Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fried Rice and a Smart Bento

Have you ever packed your lunch box all just-so, then had to tilt the box to get it to fit in your backpack or briefcase and felt all the contents shift? Well, Japan has the answer! The Smart Bento is designed to fit upright in a bag instead, so contents stay just the way you packed them.

The box has two long, thin layers held together with a matching band. My favorite details include the clever chopsticks that disassemble and fit inside the top lid, and the little touch of sparkle in the plastic.

When I Love Obento! first sent me the Smart Bento to review, I wasn't sure what to pack. I decided that whatever I packed in this small of a bento had to be calorie dense or I wouldn't have enough to eat, so I went with fried brown rice with edamame, grated carrots, and hijiki seaweed.

I used a recipe for Natto or Tempeh Fried Rice from Just Bento. I had planned to use tempeh, but the two stores I usually go to for tempeh were both out (horrors!), so I went with edamame instead.

(The health food store actually had natto, but I've never tasted it before, have heard nightmarish things about it, and at $15.50 a jar I couldn't bring myself to give natto a chance. Anyone want to persuade me?)

In the smaller bottom layer are baby cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and some fresh berries from my garden.

Verdict: I must say this bento box is adorable. I loved the clever way everything fit together and the neat way it stayed upright in my bag. However, on its own this wasn't enough to fill me up, and there's no way I could use it to pack my usual lunch of a large green salad. I can see this box working for those with smaller appetites, or perhaps packed alongside a thermos or another bento container. 4 stars.

(Thanks to Michelle for taking the pictures!)

30 comments:

Cody said...

It's a cool concept... My Laptop Lunch box and messenger don't get along so well.

I think a lot of my favorite lunches (mostly pastas, rice, fruits, veggies and cookies) would work... but, it still seems somewhat awkwardly-shaped.

LJ said...

I'm putting in a vote for you to try natto! I'm a vegetarian living in Japan, and I think natto has gotten a bad rep that it doesn't deserve. Everyone talks about the aroma and the texture of it - the smell really is not bad at all, and the texture is a bit, um, different (although I don't mind it), but when cooked in recipes like the fried rice one you used, the stickiness goes away. Give it a shot!

QoE said...

I just received a Happy Tiffin and I'm loving it. Stainless steel and large enough for a picnic for two.
I'm not affiliated, but here's the website.
http://www.happytiffin.com
Thank you for all the great ideas you have shared.
Cathy

A2Z Vegetarian Cuisine said...

This looks cool, will check out. you have a nice blog.

Siercia said...

Natto is the single most disgusting thing I have ever eaten (and I've eaten crickets, just sayin'). weird taste and the texture of KY jelly. ICK.

A said...

Yay!! A new post on Vegan Lunch box!!! The box looks totally cute but you're right.... I'd need about 3 of them! Maybe for a snack box thrown in my big purse for a long day out on the town?!?!?
-A

Michelle Ellis said...

Having been present for the unveiling, I must say, it smelled delicious and put my lame veggie subw@y sandwich to shame(:

krippilicious said...

If I could go back again and not order natto, would I? Probably not. I survived my two bites of natto. I can't think of any food I've ever in my life enjoyed less, but I survived; I've had worse experiences, just not involving food.

And now I know that I never will eat it again. I'm quite content knowing that.

Lily Girl said...

Natto is one of those foods I place squaring in the "acquired taste" category. I didn't *hate* it and to me it actually smelled worse than it tasted, but I can't say with confidence that I would order it again (although it would not horrify me to have a "polite bite" or two if it were ever offered to me). I tried it at a Japanese restaurant for $5 which is a perfectly reasonable price to me for a new experience. However, I am also glad I didn't buy a whole jar because I certainly would not finish it.

Meredith said...

Hey, do I see some lovely tattoo work in the first picture? Or just my imagination?

In any case, I LOVE this idea. I think I'd need more than one, just to be able to pack enough food, but if I could get different colors I'd have a blast!

Marisa said...

I'm with LJ, as a vegan who used to live in Japan, I think you've got to give natto it a go! It's delicious, and really doesn't have such a strong odor as everyone describes. I love natto sushi!

loverschemistry said...

Jennifer, I am a brand new vegan (a little over a month) and I just came across your blog 2 days ago and I just wanted to let you know you are wonderful! I bought your "Vegan Lunch Box" and I cannot wait to try out your amazingly pretty and easy recipes. Thank you for making this transition so easy for me.
<3
Saba Seyrafi

Jennifershmoo said...

>>Hey, do I see some lovely tattoo work in the first picture?

Indeed! :-)

Boss said...

this is a great recipe..

this is what I am looking for

cheers,
rustic outdoor lighting

ben said...

I think the best way to try Natto for the first time is to order Natto Maki if you ever go to a Japanese restaurant or sushi bar. The rice and nori make the texture a little less stringy. I think most people are put off by the texture more than the flavor. It tastes much milder than it smells-I think it almost has a faint vanilla flavor, but I might just be crazy. It is traditionally eaten over rice with soy sauce, often for breakfast.

Janel said...

What a great idea!

I have to write in thanks for a great blog & helping me get on the vegan path. Not to mention that you've gotten me totally addicted to bentos.

Cheers from Holland,

Janel

sibelimsss said...

Thanks..

izmir matbaa

yeaaahtoast said...

Haha, funny thing is coming from hawaii and now living in los angeles with constant trips to little tokyo (i'm not japanese, but i've been immersed in the culture since i was young) this vertical is the only style i've really every had! I'm so glad you've found it, it's definitely a smaller style but i can't wait to see all the amazing things you do!

Abigail (aka Mamatouille) said...

I live in Japan and pay about $1.50 for four little cups of natto, but it's a miracle cure if you've got a tummy ache - that stuff WORKS! And I mean right away. If I eat oily stuff sometimes I have stomach pains and other yucky stuff too, and I've tried plain yogurt, etc., but the only thing that works is natto for me. My husband had food poisoning one time and was even admitted to the hospital for it over here in Japan, they pumped him full of antibiotics which left his stomach in bad shape, but after just one small cup of natto, he was completely better. I always keep some in our fridge, but I can't believe you have to pay such a big price for it in the US. I guess imported US foods over here are just as pricey, though.

Gerry said...

Excellent Job!
I Buy Grill Parts

Kristina said...

I'm pretty open to new foods if they're vegan, so I tried some natto rolls at a sushi place in Hawaii... it was really bad. It seemed the more I chewed the more it grew in my mouth. After eating a couple rolls I had to have the waiter take the plate away because the smell was so bad!

Natalie said...

Those bentos look great (I'm a bit fan of ilovebento - I have quite a few VERY cute bentos from the range and even make my b/f take them to work with him! Haha, aren't I evil?).

Do these particular ones come with any plastic dividers in them, or do you just have to improvise and use paper cups etc?

Jennifer - totally unrelated to bento, I'd love to see a post of your tattoo sleeve!!

Natastrophe said...

I bought two different coloured smart bentos so I can mix and match the layers!

calixti said...

That looks so tasty! But re: natto, $15.50 a jar is outrageous, and natto really is quite tasty. Have you looked for Asian food markets in your area? They'd probably stock it dirt-cheap. I know I can get it easily at any of several in Lincoln.

Arwen said...

I'm also veg living in Japan and I love natto. I didn't touch it for a long time since so much here has meat and fish extracts in it, and I can't eat the sauce that comes with it, but it's yummy. I don't think it smells at all, actually, and I don't think it's that slimy, either. You slurp natto the same as noodles here.
I don't care much for natto maki though, nor the chopped up natto, because it's not substantial enough and I feel like I am chewing on my own teeth. The large bean natto, and black bean natto, though, are delicious. One comes with spicy mustard, the other with wasabi, and I add soy sauce to both to make up for the fishy sauce.
Not sure how I'd feel about it coming from a jar, though. My first year here I asked my students why everything comes in plastic except natto, which comes in little styrofoam containers, and they said it has to do with the fermentation process and keeping the natto 'good,' so I can't imagine what kind of taste a jar would lend.
If you find it in an Asian shop - relatively cheap - give it a shot! It really is supposed to have amazing health benefits...

Jane said...

I live in Japan and think natto is foul. But it's supposed to be very healthy!

I bought one of these bento boxes and had the same experience as you - even with calorie-dense food, it's simply not enough. I had to upgrade to a "man-sized" bento box. :D Most of the women I work with eat lunches this size or smaller on a daily basis, and I don't know how they make it through the afternoon!

The shape is handy, though. Mine came with a cute little drawstring bag for easy carrying.

Donsie_Lass said...

I love the new look for the site and am excited by the preview of the new book. The important thing that I just had to share, however, is how totally awesome I find your tattoos (or is it one huge design? I can't really tell from the photo). Tattooed moms rock! Please let me have arms as fab as yours when I'm a mom. I guess I had better start eating more vegan meals!

mavzoley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Monalefae said...

Is this microwave safe?

Jennifershmoo said...

I don't know, it doesn't say on the website. Perhaps you could email and ask them?