One of the best perks of our job comes from the kitchen, my favorite stomping ground. At 12 noon every day, the kindergarten classes gallop to the bathroom to wash their hands, and we — the teachers — get a waft of our lunch for that day.
Two women — Mrs. Han and Mrs. Chai, affectionately referred to as Imonim (aunties) by the Korean teachers — whip up an organic, delicious, nutritous, authentic Korean meal for us to enjoy. The ladies are always busy prepping when we roll into school around 9:30. Everything is freshly prepared, seasoned nicely and usually delicious.
The meals vary from day to day, but always include rice (the school uses a combination of black and white, we call it purple), laver (green tea seasoned seaweed), and a soup of some sort.
I have plucked 5 sample lunches from our menu, all of which we’ve eaten more than once and I have throroughly enjoyed.
Day 1: Pulled beef, egg with vegetables (similar to an omlet), kimchi, purple rice and a spicy soup.
Day 2: White fish cooked with egg and vegetables, spicy cabbage, marinated cucumbers and mushrooms, purple rice with laver and seaweeed soup.
Day 3: dak doritang (spicy Korean dish of chicken simmered with potatoes, carrots, onions and lots of spices — sooo yummy), marinated cucumbers, kimchi, greens, purple rice and egg drop soup.
Day 4: Pork bulgogi (usually served with beef, it is a spicy Korean specialty sauce), purple rice, steamed cabbage with hot pepper sauce and garlicky greens.
Day 5: The school’s version of bibimbap, a popular Korean dish (especially in Jeonju) made with rice, egg, vegetables, laver, meat and bean paste. I paired that with a sort of spicy kimchi and bean sprout soup.
None of my friends that work in other hagwons or in public schools have free lunch cooked for them daily — that I know of, anyway. It certainly pays to be the teacher at a school where students’ parents demand top-notch grub for their kiddies!