We’ve had tiffin carriers for as long as I can remember. I think it’s a South Asian thing, although I’ve read that they’re often used in parts of Europe too. In Singapore, my aunt still makes my uncle’s lunch and stores it all in an insulated tiffin for him to take to work (and he’s in his late 70s), and in parts of India, lunches are still delivered in tiffin carriers (see that Top Gear India Special).
Of course there is also that hilarious scene in Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman where the Master Chef grandfather brings a gourmet lunch to his granddaughter at school, in a tiffin carrier:
They’re such a simple but brilliant design. You can carry wet goods, loose goods, hot, cold, securely and all at once.
I never even thought of using a tiffin carrier to transport goods in until I clued in on a few Instagram pictures from Paris to Go, and then it was an instantaneous head-hitting-duh moment. Ariana would be proud of me. Immediately I rushed to mum to steal a set. She has at least 2 sets floating around her house; bygone items from her childhood growing up in Malaysia during the 50s and 60s.
I’m planning on making good use of my carrier when I go to the Sunday market, especially when it comes to carting around food purchased from the Grub Hub corner (where all the food stalls are located). A few weeks back I precariously balanced a few bamboo disposable containers cradling Korean style vegetarian buns covered in deep fried shallots and sauce, and I have never sweated so much in my life for fear of upturning the lot.
But the carrier will also be great to cart small loose goods as well, like berries once they’re in season, or to fill up with bulk goods at City Organics, conveniently located near the Sunday market.
On a smaller scale, I’ve been using the top most segment with the lid attached by a rubber band to carry my lunch for work. I like the stainless steel better than plastic (no residual smell or stain after use), and I can be a little less precious with it than if I carried my food in glassware. The dishes are generously proportioned so that even my bottomless stomach is satisfied with the quantity that can be contained inside.
You can purchase tiffin carriers online everywhere, but you could probably also find decent second hand ones available too, particularly in Asia.