December 10, 2012

What Is This?

I was at an auction over the weekend and although I bid on a number of things, I really only won one. But I also got part of another lot. I am always amused by the way the auction house puts lots together. This particular lot was three contemporary smoked Lucite tables and lamps, plus a brass and glass “lighting device”. I didn’t want the contemporary goods, and the hipsters who did, didn’t want this piece.

It might possibly be a lighting device, because it has a small lantern with it, which looks like it’s never been lit.

It also has several containers that hook on to the edge of the device.

There’s a cup, and three bins that open, as well as the little lantern.

There are glass and brass doors on the middle section,

which open to reveal a bottom compartment,

which also opens!

At first, I thought it was some sort of tiffin. Tiffin is an old English word for a light lunch, and also the name of the multi-compartment metal lunch box that carries it.image They are filled with a variety of foods including rice, lentils, vegetables, etc. image Tiffin Wallahs originated over a century ago when the many Indians working for British companies disliked the food served at work. Tiffin service was created to bring home cooking to the workplace.imageMore than 200,000 tiffins are delivered each day in Mumbai alone.

My friend Eric initially thought this was some sort of fishing box – you’d attract the fish with the lantern, keep your worms and bait in the bins and put the fish in the bottom compartment – but we soon discounted that.

So, it’s not a tiffin, it’s not a lighting device, and it’s not a fishing box. Do you know what it is? We certainly don’t.


  1. Welcome to every single day of my life. I have been seeing those brass things for years and still can't figure out what they are.

  2. I would guess from a boat perhaps? Old fashioned light, almost like a mini light house.... Certainly fun to look at! Good luck finding out!

  3. I know exactly what it is, and you weren't far off with tiffin related. It's a noodle cart, used in Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong, for the creation of noodle dishes for sale on the street. This may be a reproduction, but I used to see them as a child there.

    1. I would love to have all the information on this noodle cart that I could get as I have one but not much information on it.

  4. yup it is a noodle cooker
    Sold them all the time as a "decorative element" in the 70's when brass was BIG.
    Still know a client who owns one, that she purchased way back then

  5. Saw one of these last year and it was $400-$500 on a website that has escaped my memory.

  6. I recently read a wonderful book, The Secret Daughter. A character is described as a messenger who delivers the tiffins in the town of Mumbai.


  7. Whatever it is, it's kinda fabulous!

  8. You got it! Nice.

    To correct something I'm being attributed with, I didn't think the lantern was to attract fish that would be unsporting! I thought it was a something to take with you while fishing or shooting. :^)

  9. I am no help..Columnist seems to know exactly what it is and I will stick with their answer.

  10. I used to own one in Thailand. It was for selling noodles but we westerners just used it for 'pretty'. A royal pain to keep polished without servants...

  11. Yep, it's the noodle cart. Super cool to see one in the US. I LOVE AUCTIONS!

  12. It's a street noodle cart. I'm surprised you didn't know that, but again, you've been across the pond for a while. You can find them all over the US at garage sales, etc. This is probably a real one, because who would reproduce them? It would be good for holding sewing supplies, or craft supplies. If you don't want to polish it, you can shine it up, then lacquer it. Ann

  13. Noodle cart, very popular in 70's, probably sold at World Bazaar or Pier One or some such. I remember seeing them in homes with trailing plants in the containers.

  14. How intriguing! I am glad your object was identified and I am sure you will find a way to put it to good use. It will certainly be a good conversation piece. Keep going to auctions and making "finds".

  15. What in the name of God did we do before the internet??

    A "noodle cart"!!

    Holy cow!

    It is a fascinating assemblage; and what a great eye you have to have recognized it as something really fabulous!

    Bravo and Brava!!


    and Wonderful!!


  16. My grandparents in Old Town Alexandria have one and she brought it back from their Far East travels. To the commenter that mentioned the polishing, she takes the whole thing apart each fall/spring and cleans it up. Quite the chore!

  17. They are noodle vendor carts. My father brought back the large and small version when he was in the Navy back in the early 70s. So I am assuming most that we have here in the US came back from military members.


Thank you for reading and commenting on Pigtown*Design. I read each and every comment and try to reply if I have your e-mail address.