Tiffin carrier

Last updated
A dabba, or Indian-style tiffin carrier Dabba.jpg
A dabba, or Indian-style tiffin carrier

Tiffin carriers or dabbas are a kind of lunch box used widely in Asia and the Caribbean for tiffin meals. From India, they spread to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, where they are now widely used. [1] [2] [3] They are also used extensively in Hungary, primarily to transport restaurant meals for consumption at home. The Hungarian version typically contains soup, a main course, and piece of cake. A very similar device is called Henkelmann in Germany. It is usually round or oval similar to military mess kits. The Henkelmann was very popular until the 1960s, but is very rarely used by Germans today.


In the Indian city of Mumbai, there is a complex and efficient delivery system that regularly delivers hot lunches packed in dabbas to city office workers from their suburban homes or from a caterer. It uses delivery workers known as dabbawalas .


Tiffin carriers are known as rantang in Indonesian; mangkuk tingkat ('leveled bowls') in Malay; while in Thai they are known as Pin To (Thai : ปิ่นโต [ˈpìn ˈtoː]), and in Cambodia it is called Chan Srak (Khmer : ចានស្រាក់). In Hokkien they are called Uánn-tsân (Chinese :碗層). In Arab countries they are called safartas (سفرطاس, from Turkish "sefer tası" meaning 'travel bowls'). The Hungarian word for a tiffin box is éthordó ('food carrier').

Design and materials

Normally these containers come with two or three tiers, although more elaborate versions can have four. The bottom tier, sometimes larger than the others, is the one usually used for rice. Tiffin carriers are opened by unlocking a small catch on either side of the handle. Tiffin carriers are generally made out of steel and sometimes of aluminium, but enamel and plastic versions have been made by European companies.

See also

Related Research Articles

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to meals:

<i>Bento</i> Japanese iteration of a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal

A bento is the Japanese iteration of a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal, often for lunch. Outside Japan, it is common in other East and Southeast Asian culinary styles, especially within Chinese, Korean, Singaporean cuisines and more, as rice is a common staple food in the region. The term bento is derived from the Chinese term biandang, which means "convenient" or "convenience".

Take-out Prepared meal or other food items, purchased at a restaurant or fast food outlet

A take-out or takeout ; carry-out or to-go ; takeaway ; takeaways ; grab-n-go; and parcel is a prepared meal or other food items, purchased at a restaurant or fast food outlet with the intent to eat elsewhere. A concept found in many ancient cultures, take-out food is common worldwide, with a number of different cuisines and dishes on offer.

Nasi lemak Traditional Malay cuisine

Nasi lemak is a dish originating in Malay cuisine that consists of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It is commonly found in Malaysia, where it is considered the national dish. It is also the native dish in neighbouring areas with significant Malay populations such as Singapore, Brunei, and Southern Thailand. In Indonesia it can be found in several parts of Sumatra, especially the Malay regions of Riau, Riau Islands and Medan. Nasi lemak can also be found in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao, prepared by Filipino Moros, as well as Australia's external territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It is considered an essential dish for a typical Malay-style breakfast. Nasi lemak is featured as a national dish in most of the country’s tourism brochures and promotional materials.

Roti South Asian flatbread

Roti is a round flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent. It is popular in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius and Fiji. It is made from stoneground whole wheat flour, traditionally known as gehu ka atta, and water that is combined into a dough. Roti is consumed in many countries worldwide. Its defining characteristic is that it is unleavened. Naan from the Indian subcontinent, by contrast, is a yeast-leavened bread, as is kulcha. Like breads around the world, roti is a staple accompaniment to other foods.


A lunch box refers to a hand-held container used to transport food, usually to work or to school. It is commonly made of metal or plastic, is reasonably airtight and often has a handle for carrying.

Dabbawala Lunchbox delivery and return system for people at work in India, especially in Mumbai

The dabbawalas constitute a lunchbox delivery and return system that delivers hot lunches from homes and restaurants to people at work in India, especially in Mumbai. The lunchboxes are picked up in the late morning, delivered predominantly using bicycles and railway trains, and returned empty in the afternoon.

Tiffin is an Indian English word for a type of meal. It refers to a light breakfast or a light tea-time meal at about 3 p.m., consisting of typical tea-time foods. In certain parts of India, it can also refer to the midday luncheon or, in some regions of the Indian subcontinent, a between-meal snack. When used in place of the word "lunch", however, it does not necessarily mean a light meal.

Mumbai culture

A resident of Mumbai is called a Mumbaikar. People prefer to stay close to a railway station for easy access to the metropolis. Many city-dwellers lead a fast-paced life with very little time for other activities owing to a significant amount of time spent on daily commuting.

Dhaba Roadside restaurants in the Indian subcontinent

A dhaba is a roadside restaurant in the Indian subcontinent. They are on highways, generally serve local cuisine, and also serve as truck stops. They are most commonly found next to petrol stations, and most are open 24 hours a day.

Field ration Nonperishable military food

A field ration is a type of prepackaged or canned military ration. Field rations are distinguished from garrison rations by virtue of being designed for minimal preparation in the field, as well as for long shelf life. They contain canned, vacuum-sealed, pre-cooked or freeze-dried foods, powdered beverage mixes or concentrated food bars. Many field rations contain meat as one of their main courses, but countries such as the United States offer vegetarian options as well. A WWI term, the "iron ration" is a soldier's dry emergency rations. The term MRE is sometimes used synonymously with field ration but it more accurately describes a specific type from the United States. Most armed forces in the world today now field some form of pre-packaged combat ration, often suitably tailored to meet national or regional cuisines.

Packed lunch A lunch carried to a destination

A packed lunch is a lunch which is prepared before arriving at the place where it is to be eaten. Typically it is prepared at home or at a hotel, or produced commercially for sale in vending machines or at convenience stores. They are often eaten in a school or workplace, or on an outing.


Modak is an Indian sweet dumpling dish popular in many Indian states and cultures. According to Hindu belief, it is considered one of the favourite dishes of Lord Ganesha and is therefore used in prayers. The sweet filling on the inside of a modak consists of freshly grated coconut and jaggery, while the outer soft shell is made from rice flour or wheat flour mixed with khava or maida flour.

<i>The Lunchbox</i> 2013 Indian film by Ritesh Batra

The Lunchbox is a 2013 Indian Hindi-language epistolary-romance film written, directed, filmed and edited by Ritesh Batra. It is produced by Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap and Karan Johar under various studios including DAR motion pictures, UTV Motion Pictures, Dharma Productions, Sikhya Entertainment and NFDC (India). It stars Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur in lead roles with Bharti Achrekar, Nakul Vaid and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in supporting roles. The film was screened at International Critics' Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d'Or. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released in India on 20 September 2013.

Food delivery Courier service in which food is delivered to a customer

Retail food delivery is a courier service in which a restaurant, store, or independent food-delivery company delivers food to a customer. An order is typically made either through a restaurant or grocer's website or mobile app, or through a food ordering company. The delivered items can include entrees, sides, drinks, desserts, or grocery items and are typically delivered in boxes or bags. The delivery person will normally drive a car, but in bigger cities where homes and restaurants are closer together, they may use bikes or motorized scooters. Recently, autonomous vehicles have also been used to complete deliveries.

Ketupat Indonesian dish that is made of rice in the shape of a diamond

Kupat, ketupat, or tipat is a Javanese rice cake packed inside a diamond-shaped container of woven palm leaf pouch, Originating in Indonesia, it is also found in Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand. It is commonly described as "packed rice", although there are other types of similar packed rice such as lontong and bakchang.

<i>Dosirak</i> Type of packed meal in Korea

Dosirak, also known as gwakpap refers to a packed meal, often for lunch. It usually consists of bap and several banchan. The lunch boxes, also called dosirak or dosirak-tong, are typically plastic or thermo-steel containers with or without compartments or tiers. Dosirak is often home-made, but is also sold in train stations and convenience stores.

Meal Eating that takes place at a specific time

A meal is an eating occasion that takes place at a certain time and includes prepared food. The names used for specific meals in English vary, depending on the speaker's culture, the time of day, or the size of the meal.

Plastic container

Plastic containers are containers made exclusively or partially of plastic. Plastic containers are ubiquitous either as single-use or reuseable/durable plastic cups, plastic bottles, plastic bags, foam food containers, Tupperware, plastic tubes, clamshells, cosmetic containers, up to intermediate bulk containers and various types of containers made of corrugated plastic. The entire packaging industry heavily depends on plastic containers or containers with some plastic content, besides paperboard and other materials. Food storage nowadays relies mainly on plastic food storage containers.


Jūbako are tiered boxes used to hold and present food in Japan. The boxes are often used to hold osechi, foods traditional to the Japanese New Year, or to hold takeaway lunches, or bento.


  1. Leong-Salobir, Cecilia (2011). Food Culture in Colonial Asia; A Taste of Empire (Hardback ed.). London: Routledge. ISBN   9780415606325 . Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  2. "Food Carrier". Zebra e-store. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  3. "Food Fare: H Street's Cane Pays Tribute to Trinidad Roots with Tiffin Boxes".