tiffin tins

tiffin tins

A few months ago, I watched a Gordon Ramsay episode (I forget which show–it was either his “Kitchen Nightmares” or the UK original–I watch ALL of his shows they are TERRIFIC) during which he initiated a tiffin delivery service at lunchtime. There he was, showing the staff (and by proxy, we the viewers) an entire box of these really awesome stackable, portable tins. Lunch would be delivered in those shiny tins.

My reaction: Cuuuute. I had to have them. IMMEDIATELY!!!!

I grew up in the tradition of “bento boxes.” My mother didn’t call lunch “brown bag lunches,” she called them “bentos.” When we went on a picnic she said, “I’ll prepare a bento box.” And when I was on a school field trip, “bento” it was, again. In 1970s America, that meant I got a lot of weird stares and finger pointing. All because I didn’t bring lunch in a lunch box with Daffy Duck on it or in a small paper brown bag. Or the requisite bologna sandwich with potato chips.

I didn’t understand how awesome my bento box was at the time–which for me was stackable plastic boxes filled with leftovers from dinner (in hindsight, waaay better than an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich). But eventually, my mother gave in and started packing lunch for me in a plastic Bugs Bunny lunch box.

Of course, the transition was not seamless–at first, she packed my lunches in a REGULAR sized paper bag (the kind that could hold at least four cantaloupes) to my great dismay. Where did white people buy these tiny brown lunch bags?! We eventually found them, but not before procuring a very cute plastic lunch box at the local Zody’s.

I admit, the sandwiches paled in comparison to the tasty Korean food she used to pack for me, but escaping the teasing of classmates was worth the trade off

Now I’m going back to my roots. I’ve fallen in love with bento boxes..and tiffin tins.

I found my tiffin tins at AngelinHome. I bought the mini tiffin tins–and they are a bit small, so unless you’re a super light eater, get the regular sized ones.

I find them entrancing. The biggest drawback is the obvious: tiffins are made of metal. And metal cannot be microwaved. So they are a bit of a bummer when you drag them to work and realize you have to take them OUT of the tin to heat up. So I’ve been packing fruit salads and such in them. Delish.

13 responses to “tiffin tins

  1. I’ve been using the Mr. Bento Lunch Jar for a couple of years and love it. The containers are small, but they’re also plastic (so microwavable) and the jar keeps things hot or cool.


  2. I am a huge fan of Mr. Bento (actually, the one I have is a Ms. Bento — it’s a little daintier, and very good when you’re on a muffintop reduction program.)

    But I do love tiffin tins.

  3. I’ve been viewing Bento boxes on flickr… tried a little cutesy Bento-ish lunch action on my kids – cutting shapes out of cheese slices and PBJ, folding up salamis and ham rolls, that sort of thing. One of my kids is a fussbudget about eating packed lunches and I’m trying to convince him to eat. It’s not working…

    But I just love looking at other people’s Bento lunches. I don’t have the small motor coordination to make tiny panda bears out of rice balls and so forth but I appreciate window-shopping.
    The tiffin boxes are adorable.

  4. random but representative kiddie bento:

    Children's Day bento lunch for preschooler

  5. Tiffin tin has long history in Asia. In India, there are tiffin lunch caterings where workers order their lunch from a caterer which are packed in tiffin tins, consisting of a soup, meat and vegetable and rice.

    In Singapore where both couple are working they order their set dinner packed in tiffin tins. The caterer will leave the tins on their door step which they pick up after work. Next morning the clean tins are then left outside their door where the caterer will collect back when he delivers their next dinner set.

  6. I remember having a bento box my mom let me pick as a kid – it was pink with white polka dots. I had gotten tired of sandwiches, so I started bringing rice dishes.

    In the past few months, I’ve gotten obsessed with bentos… I’ve even purchased a newer “fancier” bento box, onigiri and egg molds and vegetable cutters. I doubt I’ll have the time to construct all the complicated woodland scenes and such, but these gadgets are awfully fun. Now the search is on for all the Hello Kitty stuff!

  7. Have you seen or read the story behind the Tiffin tins? A month ago I posted a piece about Tiffins and mentioned bento boxes as well.

    The story behind the accuracy of the deliveries the Dabbawalas — the men that deliver over 250,000 tiffin boxes to workers in Mumbai each day with rarely a mistake — is simply amazing.

    Thanks for the link to AngelinHome. I might have to pick up a set myself.

  8. I’m thinking of going Bento as well for lunch…This blog has been an eye-opener for me: http://lunchinabox.net/

    As for childhood lunch memories, my dad used to pack rice and a soupy chicken adobo in a thermos. It kept everything warm, so no microwave needed. But I needed to be like the other kids, so we switched to Lunchables.

    By the way, the episode was from Kitchen Nightmares.
    It was one of my favorites!

  9. I found mine at http://happytiffin.com
    They have two types right now – Pyramid tiffins and Latch tiffins. Perfect for my work lunch!

  10. Andrea–thanks for the link! I love the tiffins at happytiffin.com. The only drawback I’ve found to tiffin tins is that they’re…made of metal. Which means not microwaveable.

    but now that I’m packing lunch to work, I’m going to go get LARGER tiffin tins (the small ones I purchased are too small! orrr I’m a big eater).

  11. Ha! That’s funny because i thought I was a big eater! Well they have larger diameter tiffins which fit my entire square sandwich for lunch and then a salad on top (or chips if i’m being bad).

    Where i work is soooo eco-conscious that we all bring our plates and utensils (no paper products are provided) so i generally heat up my lunch on a plate in the micro and then put it back in my tiffin and walk to where i eat w/friends out on the patio. It’s not totally convenient but at least i’m keep plastic out of the scenario.

  12. Im addicted to Tiffin tins and I use them as often as i can, A few years ago I ordered 4 lots direct from a Mumbai supplier, these were provided in thermos ‘like’ containers, ‘Heat once, eat once’, I cant find them anymore but if anyone has any ideas or leads it would be very much appreciated.

    they are great for hot food when you want it without the hassle of reheating etc.

    thanks for the great links and posts, im a bit of a tiffin tin freak


  13. Just found this via stumble.
    I love bento, have done for a while now. Bought a tiffin tin last night and am off searching ideas 🙂

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