bento news

Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but other online bento supply merchants are doing fine

One of the major online sources for bento boxes and other supplies, Ichiban Kan USA, will be closing their mailorder business down as soon as they sell out their existing stock. I contacted some other popular online bento supply sellers to see how they were doing in the current economy, and the good news is that they seem to be doing very well. continue reading...

Lily Allen asks for bento lunches, sort of

It seems that British singer Lily Allen is going to Japan for a concert tour - and she wants bentos! Well, sort of. Earlier today, she Twittered that she “put a traditional school packed lunch contained in lunchbox” on her rider, and posted a couple of photos. I wonder if she asked for the pink Hello Kitty box. Click on the thumbnail pics to see a larger view:

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The large box contains some typically Japanese sandwiches. The round container is fruit yogurt (yoghurt for you Brits), and the square box is juice. Yep, they have Doritos (ドリトス) in Japan. Looks like they are giving her the メキシカン・タコス味 (Mexican Tacos Flavor).

It does look like whoever is supplying the lunches did go for the most Western version of a ‘typical’ Japanese school lunch though. If they were going for a typical schoolkid’s bento lunch, where are the onigiri, the potato salad, the octopus wieners? :) She’s sure to like the sandwiches though, since Japanese sandwiches are very similar to English tea sandwiches- soft white sliced bread with lots of butter and a thin layer of filling. (via chotda/santos)

Review of Saisai Lunch, a new vegan bento and quick lunch book by Yumiko Kano

saisailunchcover.jpgI’ve mentioned quite a few times both here on Just Bento and on Just Hungry about my admiration for the work of Yumiko Kano (or Yumiko Kanoh), who has written several vegan cookbooks. When I found out that she was coming out with a new book in her “Saisai” series dedicated to bentos and one-dish lunches, I knew I had to get it. The book, titled Saisai Lunch: Quick bentos and at-home lunches made with vegetables (菜菜ランチ 野菜でつくるクィック弁当&おうちごはん) came out on Monday and I received it yesterday, and it looks very good.

Yumiko Kano specializes in “no meat, no eggs, no dairy products, no sugar” vegetarian cooking. (‘No sugar’ means no added white sugar; she does use maple syrup quite a lot, especially in her dessert recipes. She also has a disclaimer that sugar may be present in some flavoring ingredients. Otherwise, she uses the natural sweetness of vegetables, dried fruits, sweet wine and so on.) Her recipes are mostly vegan - she uses vegan konbu seaweed based dashi stock instead of the more usual bonito flake based stock. And unlike most other Japanese cooks, she doesn’t put mirin or sake in every single dish. Most of her recipes are very easy to make, since she only uses a few ingredients.

The bentos in Saisai Lunch have one or maybe two okazu (side dishes) besides the main carb (mostly rice, but she sometimes uses noodles or pasta, and there are a few sandwiches). This keeps things very simple and quick, and it’s the approach I take with my bentos too most of the time. The presentation of each bento is beautiful yet simple - no trace of kyaraben-style cuteness here! And most of all, everything looks so delicious that even the resident diehard omnivore (or as he calls himself, the “bovo-vegetarian”) around here is drooling over each page. continue reading...

More fun bento and related links

It’s the weekend, so time for some more fun links…

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Have you seen this photo? It’s a Lego recreation by Mike Stimpson, aka flickr user Balakov, of a famous photograph called Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper. The original is a great classic, but I love the Lego version too. Both photos remind me how much fun opening up a lunch box after a morning of hard work can be. (You can buy a print of the Lego photo — how cool is that? ) continue reading...

Around the bento blogs

Here are some links of interest from bento blogs around the world: continue reading...

eBay gets rid of negative/neutral feedback for buyers

This is not quite bento-related, but I know that a lot of readers buy bento supplies from eBay merchants, so this news may be of interest. eBay has made a number of changes to their feedback policies, but the most significant one for most people is that sellers can no longer leave negative or neutral Feedback for buyers. If you’ve ever bought anything from eBay or other auction type sites, you know that feedback is a critical part of the trust system, so this is quite a big change. continue reading...

Animal sausage magnets!

Just how ubiquitous are decoratively cut wiener sausages in Japan? Well recently, Suntory, the Japanese distributor for Pepsi, included some plastic magnets made to look like wieners (specifically ones from Nippon Ham Co.) made into cute animal shapes as giveaways with 1.5 liter bottles of Pepsi NEX (aka Pepsi Zero).

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The animal sausage magnets are 2.3 cm - 3.9 cm in size (around 1 to 1.5 inches), and they come in 8 shapes: elephant, lion, octopus (with a headband), sheep, bird, seal, hippo and penguin. Each one came with instructions for making the same animal out of a real wiener.

I’m not sure if these were aimed at kids or at their kawaii-things mothers, but judging from the blog reactions in Japan they seem to have been a big hit with the mothers in any case. This blog entry has photos of all 8 figures and how they come packaged. (The Silvania bunnies are there to demonstrate the goods.)

The figures are already showing up on Yahoo! Japan Auctions and such. continue reading...

The 2nd Sanrio Character Bento Contest winners are announced

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first Sanrio Character Bento Contest. The results of the second round of the contest, which will hopefully become an annual event, have just been announced. The winner of the Gold prize (called the Golden Kyarabenist award) is this tour de force picnic lunch!

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The winner has a kyaraben blog (in Japanese of course), and she talks about her winning entry. She says she got her inspiration for this bento from the cute egg carton. (I like using egg cartons as disposable bento containers too, though mine are not even close to this level of cute). [Update:] Digging deeper into her blog, it turns out she was also the winner of the Yokohama bento contest too. She is one talented bento artist.

More after the jump… continue reading...