Mini iPhone Photoessay: A Week of School Lunches

[See also: Rebe’s Week of School Lunch
& An Entire Blog Dedicated to Korean School Lunch (Eat Your Lunch-ee)]

Ah, school lunch. Growing up, it was the time of day almost everyone looked forward to. Worry free, Mom or Dad would hand me either a bag lunch or money to buy something in the cafeteria. Once I began living on my own, I realized that cooking food for myself was much less easy. Mostly just time consuming. Dislike!

And when I came to Korea for my first big-girl job, I was thrilled to find that lunch was provided. During the week, even if I failed completely during breakfast and dinner time, I’d at least have one balanced, good meal to keep me going. Well, they are usually good; though there are moments when I wonder who thought cooking pickles with spicy sauce was a good idea. Or who would think spaghetti and rice and a soup with deokk (rice cake) in it was a balanced lunch. Anyways, I digress.

My goal was to photograph a week’s worth of lunches. The plan failed quickly and completely when forgot about it on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thankfully, I found some backup photos of school lunch from earlier in the year, so the project was salvaged! Please pretend that this was a consecutive week, you know, for congruency’s sake.



See the upper left hand corner? That’s what I’m talking about. Pickles in spicy something is just gross; thankfully this side dish doesn’t come around too often. Top middle was deokk (rice cake) and mini hotdogs also covered in spicy pepper paste (gochujang). The rice is just rice, and the soup was pretty much the best soup I’ve had all month. Beef and assorted root-y vegetables. Soup saved the day on Monday.



In the top left, we have Korean “pancakes”, which are kind of scrambled egg circles. Vegetables and seafood are mixed in. The top middle is one of my favorite side dishes, beef and hard-boiled quail eggs. The top right, you’ll notice I was still trying to pretend that I liked kimchi (this was a back-up photo from February), which by now I’ve given up on. Rice, as usual, and a light soup with fried tofu balls and some white things. Honestly, it’s been 16 months and I still don’t know what those are slices of… embarrassing.



PURPLE THINGS IN MY LUNCH! Actually, the cabbage is purple (mixed with corn and apple) and it’s just covered in yogurt. So it looks like the whole thing is purple. Then in the top middle, we have spicy chicken and potatoes, which by now I’ve finally learned how to consume with chopsticks. Missing kimchi, this backup photo is from last month, some plain rice. The soup is a Korean favorite; seaweed and tofu soup. I kind of love it.



Ah Korea, always full of surprises. The top left is a mix of bean sprouts and other stringy vegetables. Yes, those are fish that were literally deep fried, as is. I’ve never seen this in my lunch, before, but maybe the lunch ladies knew I was planning to write this post and wanted to freak all my readers out. You just pull all the bits of fish out with your chopsticks. Plain, old, boring rice and kimchi chigae, or spicy kimchi and pork soup.



In the upper left hand corner is a soy sauce mixed with green onion and sesame seeds (and probably some other unknown ingredients). No, it’s not meant for eating as is; you either dip those cheese sticks in it or mix it with the rice situation. Those cheesesticks were a surprise, I’ve also never seen the lunch ladies make those. It was a special treat, since I’m always mourning over a lack of cheese. The rice was mixed with pieces of beef and bean sprouts. The soup, a tofu and cabbage soup, was surprisingly tasty.



I’m sorry for tricking you into thinking this was going to be a congruent week, the post title is a big fat lie, so I’ll make up for it by including a bonus lunch. Sometimes fate intervenes and the lunch ladies serve us something incredibly yummy. Apple juice, a weird sweet bread thing and a single piece of kimchi sit in that top row. (This was about the time I gave up on kimchi altogether, this past July.) The rice is mixed with purple sticky rice (hence the color!) and the beautiful bowl of noodles is graced with egg, seaweed, carrot, cucumber, and spring onion. Mix and nom!

Your Turn

For the other ESL/EFL/any other kinds of teachers in Korea, listen up. For once in your life, I want to know what you had for lunch. You can do an entire week (or piece together a week’s worth, like I did) or you can do just a day; however many or few you’d like. Take a picture of your delicious cafeteria food and post it to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, personal blog or wherever. Just use the hashtag #KoreanSchoolLunch, with a link to the lunch in question. (And if possible, send me a link to your lunch by Tweet or private message so I don’t miss it!) Those with blog posts, I’ll link to them here. Show me your noms, people!


Think you would enjoy eating school lunch in Korea? What terrifies you? What makes your mouth water? What’s just straight up weird?

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15 thoughts on “Mini iPhone Photoessay: A Week of School Lunches”

    1. Rebe just said the same thing… let’s invent a hashtag! #koreaschoollunch Clearly my creative juices aren’t flowing very well.. taking suggestions. 🙂

  1. Is that a cup of water I see to the side of your tray?? Nice! The first two weeks I carried my water bottle to lunch with me, but that practice soon ended. I guess I’ve adjusted to using the soup as my lunchtime liquid, though it was also difficult to clear my tray after lunch while holding a water bottle at the same time.

    I’ve been meaning to photograph my lunch for a week, too. Maybe it will happen yet in November…

    1. There’s water available at the door, but I’ve found myself drinking it mostly at the end of the meal. Somehow I’ve adjusted haha.

      And if you look above, Kirsten said the same thing. So let’s make a hashtag and turn it into a twitter/blog chain thingy! #lunchinkorea #schoollunchkorea #koreanlunch ?? Hashtag help!

  2. So… even though there weren’t rave reviews for every single meal, this still made me hungry. Plus I just love Korean food, so I could see past most things you didn’t like. It took me a LONG time to get into kimchi, but now I’m a convert. Also, I thought those quail eggs were olives and I was like WHAaaaaattt!!! But then I read.
    Loved this post. It was also timely in that I just found a delicious Korean restaurant in Waterloo which is going to do wonders to curb my cravings.

    1. I’m kind of a picky eater, these days, just because I’ve gotten past the “try everything!” phase and I already know that mini hotdogs in spicy sauce isn’t that great. But I’m glad it still made your tummy grumble! (PS I like some kimchi, but my school’s cafeteria kimchi isn’t on that list, unfortunately.)

      Enjoy that Korean food! I need to find a place close to home for me, too, because I don’t know how long I can go without rice-based dishes anymore. Korea messed me up!

    1. I checked out your post, it looks soo different from what I get here! #HonduranWorkLunch ??! Haha. Love that you paired poached eggs with… sauerkraut?! Hah!

      And yes, peppers are everywhere, you might have a problem or two. 🙁 But there are plenty of foods that would be fine, too, you just have to seek them out and do lots of research ahead of time.

  3. I love posts like this and, as a veggie, I was looking at each day’s meal thinking, ‘Ooh, I’d have that. Not that. Would have that…’ Haha.

    1. Haha you shouldn’t have too tough a time, a couple of my coworkers are vegetarians and they fare well enough. Though every once in a while they end up with just rice and kimchi, so maybe keep a backup instant noodles in your desk!

    1. HOLY CRAP an entire blog?! You are either crazy, genius or just eating a lot of kimchi and it’s making you both crazy and genius!

      I’ll insert a link to your blog into this post when I get the chance. OMG OMG OMG so many Korean School Lunches!!

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