks again Maki

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