Ojami Bento and Lunch Tote Review

When growing up in Korea, bento (Dosirak, in Korean but we used to call it “bento” too) was an expression of mother’s love… so it seemed.

We always wanted what was in someone else’s bento. We always compared who had the better tasting lunch and whose mom packed – HAM, of all things – and that her mom must love her more than my mom loves me because I never get ‘ham’ for lunch.

It was a luxury that no one took for granted. If you brought hot tasty lunch in a pretty bento box wrapped in pretty furoshiki, your mom loved you. Unconditionally. Simple as that.

Sushi Furoshiki

So when I saw the bento systems on  Ojami on Etsy, it brought me nostalgic and sentimental flashbacks of carrying my bento to school. In the current ‘trend’ of living green and ditching disposable lunch containers, reusable lunch container systems are not for “let’s-see-whose-mom-loves-more” contests. It’s to carry your lunch so as not to use brown paper bags – not a new concept in Asia, for all its practical purposes. Why create all that garbage when you can use bento boxes and bento totes to carry your lunch?

Ojami Bento Tote

I reviewed two different lunch systems before, right here – Kids Konserve and New Wave Enviro Products but what attracted me to Ojami’s lunch tote and containers was it’s compactness.

Compact Ojami Bento Tote

The bag is about 8″ wide at the opening and 8″ high with a gusset of 4″ at the bottom, making the bag sit on the counter without falling over while containing all the bento boxes. And this is the best part. Look at all the pieces that fit into this little compact tote. It’s big enough to feed an army but small enough to stuff into a tote or just carry separately.

Bento System by Ojami

Can you believe it? It has three boxes with different compartment, keeping foods separately from each other. If you have one of those eaters who likes to eat one type of foods at a time and can’t stand the foods touching each other, this system is ‘IT’ for you. But even if you are not that type, look at all these compartments!! The system comes with a pair of chopsticks, (don’t know how to use them? Well, you can learn now!) and a matching cloth napkin. The bag is made with soft cotton and the lining is sewn with recycled t-shirt material. And if it gets dirty, just throw it in the wash with your rest of the laundry.

Frankly, I was a little iffy about the plastic. So I asked Amy, Owner of Ojami, about the safety issues with plastic.

1. You said the plastic containers are BPA-free, is that written by the manufacturer that they are BPA-free? What type of plastic is it?
Yes the manufacturer is the one that says it’s BPA free.  Here’s a cool tidbit of note my supplier passed on to me. ” They do this cool thing where the plastic is made in Japan and Korea and then assembled in China. Thereby assuring EVERYONE that no one is messing with the formula. Costs them more money but everyone agrees it is worth it.”

The 2 tier bento box is made of – polypropylene, polyethelene and AS plastic resin. The fruit cup is made of – polypropylene,  AS plastic resin, silicon resin, and ABS plastic resin.  From what I’ve read on Just Bento, “The parts of plastic bento boxes that touch food from known Japanese manufacturers are generally manufactured using three types of plastic: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), or a compound of PET and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) called PET-A.”  The manufacturer is a well known one.  From looking at the skin deep database, it doesn’t appear that any of these plastics are unsafe.  (I was surprised to find them there when I was looking at plastic safety.  But they were there!)

2. Can you microwave the plastic containers?
If you use your bento in the microwave, remove the lid.  Don’t re-heat acidic or oily, sugary, or high fat content foods.  And it’s dishwasher safe.  (Many in my collection of bento boxes have been through the dishwasher, but note the decoration on the top may rub off over time.)

Personally, I wouldn’t microwave any plastic even if it says, it’s “Microwaveable”. That just means that plastic won’t melt or warp if  it’s microwaved. That doesn’t mean that it’s safe for humans. I just don’t like the idea of plastic being heated in a microwave and eating the food that’s touching it. But, I see a benefit of using plastic bento for cold foods, especially for little kids, as long as it’s BPA free, since other options are heavier or may be breakable. I would also hand wash these because I wouldn’t want the pretty prints to wear out too soon. :)

For craftmanship, eco-friendliness, and usability, I give Ojami’s bento system four and a half green hearts. If she comes up with stainless boxes that are just as cute as these black ones, she can have all of my five hearts!

♥♥♥♥ and half

And to all my readers, Ojami will be offering 10% off  from 4/15/10 to 4/22/10 – Earth Day. Use  Code ETTGREEN when you check out. You can also enter her fun giveaway she’s having right now on her blog. Oh, by the way, she writes about lunch options and bento options on her blog regularly. She has tons of ideas on what to pack for lunch and how to pack them too. Check it out!