Tiffin Anyone?

“Tiffin” is an afternoon tea or light lunch that originated in India during the days of British colonialism, and has caught on in much of the Commonwealth. The word itself comes from the English slang, ‘tiffing,” meaning taking a little sip of something. Nowadays the word pretty much refers to any afternoon snack consisting of a few different dishes.

A tiffin in India usually consists of rice, dals, dosas, vegetables and curries. The question is, how do you transport several different snacks easily, in a container or set of containers that can be taken on a bike, on a busy street or survive the hustle and bustle and jostling of the TTC?

Behold the ingenious tiffin box, or tiffin carrier, known also as a dabba.

This is an amazing little gadget and replaces the Knight Rider lunchbox, the need for several Tupperware containers bouncing around in an awkward bag, or disposable containers sloshing to and fro in your knapsack. In addition, the traditional dabba is made of stainless steel or aluminum and keeps the food hot for a couple of hours! Some modern tiffinboxes are made from enamel, or plastic, and come in a variety of designs and patterns.

The three round containers stack on top of each other, each acting as a tight sealing cover, and the stack itself is held firmly shut with a clever and simple carrying handle.

Empty, the tiffin box weighs less than a pound; each of the round containers holds 750 ml, so you are guaranteed to be able to feed a pretty hungry gang, no matter what you put in them. If you are going on a picnic, a couple tiffin boxes will give you 6 easy to transport, space efficient serving dishes that won’t break your back as you navigate the mean streets of our city.

Since it is stainless steel, it can be popped in the oven or even over a grill to reheat, if necessary, but of course a metal dabba is not suitable for the microwave. And you don’t have to be a dabbawallah (“tiffin’man”) transporting an Indian feast to use one; a dabba can be used for just about any meal, hot, cold or in between. 

(Tiffin boxes can be purchased at Tap Phong Trading Company, 360 Spadina Ave. for $15.00)

This is the sustainable seafood dabba – for an impromptu fun picnic lunch at the office. Pumpernickel bread, herbed cream cheese, cucumber pickles, pickled egg, caviar from Acadian Sturgeon and smoked trout from Kolapore Springs.


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