Korean School Dinners

While everyone in the UK digs into some delicious turkey sandwiches, we have to work this week and here is a taste of what we get from our school cafeteria.

My school gives me a menu each day that states 4 nutritional values of each meal. The first two are calories and protein respectively – quite normal. The third is calcium content – quite strange. The forth is vitamin C value – even stranger. I guess Koreans don’t eat cheese or drink milk so they are more concerned about calcium content and I have noticed that they love vitamin drinks so that explains the vitamin c value.

Anyway, let's get stuck in. I decided to document and review my Korean school lunches for your amusement. (I used google to get most of the translations of the dishes, which is why you get some hilariously bad translations.)

Brown Rice, Kimchi, Pork Duruchigi, Steamed cabbage, seaweed and other greens, Seaweed Cabbage Soup (Danbaechudoenjangguk)
Calories: 758, Protein: 35, Calcium: 307, Vit C: 55
Mrs Noh's Portion
My Portion
The pork was very nice and it was one of my fave mains that we get. It has a fair amount of fat on it compared to western dishes but the sauce is very tasty and also very spicy. The spicy red sauce comes with carrots and onions. The steamed vegetables were a nice treat as well. The soup is one of my least liked soups but I love Korean soups so I still gobbled it all down.
Rating - 9.4/10 – Meat and rice will do me fine for lunch.

White Rice with adlay beans, Kimchi, Simmered sauce bubbles at low tide (??), US seasoned soy sauce, Beef and Vegetable Soup (Yukgaejang)
Calories: 790, Protein: 42, Calcium: 304, Vit C: 30
This is my co-teacher's portion. Mine was double sized!
The "simmered sauce bubbles at low tide" was actually spicy fish in a really great sauce. Normally we get fish with a tonne of bones in and it takes me all lunchtime to de-bone but they must’ve known I was reviewing their food this week as the fish only had tiny bones and you could just eat them. The US seasoned soy sauce was actually dried squid with soy sauce and was very chewy. However I love squid so this suited me fiiiine. Finally the soup was great, had mushrooms in and everything. Perfect for a freezing day!
Rating - 9.6

Al Corn White Rice, Kimchi, Joraengyitteokhambak / source, Golbaengyi seasoned fifty-two, and a soup with fish cake and other doughy fishy things (Eomuktang)
Calories: 779, Protein: 31, Calcium: 265, Vit C: 32
I always get excited for lunch on a Wednesday as I have slowly realised that it is often the best day – last week I had fried chicken! The Joraengyitteokhambak were pork burgers with small pieces of white stuff inside. At first I thought these pieces were large chunks of fat but they weren’t – they were tasteless bits of rice cake instead. The “source” / sauce was a sweet dressing with chunks of vegetables in – I loved it! I actually ate some kimchi as well, which was the fifty-two or, as we know it, cucumber. But I’ll eat cucumbers drenched in about anything, even Golbaengyi. You may be thinking that I haven’t used the word spicy yet but fear not because the soup was really spicy. I still finished it though hence I am hardcore!!
Rating - 9.7

White Rice, Kimchi, Kim faced the end of the / tteokbokeum, Bean sprouts, Crab Soup (Kkotgetang)
Calories: 821, Protein: 27, Calcium: 286, Vit C: 39
I always have a fear of Thursday lunchtimes. After the delights of Wednesday, I sometimes think that the chef has decided that she should have a rest and just cook something not particular great. The menu seems to agree with me: “Kim faced the end of…” - I think we can all agree that the chef Kim had had enough and faced the end of... something. Anyway it turns out that particular dish is called Gimmari and consists of deep fried noodles that have been wrapped in seaweed. They are okay but they’d be nicer with some meat! Next we have Tteokbokki (tteokbokeum), which is a spicy red sauce and fish cakes with some rice cakes. I find Tteokbokki a little boring but its one of Korea’s favourite snack foods. The crab soup was excellent and my favourite part of the meal. The crab had been boiled for a little too long but it was still good. Can you imagine getting crab for school dinners in the UK?? Impossible.
Rating – 8.5 – The lack of protein gets to me on a Thursday…

Tuna rice sprouts with Chogochujang (red sauce), Kimchi geotjeolyi, Cheonggukjang stew, Woorimil nuts hotteok
Calories: 821, Protein: 26, Calcium: 293, Vit C: 36

If I’m scared of Thursday lunchtimes then Friday lunchtimes are a damn nightmare. Sometimes we only get rice, vegetables and some other carbs and when I was hitting the weights the day before, I would get strange looks when I added a tin of tuna to every Friday meal. Anyway today was fine because we actually got given tuna with our bibimbap. Tuna bibimbap is rice-vegetables-tuna, red spicy sauce and sesame oil all mixed in a bowl to enjoy. And I love tuna bibimbap! The stew was amazing, best of the week. It had tofu, bits of beef, nuts and vegetables and I really loved it. The Worrimil nuts hotteok was the dessert treat that we get on a Friday. Very traditional in Korea and very tasty. It was like chewy rice cake but covered in sugar and dough and filled with nuts and syrup. Really unhealthy and very delicious.
Rating – 9.1 – Still a lack of protein but a lot better than a usual Friday.

How much are my meals? I pay 2500 Won a day. That is around £1.60. I think it’s really good value and I love my school food. The kids eat exactly the same food but they get smaller portions than I do (mainly because I self serve :D)

Koreans love to eat and share food so everyday there are various snacks and whatnot. On Friday, it was the school festival so there were even more snacks than usual.
We had burgers, strawberries, tangerines, pepsi, orange juice, deok (rice cake) and sweetcorn. Literally EVERYONE ate this about 10 minutes after lunch – I could barely stomach any more food… Of course I did though.

I hope you enjoyed this look into Korean school lunches. I happen to know that my school has lot nicer lunches than other schools so tell me what you eat at your school in the comments.

I'll tell you here Dave - my school lunches were rubbish more often than not. This is partly because I'm a pickier eater than you but mostly because my school is smaller and thus has a smaller budget for food. I am very proud to have lasted 1.5 semesters eating that naffness but now it's peanut butter sarnies every day for me and I love it!