Korean School Lunches

As an EPIK teacher you are entitled to lunch at school everyday. It is not free, but it is very cheap at about 3,000won per meal. You can opt-out of these lunches if you don’t like them.

I decided to give school lunches a try for a while before deciding if I wanted to continue or opt-out. After a few trial weeks I decided to continue with the school lunch because they are pretty good! The food isn’t always amazing, but we all know I’m super lazy and there’s no way I’m waking up extra early to make lunch when the school lunch is perfectly fine!

I spoke to one coteacher about the preparation of school lunch. Unlike most public schools in America that just heat up frozen nuggets, she said that Korean cafeteria staff make all the school lunches.  I’m sure there are a few things that are frozen and heated up, but as far as I can tell most of our food is freshly made and prepared by the cafeteria staff.

My school does not have a cafeteria for students like we have in America. Instead the students have lunch delivered to their rooms in carts. The teachers have their own lunch room where the food is set up buffet style and is self-serve.

Everyday lunch consists of rice, one or two types of kimchi, a soup, vegetables, and protein. Occasionally there is a small dessert, drink, or fruit as well.

Not every single lunch has been amazing. As a picky eater, there are some foods that I just refuse to eat. One of those is sundae. No it’s not an ice cream sundae. It’s “soon-dae”: blood sausage, or stuffed pig’s intestine.  No thanks.

My school really seems to like sundae because in less than a week we’ve had it twice. First as a pork soup with sundae, then as just plain ol’ sundae. Sundae-day’s are sad days for me. They are rice-and-kimchi-for-lunch days. They are leave-school-as-fast-as-I-can-to-go-buy-food days.

I have also started avoiding chicken. I friggen love chicken, however the chicken is almost always served on a bone. Koreans generally don’t eat food with their hands, everything is with utensils. Yes, even pizza, hamburgers, and fried chicken. The chicken tastes fine, it’s just so damn difficult to eat with chopsticks and the urge to throw them across the room and just use my hands puts me in an angry mood. So, I just avoid any chicken on a bone. 😦

My favorite lunch foods have included: dumplings, rice cake soup, Korean pancake, tofu, and curry. Another thing that I like about the Korean school lunches is that they aren’t in set groups. What I mean is, yes we might get the same foods every once in a while, but they are always paired with different side dishes. This means lunch never gets boring or repetitive.

Here are some photos of my lunch tray over the past few months:


[Top] Various Korean pancakes with veggies – Kimchi – fishcake  [Bottom] Rice – Rice cake and dumpling soup.  [Note] I was told this was a special pre-Chuseok lunch.



[Top] Fried shrimp – Japanese style dumpling – Salad with yogurt dressing [Bottom] Rice and some radish kimchi – Curry.



[Top] Some sort of dumpling with miscellaneous veggies – Grilled cheese – radish kimchi.  [Bottom] Bibimbap (rice with veggies and spicy sauce)  – Tofu soup.



When I saw the grilled cheese I was super excited because I love grilled cheese.  However, when I bit into it I discovered there was also strawberry jam.  What…??? Actually not so bad. Just different.



[Top] Fried minikimbap – Salad with yogurt dressing and ham – Spicy fishcake and rice cake (ddeokbokki) [Bottom] Rice – Spicy cabbage and pork soup.



[Top] Dumpling – Kimchi –  Banana [Bottom] Tuna bibimbap – Cabbage soup.




(Top) Fried chicken – Pickled radish – kimchi – Korean tangerine     (Bottom) Rice with black bean sauce – rice or barley soup?



[Top] Sesame leaf pancakes – Various kimchis [Bottom] Rice – Yogurt drink – Dumpling soup (they are hidden at the bottom)



[Top] Fish cake – Potato salad – Kimchi – Tofu     [Bottom] Rice – Dumpling and rice cake soup.



[Top] Spicy chicken and potatos (jjimdalk) – kimchis – scrambled egg with veggies [Bottom] Rice – spicy tofu soup


What do you think of our school lunches?


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