Earlier this month, the folks from the online kitchen supplies store Kitchenware Direct decided to drop me a line and ask me whether I would be interested in a sort of sponsorship deal – they would send me random kitchen items for me to try out and then post honest reviews about.
The fact that they accepted that I may not like the products they send and could potentially post not-particularly-positive reviews is what made me accept the offer – after all, there is no point in my blogging at all if my readers question my integrity. So while I may accept offers of products for review, I will very very openly say to all companies who approach me that if I do not like the product and if I would not buy it with my own money, that I will not put up a good review.
So there’s my disclaimer, if you can call it that.
Anyway, the first product that was selected for review was this rather pretty bento box from London-based design mob Black & Blum.
Bento (or “doshirak”, as it is known in Korean culture), is fairly important. Unlike the simple cheese, ham and tomato sandwiches that many of my fellow schoolchildren grew up with here in Australia, my mother often got up before the rest of the family to pack an intricate lunch involving rice, many side dishes, and sometimes even a broth or a little Korean soup on the side to keep me warm in winter.
Being an ungrateful brat who was struggling with being one of the few Asian kids at her school and not wanting to be singled out as “different”, I begged my mother for the plain sandwiches of my schoolyard comrades so often that she ended up giving in…but as soon as she did, I missed her carefully packed lunchboxes which were often prepared as I was still asleep in my bed. Thankfully, once I finally broke down and sniffled about it to her, she started to alternate my lunches so that I’d occasionally have my sandwiches so that the kids could see thenclat I “fit in”, but now and then she’d pack me something so uniquely delicious that the kids at school would actually peek at my lunch and ask to give it a try!
For this reason, bento/doshirak holds a special place in my heart, and so I thought it would be a good chance to have a look at a product from a Western design firm who is stepping into a marketplace which still caters mostly to the Asian market and see how it fares.
Straight out of the box, the first thing that impressed me about the set is the build quality is incredibly sturdy. Unlike some of the cheaper plastic bento boxes that you can purchase (and which I grew up with as a kid), this one is built tough enough to handle most tumbles and bumps that it would encounter throughout a day in a school bag. The waterproof seal that runs around the lid also helps in making sure that everything stays where it should…
Which, trust me, is a good thing. Kimchi juice will stain a school bag like NOTHING else, and school books that smell like fermented cabbage does not exactly make you en vogue, if you get my drift.
The container also comes with it’s own fork which is held in place by this nifty little plastic tab, which is pretty good for making sure that you don’t lose it, however this actually creates a few problems:
- If packing traditional Japanese bento or Korean “doshirak”, then the components of the lunchbox can be very difficult to pick up with the “child safe” but incredibly blunt fork prongs. Chopsticks, though less friendly to those who aren’t accustomed to using them, would make more sense since this container cannot really be used for packing a Western-style lunchbox such as a sandwich or soup.
- The fork is the same size as the container – which actually comes with two separators. What this means is that once you’re done eating and are left with a dirty fork, there’s no comfortable way of fitting the fork into the container so you don’t get dirty food bits on your books etc.
- The silicone fork-holder is actually a nuisance and pain in the arse to clean. I kid you not. No problem if you manage to keep it clean…but for example, if you were to get some chilli paste on the fork and slide it into the holder and therefore got it stuck in there, then you’d probably be in for a bit of a swear session as you tried to clean it out with a kitchen sponge.
So at the moment, the container is doing alright. The design of the container itself is great, but the major flaw at this point in time is how the designers have included the fork into the overall design.
Once you try and pack the bento box, the usefulness of the removable separators becomes pretty evident. The main separator is fantastic for ensuring that your rice stays pristine and fluffy without picking up the juices of flavours from the side dishes that you’ve included. If anything, I wish that they had actually included another one of these side separators as this would greatly increase the number of mixed dish combinations that you can pack into this small container.
The removable compartments also means that cleaning the box after it’s been used is an absolute breeze since hard to reach nooks and crannies in the actual container itself are nonexistent. The plastic itself also seems fairly resistant to stains. I packed a kimchi-fried rice to work the other day in here and while kimchi-juice typically stains any container that it is stored in, I found that this cleaned back up to it’s beautiful cream colour without any problems.
So what’s the end verdict?
At $24.95, it makes for a bit of a pricey lunchbox, especially since there’s actually nothing wrong with using regular tofu or tupperware containers. However, it will last longer, be easier to use, easier to clean and looks incredibly pretty AND save your bag from stains, so I think it’s probably worthwhile if you’re a fan of packed bento lunches.
Product: Black & Blum bento lunchbox
Price: $24.95 AUD
Final score: 6.5/10 (nice to have, but you won’t notice it’s absence)
This post has been sponsored by Kitchenware Direct – the author has received this product free of charge from www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au in exchange for a honest review of the product on the Kitchenwench food blog.