Packed lunches might seem like an ordinary concept. But much like Japan’s bento boxes, lunch boxes in Korea can be a much more exciting delve into the country’s cuisine than the UK’s sandwiches and packets of crisps.
Dosirak is the name given to Korean lunchboxes, filled with various side dishes called banchan and rice. The actual boxes are referred to as dosirak-tong – dosirak cases. With these boxes comes a lot of variety. Many different combinations of side dishes, even variants with soup are frequently found. These sometimes place the soup on a separate tier in the box, insulated to keep it warm and away from the other components.
Anything can be added, but most commonly dosirak will consist of a few meat dishes, some vegetable dishes, kimchi and rice. This also means that they can be personalized if they are made at home. Many convenience stores will sell premade dosirak too as a quick lunch to pick up on the go. This also makes them popular at train stations and the like, as they’re perfect for long journeys.
The more traditional lunch boxes, or yennal-dosirak, will usually have sausages, stir-fried kimchi, fried eggs and shredded seaweed along with the rice, all packed into a rectangular metal tin that might be familiar a sight! These containers have lids so that the rice and other ingredients can be shaken up on the go, effectively making bibimbap.
These days, the more variants, the better! Different types of jeon, ranging from seafood to kimchi, are frequently used, along with braised lotus roots, fried gochujang, pickled broccoli, rice cakes and even omurice and spam. Gimbap dosirak is also a favourite at picnics. There are so many combinations that each lunch box can give a really good insight into the wide variety of banchan in Korean cooking.
For a look at the more traditional style of dosirak, Mina Oh from SweetandTastyTV visits a dosirak cafe in Seoul for an episode of her KWOW series. Check it out below and see what dishes you’d choose to make your own perfect dosirak!