What’s For Lunch?

Like many travel bloggers, I talk about food a lot.

It’s hard not to. Food is such a big part of any culture, and also, I love food.

Specifically ice cream and baked goods, but let’s not get off topic.

Dining in Korea completely discombobulated me at first. We eat on the floor? We share food? We cook meat at the table? I’m not sure I can take this on board.

Of course it all seems normal now, but that’s after nearly 2 years of doing it.

School lunches were equally as overwhelming. Teachers and students all eat together at long tables in the cafeteria. We don’t sit on the floor, but we all wait in line to collect our silver spoons, chopsticks, and trays.

There are some things you can always count on in my school cafeteria.

  • Mondays are fish days.
  • Wednesdays are ‘special’: i.e., fruit, mixed rice, and a juice or yogurt drink.
  • Rice, kimchi, and soup are everyday staples.
  • The tray must be placed with the three small circles on top, two large towards you. Otherwise you will be ridiculed by  students and teachers alike.
  • Children do not bring their lunches. I’ve never even seen a lunchbox.

We have a nutritionist who makes up the menu, and according to my co-teacher, all of the ingredients must be organic. Apparently it’s a new law,  instigated this year. I’m not entirely convinced, but the lunches have been tasting better.

School lunch in Korea is nothing like my childhood school lunches in Indiana. Last week, I took covert pictures each day so I could proudly bring you this: A week in Korean lunches.

All translations are courtesy of Google Translate. I’ve listed the dishes in clockwise order, starting from the top left.


Monday lunch - Korean cafeteria
Monday. The dreaded fish day.

콩나물오색채 – Sprouts five colors (I count…three.)

꽁치무조림 – Pike and stewed radish

배추김치 – Kimchi

시금치된장국 – Spinach Soup

보리밥 – Barley Rice



Tuesday lunch - Korean cafeteria
A Tuesday surprise of fried meat. Totally made up for the seaweed soup.

깻잎순나물 – Herbs, sesame net (‘herbs’ = namul, or weeds picked by ajummas on the side of the road)

깐풍기 – Chopped roast chicken (by ‘roast,’ I assume they mean ‘fried.’)

배추김치 – Kimchi

미역수제비국 – Brown Seaweed flour dumpling soup

쌀밥 – Rice



Wednesday lunch - Korean cafeteria
Wednesday. 'Special' lunch, as evidenced by mixed rice, fresh fruit and a choco roll.

배추김치 – Kimchi

초코슈 – Choco ‘shoe’ (a cold pastry filled with chocolate cream. Tastiest shoe ever.) *choux pastry! Thanks, Jeff.

딸기 – Strawberries

콩나물국 – Bean sprout soup

새우볶음밥 – Shrimp fried rice



Thursday lunch - Korean cafeteria
Thursday. A disappointing rendition of sundae.

콩조림 – no translation available. (My guess is beans in soy sauce, sugar & honey.)

순대야채볶음 – Measly vegetable (This is actually sundae, a classic Korean dish of animal innards  sometimes cooked in intestines. My co-teachers are eating it for breakfast as I write this post.)

배추김치 – Kimchi

짬뽕국– no translation available. (Seafood and vegetable soup)

찹쌀기장밥 – Glutinous millet rice (It’s just rice. Don’t be fooled by that ‘glutinous’ business.)



Friday lunch - Korean cafeteria
Friday. We can't get enough of those bean sprouts.

돼지고기장조림 – Beef pork (It’s just pork.)

호박볶음 – Roasted pumpkin (Again, I’m leaning towards ‘fried.’)

깍두기 – Radish kimchi

북어국 – Pollack soup (fish and bean sprouts)

영양15곡밥 – Nutrition 15 rice (And here I was thinking rice only came in white or brown varieties.)


Sometimes I love them, sometimes I hate them, but I know I’m going to miss those school lunches when they’re gone.

Until I start eating turkey sandwiches again. Nothing beats a turkey sandwich in my book.

See anything you like?

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  1. Wow, your Wednesday really is special! I’m super jealous of your choux and strawberries. Yesterday we had bibimbap, which I like, but it was full of tuna, which I hate. My coteacher asked the people in the back if they had any non-tuna-y veggies and somehow, they didn’t. Nothing like picking out chunks of canned tuna to brighten your lunch hour.

    Lunch is always such a mixed bag since I don’t like seafood. Sometimes I can tolerate the fish they serve. Most times… not. At least we had chocolate milk the other day! hehe.

    1. That was an exceptional Wednesday! I’ve only had those choco things twice in almost 2 years. We had bibimbap yesterday, too, but no tuna. The lunch ladies always heap tons of food into the teacher’s trays, but they scaled way back with me and the seafood when they realized I wasn’t eating it. It’s the bones in those fish that kill me. Luckily, on the whole, lunch is pretty good. And, if all else fails, there’s always rice.

      1. Yeah, our lunch is good too, usually. We actually serve ourselves, so now if there’s something I don’t like (ahem, odeng soup? etc) I just skip it. Apparently my boyfriend’s school puts quantity limits on fruit and stuff, but mine has only ever done that once, so I can eat as much of something delicious as I like. And yeah, some days, it’s just, stuff myself full of rice day.

        1. Apparently our school usually runs through their budget in the first half of the year, which totally explains the rapid decline in quality as the year winds down. If they did put limits on food it would probably help. The kids just go up and ask the lunch ladies for more.

  2. I really like my school lunches. We had dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets today and parmesan covered roasted potato wedges. There is also a special area of the cafeteria where teachers serve themselves and don’t wait in line.

  3. Shoe pastry is from the French choux meaning cabbage. It’s the name of the dough and it is meant to describe the shape that it is often formed into.

    1. Of course! I forget that it’s not just English that is morphed into Korean. I didn’t make the connection when Rachel mentioned it. I’ve been here too long.

      And I can’t even get my head around dinosaur chicken nuggets. Or roasted potato wedges. Your school’s nutrition lady must be stellar.

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