Around the world for lunch
New Yorkers typically have their lunch on the go, but in other parts of the world, the midday meals are something to be savored with time and effort.
Here are some lunch traditions in different countries:
The city of Mumbai has its very own tradition in which a tiffinwallah or dabawallah (“person with a box”) transports home-cooked, hot lunches to working men from their wives at home. The lunch containers, known as tiffin, generally have two or three tiers and are made of steel, and are often filled with rice, and spicy vegetable or meat dishes.
Get a taste in the city: Try the assorted “tiffins” at kosher-vegetarian Tiffin Wallah (127 E. 28th St., 212-685-7301). Another kosher-veg spot in Curry Hill, Bhojan (102 Lexington Ave., 212-213-9615), offers lunch thalis, with small tastes of Indian delicacies.
Here, the midday meal, or la comida, is the largest of the day, and often includes multiple courses. Businesses traditionally will take a 2-3-hour lunch break, whichoften concludes with a siesta.
Get a taste in the city: Degustation (239 East Fifth St., 212-979-1012), a tiny French-Spanish hybrid always gets raves. The ever hip Boqueria (53 W. 19th St., 212-255-4160) specializes in Basque and Catalonian tapas.
Bento boxes are all the rage here, and they’re often eaten for lunch at restaurants or in the office. The compact, meals often include rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a compartmentalized plastic box. The general rule of thumb: 3 parts carb, 2 parts fruit and veg and 1 part protein.
Get a taste in the city: Zach Brooks, founder of the Midtown Lunch blog, gave us his bento suggestions. “On 41st, between Fifth and Madison, is what I call the holy trinity of Japanese fast food — Chiyoda is the more upscale one, Café Zaiya is the mid-range and Yagura, a Japanese grocery store, is the cheapest of the three.”
Also, Hakubai in the Kitano Hotel (66 Park Ave., 212-885-7000) offers an elegant take on lunchtime bentos. The Gochiso Bento Box is $40.
Q and A with Zach Brooks, founder of blog Midtown Eats, an expert in New York lunch culture.
Do New Yorkers eat lunch too quickly?
The entire reason for the site is to encourage people to take their lunch break and not waste it at their desk with some crappy lunch.
Long lunches are just not ingrained in the culture. Most businesses frown on it. Some companies have gone so far as to give their workers cheap — or sometimes free — lunch, specifically so they’ll take less time off.
How would you describe the New York lunch scene?
Everyone in New York is lazy. Whatever is closest … is where people go. If you’re just willing to walk a bit, your lunch options expand so much.