A week’s worth of lunches: Delivery food in South Korea

9 Aug

Hey guys! How’s your week going? I’m excited to be wrapping up summer classes this week. I’m so ready to be done teaching six days a week, and my students and I are looking forward to a little break!

The best thing about working longer hours is the food! Lunch is provided during camp, so my boss orders something different every day for delivery and the teachers eat together between our morning and afternoon classes. Here’s what a week’s worth of lunches looks like.

Sorry for the crappy photos; I used my camera phone and the fluorescent lighting didn’t help! 😥

Day 1: Lunch box from Hansot Dosirak

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Hansot Dosirak lunch box: rice, meat patty, breaded chicken, shrimp, bulgogi, kimchi and little dried fish

Hansot Dosirak is a popular casual dining chain in South Korea. They don’t use the highest quality ingredients, but their menu is huge and lunch boxes are cheap and filling! This wasn’t the tastiest lunch, but I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, so I scarfed down this hearty lunch box. The kimchi was pretty sour, but the little dried fish weren’t so bad.

Day 2: Bulgogi pilaf from Raracost

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Raracost bulgogi pilaf: bulgogi and mushroom rice drizzled with… mayonnaise?

Raracost is another huge chain in South Korea popular for their pizza, pasta and fusion cuisine. Despite the mayonnaise, I actually really liked this lunch. We ate this with a side of gim, salty sheets of seaweed paper.

Day 3: Bibimbap, fried dumplings and a clear soup

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Bibimbap: rice topped with a colorful variety of lightly seasoned vegetables, a fried egg, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil

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Mandu: fried dumplings filled with pork, tofu, vegetables and noodles Side dish: kimchi radish and pickled radish

This was probably my favorite lunch. Bibimbap is the quintessential quick meal in Korea. Translated as “mixed rice,” you mix everything together and add gochujang, a spicy, fermented chili paste, to your liking. This dish has such a nice balance of flavors, and it’s deceptively simple; I tried making it at home and it took forever to cut up and prepare all of the vegetables.

Day 4: Another lunch box

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Lunch box: ham fried rice topped with a fried egg, corn with imitation crab, pickled radish, coleslaw and rice balls

This was definitely my least favorite lunch. It felt like a weird combination. One time, an elementary school student gave me a bun filled with mashed potatoes, corn and onion. “I made it myself,” he said proudly. This lunch box kind of reminded me of that except it wasn’t as good. It was super salty, and I don’t think corn and coleslaw constitute as vegetables.

Day 5: Korean-style Chinese food

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Korean-style Chinese food: fried rice topped with egg and served with jjajangmyeon sauce; fried dumplings; and a side of pickled radish, onion and chunjang

This dish’s roots in actual Chinese cuisine is about as dubious as General Tso’s chicken. Koreans have adapted Chinese food to better suit Korean taste. So it should come as no surprise that it’s nothing like American-style Chinese food. How weird is it to be homesick for beef and broccoli while living in Asia?!

I’m not a huge fan of Korean-style Chinese food. The first year I lived in South Korea, I always ordered japchae noodles and fried rice served with jjajangmyeon sauce, a gelatinous sauce made of salty black soybean paste, pork and vegetables. It’s not bad at all (I even crave it on rare occasions), but I ate so much of it that first year that I’m pretty much over it!

 

So what did you think? Would you (or have you) tried any of these delivery dishes? There is such a huge variety of delivery food options in South Korea — this list barely scratched the surface! You can even order food with a smartphone app!

Did you notice any similarities among these delivery dishes? The answer is not surprising: rice. In Korean, cooked rice is called bap. That’s why many Korean dishes end with “bap”: bibimbap (mixed rice), bokeumbap (fried rice), deopbap (covered rice), gimbap (rice rolled in seaweed paper), etc. My sister thinks this is hilarious and always calls bibimbap “Baby Bop.” 😀

Interestingly, bap or rice is so integral to Korean food culture that it is often used interchangeably with “meal,” so sometimes my students get confused and ask “Have you eaten rice?” when what they really want to ask is “Have you eaten [breakfast/lunch/dinner]?”

One more fun fact about bap: Most Asian countries eat their rice with chopsticks, but Koreans generally prefer to use a spoon. This definitely makes things easier for those who find using Korean chopsticks difficult!

 

P.S. Curious what school lunches are like in South Korea? Check out my friend Lindsay’s blog for a peak inside a Korean school cafeteria.

 

 

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2 Responses to “A week’s worth of lunches: Delivery food in South Korea”

  1. Stephen Schuit August 10, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

    Nice post. I’ve had a similar experience with Korean-style Chinese food, that is, it’s nothing but bland and basic fare, more Korean than Chinese. Been that way as long as I can remember. But then again, you do what you can with what you got, so I’ve learned to go-with the noodles, fried rice, and mandoo. Then I get my fix when I visit China or return to the States and visit Chinatown in one of our larger cities, like NY, Boston or SF.

  2. bridgettnh August 12, 2016 at 7:04 am #

    Yes! We’re moving home in October, and I’m looking forward to kung pao chicken, proper egg rolls and crab rangoon!

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