It’s lunchtime!

My original intentions were to show you a week’s worth of lunches at my elementary school but that idea was a fail. Wednesday was Children’s Day, a national holiday, which meant no school. On Friday, when the lunch was extra spectacular, my camera battery died. This post will give you an idea of the types of food we eat but I might have to recreate it at a later date when it’s a normal week. I think they were doing a little spring cleaning in the kitchen.

My descriptions of the foods below begin with rice and move clockwise around the tray, culminating with the soup. I also should add the disclaimer that I put everything on my plate for the sake of a picture. And lastly, if one of my co-workers had made up the plates, there’d be a lot more rice. It’s to the point where I’m thinking about renaming the blog “365 days of rice: My transformation into a rice grain.” I’ve already got the white part down.


This is our lunch tray. There is always rice, soup, and 3-4 smaller dishes. Don’t try to go all left brain-right brain on the lunch tray. Rice always goes on the left, soup always on the right. I think there’s an order for the side dishes (kimchi’s usually on the left) but the Koreans seem to be more flexible with my positionings. Either that or they’ve just learned to chalk it up to ignorance. Moving clockwise from the rice you’ll find kimchi, the dish that all Koreans swear by for its health benefits. It’s fermented cabbage slathered in a spicy red sauce that attempts to mask the acidity of the dish. It’s served at every meal in every restaurant here, regardless of the type of meal you’re eating (kimchi with your lasagna anyone?). Next, we’ve got a nice little Thai banana and then anchovies with slivered almonds. To your right you’ll find fried kimchi, a type of food recycling that fries up old kimchi with some beef bits, onions, and peppers. Let me tell you, it tastes a lot better than the original. Lastly, the soup of the day consists of seaweed, potatoes, and fish.


Rice, kimchi, the stems of some type of green with a grilled, smaller member of the shrimp family, fried chicken pieces with sweet and sour sauce, and a soup of fish, greens, bean sprouts, potatoes and probably some beef bits thrown in for good measure. They really like their beef around here, just as long as it’s not coming from the US.


Rice, turnip kimchi (just like the cabbage kimchi except with turnip leaves), sauteed turnips slathered in garlic, pork bits and rice patty balls in a sauce, and a soup of seaweed, potato, and fish. I know, the soups all sound the same but they vary the broths so it has a different taste.

Yesterday, one of our side dishes was fish. Whole fish. Fried and boned. Fresh out of swimming in a vat of oil. Try serving that on the styrofoam plates in America.

I really enjoy eating the lunches. It’s a good opportunity to try Korean food and I’m surrounded by people that can explain what I’m eating (although sometimes it’s better not knowing– like with fish cakes. They were really tasty until I found out how they were made.) I was warned before I arrived that it was incredibly difficult to be a vegetarian in Korea from multiple parties- Korean-American friends, former tourists or foreign English teachers, blogs, and even Lonely Planet. Consequently, I started introducing a little bit of meat into my diet about two weeks before I arrived in Korea. It was probably one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. There is meat in everything here and although I’m learning how to minimize my meat consumption, it’s still taken me three weeks to figure out and it’s mainly in vain- all of the soup broths are either meat or fish based. Being a vegetarian would mean making my own meals everyday, which is feasible but not practical as far as my mental health is concerned. It would completely isolate me from a culture that places such an importance on communal eating. Token white girl’s about as much isolation as I can take right now.


May 8, 2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized.


  1. Sophia Khawly replied:

    WOW that’s very interesting!! You are definitely courageous. haha nice with the rice, I don’t think I could survive.

  2. Mary replied:

    Eloquent. I like the ending. I’m glad you started with the meat before you left, too. I walked out of the house with the dog holding a bowl of cereal because I didn’t want to eat alone. Turned out to be a bad idea. She pulled the leash and my cereal is now all over the sidewalk. Three cheers for communal eating.

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