Boxed lunches (Biandang / 便當)

I have been instructing a seminar this week and coming up next week. They have been providing the usual lunch boxes (便當). Even though I have been living here for some time now I just cannot get myself to eating a whole lunch box. Usually not much vegetable. The meat and rice is usually OK but everything else I usually throw away. Usually need something to drink to wash it down like water, juice, or coke. Makes me glad I usually do my own thing for lunch which means usually eating at home where I can eat my own thing. I realize most people do not have that luxury. What do most of you think of the lunch boxes?

Why would you eat the box, when you could have the lunch instead?

Seriously, though. The meal is the boxed lunch, the container is the lunch box. As for what I think of them? They suck. But I like going to Taiwanese cafeterias and selecting my own food. That’s great! (I get to choose what looks freshest, and I know when the food is prepared, so I know when it comes out hot!)

They’re okay sometimes. I like to get a chicken leg, boiled if possible, though down in Fuli they do fry up a mean chicken leg.

I’m not a big fan of eating lots of rice so I usually avoid them I can, and I usually can.

I don’t like it… I am not a big rice fan.

However it is the one food that I can eat for a reasonable amount of money.

When I ate meat I used to loooooove the ones at 7-11 with the train on it (the same one they sell on a train somewhere in Taiwan. Any rice and veggies is amazing to me…being half starved for the first 20 years of my life…what’s not to like!!

[quote=“Taiwan Luthiers”]I don’t like it… I am not a big rice fan.

However it is the one food that I can eat for a reasonable amount of money.[/quote]
At he cutting-edge of profundity as usual, TL! :bow:

I like Fulong biandang, but most others… blurgh.

Me too, i love those

They’re called 便當 for a reason, and it’s not because they’re convenient.

Hmm. The ongoing debate about what to call these things in English. I do tell my students to say, as odd as it sounds, “I just had a lunch box for dinner.” To me a boxed lunch is something that I may have put in a box myself, whereas a lunch box is those… things… here with a massive bed of white rice, edible but oily meat products, and vegetables stewed since the Lee Tung-Hui administration.

Don’t like 'em. Eat them once in a while, like at seminars or meetings where lunch are provided, but that’s about it. Nothing quite like eating a chicken leg with chopsticks while are your co-workers are looking on, eager to commiserate with the foreigner about how chopsticks are hard.

Dumb question: where can I get these Fulong ones? Is that a restaurant, or a brand readily available anywhere? Because I’m getting bored of sandwiches!

I think u have to be in Fulung to get em? could be wrong tho.

They’re usually mediocre, cheap and convenient. What else would you expect? A few places make pretty decent ones; you just have to find them through experience.

Of course, if you put really good food in a lunch box, you get a really good boxed lunch, which is why I usually make my own – jambalaya, paella, sānbēijī, homemade pasta, achiote chicken, and so on.

[quote=“lostinasia”]Hmm. The ongoing debate about what to call these things in English. I do tell my students to say, as odd as it sounds, “I just had a lunch box for dinner.” To me a boxed lunch is something that I may have put in a box myself, whereas a lunch box is those… things… here with a massive bed of white rice, edible but oily meat products, and vegetables stewed since the Lee Tung-Hui administration.

[/quote]

You’ve hit on an issue between my adult students and me-- how to translate (or rather should you translate at all). For biandang, I also find lunchbox somewhat unsatisfactory, as it reminds me of something I carried to school as a child. ‘Boxed lunch’ is somewhat better, though it isn’t only for lunch. Perhaps loosely translating the other Chinese word for them-- ‘fanhe’-- as Chinese ricebox meal would work somewhat better. On the other hand, consumers of Japanese food in the west are probably familiar with the Japanese origin of biandang–bentu. ‘Chinese bentu box’ might work sometimes. However, I tell students that, in general, direct translation is a bad idea because we often don’t possess these items in western cultures. We frequently have no references to the item translated and the English word chosen describes a different item in western culture, thus causing confusion rather than resulting in understanding. For example, even the common translation of ‘shuijiao’ as ‘dumpling’ can lead to confusion. To me a dumpling is a glob of dough you put in a stew. So, I usually tell students to rely on description rather than translation. “There is something called a [insert Chinese word]. It is basically [insert description].”

There is something in Taiwan called a biandang. It is basically a small box containing rice, a serving of cooked meat and some vegetables.

As for me, I love the things-- cheap and good. I don’t care who knows.

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Cold, greasy meat and rice. Strange looking, tasting, overcooked limp vegetables. Mmmmmm, them’s eats!

I’ll never understand this paternalistic “must provide food for meetings” attitude. Biandangs / 便當 are invariably gross. I always skip out of meetings at lunchtime and find a street vendor or restaurant that can cook up something hot and fresh. Why anyone eats those things is beyond me. :loco:

cuz its there and its free

All your bases are belong to us.

[quote=“Dragonbones”]They’re usually mediocre, cheap and convenient. What else would you expect? A few places make pretty decent ones; you just have to find them through experience.

Of course, if you put really good food in a lunch box, you get a really good boxed lunch, which is why I usually make my own – jambalaya, paella, sānbēijī, homemade pasta, achiote chicken, and so on.[/quote]

Aw, man, you do that because you like to cook! :hand: :laughing: That stuff takes time to make, and it would take time to learn all those recipes (although I can make a jambalaya that’s good enough for me, and maybe a few other things like that).

I once (well, twice actually) asked the ladies at work how much time they spent cooking (they usually bring their own food). I think they said they spent a little over an hour for each meal. But they’re still cooking for families, I think. Later I asked the head teacher whether she thought it would be worth it for me to cook for myself, and she indicated I might be better off just buying biandang and the like.

It really depends, there was a pretty decent biandang place across the road from where I worked in Xizhi, but you get tired of it quickly. Then again at NT$49…
The Taiwan Buffet places are better then, fresher, you get to pick what you want to eat, but I always end up eating for about NT$150…
Working from home sure has its advantages though :wink:

[quote=“Charlie Jack”]Aw, man, you do that because you like to cook! :hand: :laughing: That stuff takes time to make, and it would take time to learn all those recipes (although I can make a jambalaya that’s good enough for me, and maybe a few other things like that).

I once (well, twice actually) asked the ladies at work how much time they spent cooking (they usually bring their own food). I think they said they spent a little over an hour for each meal. But they’re still cooking for families, I think. Later I asked the head teacher whether she thought it would be worth it for me to cook for myself, and she indicated I might be better off just buying biandang and the like.[/quote]

Sure, for a single chap, you might be better off buying biandang, but if you cook extra and freeze it in biandang containers, you can cook once and eat four to eight times; changing what you cook, you can have variety in the biandang that you later pull out. You learn what does or doesn’t freeze and reheat well. Lasagna is a good example of something still pretty decent after freezing and reheating. And sure, the quality may suffer a bit after this, but it may still be better than many of the purchased biandang, and even if you only make your own a portion of the time, it adds much-needed variety (IMO). :2cents: I’d rather have my thawed seafood paella biandang than most of the junk out there.

Anyway, I’m not pushing anyone who doesn’t want to try it – it’s just a suggestion as to one more option available. :wink:

You get them in the seaside town of Fulong.

There are a number of places to get them there, but most are copycats of the original Fulong biandang restaurant. Th original place is the first one on the left as you exit the train station.

As for translation of biandang: I prefer “box lunch” or “bento box”, depending on context. To me, “lunch box” means either those cartoon-covered metal boxes I carried to school as a kid, or those Igloo Playmate coolers that American construction workers carry their lunches to work in.