In the U.S., snacktime generally consists of juice boxes and the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In Korea, snacktime is a whole other affair, and upon visiting the Chodang Elementary School, Marja and Diana snacked upon deep-fried rolls made of noodles and carrots wrapped in seaweed. All washed down with some nutty barley tea, it made for a healthy and satisfying mini-meal.
Overall, school food in Korea looks very different from your typical American lunch tray. Aside from being far from the packaged foods we associate with our childhood cafeteria lunches, Korean school food resembles a more balanced meal. There’s rice, vegetables, soup, and a protein, often fish. And of course, kimchi, for no Korean meal is truly complete without this spicy condiment. True to form, school lunches are very Korean, comprised of a plethora of banchan and rice.
Obviously, quality is variable, but Korean school food is so highly acclaimed that there’s even a restaurant chain in Korea, aptly named School Food, that serves up cafeteria favorites. From gimbap to ramen, it’s a nostalgic foodie’s ultimate eatery. Keeping with the balanced lunch diet, there are a variety of different kinds of soups, noodles, gimbap, and tteokbokki. The concept is definitely unique, and somehow manages to make school lunch seem appealing in a way we never thought possible.