What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “packed lunch?” Is it a PB&J or ham and cheese sandwich with some chips on the side? Some leftover pasta salad? What if that packed lunch consisted of your favorite Korean side dishes packed in an insulated lunch box? Then, you would be having dosirak!
Dosirak is a essentially a lunch box full of rice and Korean side dishes like kimchi, bean sprouts, dried seaweed, spam or sausage topped with a fried egg. That is just the most traditional combination for work or school, but there are many others! For picnics, the beloved gimpap is added as well. The box is meant to be shaken and stirred before eating so all the dishes can become one satisfying meal.
According to Chonbuk National University, the tradition of carrying a packed lunch started out as a luxury. For example, in the Joseon Dynasty when the masters worked outside the home like at a government office or the royal court, the servants carried lunch with a small table on their heads for them. As time passed and more people worked outside the home, the idea of carrying a packed lunch became more of a norm.
Dosirak is also a popular item in train stations across South Korea. Many large train stations such as Seoul Station, Busan Station, and Daejon Station to a name a few, have different dosirak shops where travelers can pick one up before their trips. You can even pick up a dosirak at a convenience store in Korea. If you’re a budget traveler, this packed lunch is perfect as it usually sells for around 3,000 Korean won, or $2.50 dollars.
For those of us who grew up with more a more basic (and dare we say boring) version of a packed lunch, trying dosirak is a definitely an experience. It is not only exciting to order a lunch box, but also the unique flavors that come from the mixing of side dishes that makes dosirak a delightful meal and for some strange reason will have you reminiscing of your own childhood.
Whether you’re traveling to Korea or seeing it in the menu of your favorite Korean restaurant, make sure to add dosirak to your to-eat list!
Written By Dianelys Fuentes