Monday, September 21, 2009

Bento Boxes at Hanoori Home Plaza

Bento boxes are great fun if you pack a lunch, and there is now a local source for boxes and the crazy Japanese accessories in the new Hanoori Home Plaza opened in Catonsville.

Bento boxes are little plastic boxes that often come with dividers or little cups to separate your food. You pack lunches with a bunch of little items -- a little meat, some rice, some vegetables, a salad, a sweet, etc. I have had a ball re-packaging our leftovers into lunches. Save some cash. Enjoy good food. Some people even say they lose weight.

You could spend hours reading about bento lunches on blogs like Lunch in a Box or Just Bento. They each give tips about how to pack bento lunches. Lunch in a Box talks often about packing lunches for a toddler. Just Bento has great organization and many tips -- from bento basics to decorative cutting techniques. The coolest photos are complex bentos that look like art, but Biggie on Lunch in a Box emphasizes that she spends 10-15 minutes on a lunch. I pack in boxes, but I don't make anything look like art.

Hanoori Home Plaza opened in the shopping center with H Mart on Rte 40 in Catonsville. It's part of the "Hanoori Town" complex, and it's a Korean "Bed, Bath and Beyond" -- all kinds of kitchen items, appliances, and soft goods like blankets. The kitchen goods are worth checking out for anyone looking for bargains -- knives, plates, bowls, peelers, Lock & Lock brand containers. Mrs. HowChow had her eye on

some stainless steel bowls and chopsticks, and there are tons of decorative tea cups, sake pitchers, and gift sets.

Among Hanoori's bento boxes, Mrs. HowChow saw the box that I love but hadn't found anywhere but Los Angeles. It's a 950 ml box that says "vive" on the bag and "Asvel" on box -- white with three interior pieces and a snap-on top. I fill each section, then cover them with "Press and Seal." It's overkill, but I carry my lunch sideways in a shoulder bag. I can't afford a leak. I bought them originally at a Japanese market in LA, and my friend was nice enough to ship me more when I lost the originals to snapped tops and lunches forgotten in the office fridge. Hanoori sells them for $12, but that pays for itself in a week's lunches. Hanoori sells a bunch of other boxes, including small ones for kids.

Hanoori also sell silicon shapes that people use to separate one dish from anyone. I have cupcake liners from Target, and I'll fill one with sliced vegetables or pickles or something. The Japanese items are precious, and they'd probably be great fun if you were trying to get your kids into the bento program.

One thought: We're unclear if the bento boxes will survive for long in a dishwasher. My favorite box seems to warp slightly even on the upper level, but I use one or two every day so it's such a luxury to throw them in the machine. Consider hand-washing.

If you visit Hanoori Home Plaza, you should also check out the H Mart, my favorite place for food. (Click here for all the H Mart posts.) You'll also see Mangoberry inside Hanoori and Golden Krust for Jamaican takeout down the row. If you're interested in cooking Japanese food, check out my review of Kimiko Barber's cookbooks.

Hanoori Home Plaza
Hanoori Town
822-828 N. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228

NEAR: Hanoori is in the shopping center with H Mart at Rte 40 and Rolling Road in Catonsville. From Howard County, talke Rte 40 east from Rte 29 and then watch for the Starbucks on the right. Turn there. The "home plaza" is on the lower floor of the Hanoori section. You walk into Hanoori past the Mangoberry, then down the stairs to the Hanoori Home Plaza. Kitchen goods are right at the bottom of the stairs, and bento boxes are on the back side of one of the kitchen goods displays.


Biggie @ Lunch in a Box said...

Those plain Asvel Vive boxes are durable and will survive in the upper rack of the dishwasher if you use the air-dry setting (not heated dry). Flimsier boxes or ones with intricate lid designs really benefit from hand-washing, though. Thanks for the mention, BTW!

dzoey said...

Wow, it's like you've been reading my mind. For the past few days, I've been thinking I should get the kids Bento boxes rather than use 4-5 disposable plastic bags. I was feeling guilty about the amount of trash each lunch generated and was wondering where I'd get bento boxes from. Thanks!

HowChow said...

Dzoey -- I can't claim to eliminate the plastic because I use "Press and Seal" to cover each of the interior sections of the Asvel Vive boxes. But the boxes are fun, and I definitely pack more lunches. I think it is just easy to fill the boxes. Definitely check out Lunch in a Box and Just Bento because they have enthusiastic ideas and good tips.

Sarah said...

The Asvel Vivie boxes look just like Lock-and-Locks, with the snapping on each side... I've carried soup in my purse with those without it leaking.

HowChow said...

SH -- I love Lock & Lock. Hanoori sells those as well. I love the Asvel boxes as well, but they do not lock the same way -- locks only on two sides and locks that aren't as firm as Lock & Lock. I'm sure you could carry most lunches without the Press & Seal, but I have had some leaks with stuff like tomatoes and hummus.

amy@flexibledreams said...

We went and bought one yesterday, thanks for the tip. Next time I'll leave the kids home so I can actually browse the store. It is NOT a place for preschoolers!

vivo said...

they also have them at teaism in dc, at least at the Penn Qtr location

Sheri said...

Rats - how did I miss this post?? I was at H-Mart on Monday, WITHOUT the kids, searching in vain for a wooden dumpling rolling pin. And - I finally placed an order 10 days ago for a slew of bento box stuff from Hong Kong - should be here any day!! Thanks for the tip on press and seal - one reason I've hesitated to move to bento for as long as I have is cuz the kids carry their lunch bags "sideways", too, and I'm worried about leaks. The lids have to be loose enough for the kids to remove (lock-n-lock are great) but tight enough not to leak!! Guess we'll be making a trip to this place tomorrow!!