Dosirak are Korean-style lunch boxes filled with soft and fluffy rice, tender meat and mouth-watering kimchi that will fill you up. The fragrant rice is usually called bap, and the side dishes are known as banchan. This popular meal has become popular worldwide thanks to Korean shows and movies.
These traditional Korean lunch boxes can be made with various dishes. However, it usually includes rice, side dishes, and a type of protein as the main. A Korean bento box is the perfect packed lunch to keep you going throughout the day.
Our simple dosirak recipe will make a delicious and nutritious meal in less than 30 minutes. Moreover, you can get creative with different Korean lunch box ideas and develop some fun twists.
Due to its versatility, our recipe is ideal for meat eaters, vegetarians and pescetarians. So get ready to unlock the antidote to all your Korean packed lunch cravings.
What is dosirak?
In its simplest form, dosirak is a Korean lunchbox filled with rice and various side dishes, like kimchi, bean sprouts, dried seaweed, and sausage. Finally, it is topped with a fried egg.
South Koreans call this lunchbox and the foods in the box dosirak. Our recipe will show you how to make the easy classic dosirak using spam, fried egg, and kimchi.
South Korean workers and students will often pack these on-the-go meals and take them to work, school, or even a picnic. Additionally, many grocery stores, train stations and convenience stores will sell their version.
Koreans will usually use a thermo steel box or plastic rectangle-shaped box to make this traditional Korean lunch box.
Most people will arrange the dishes in separate compartments within the box, each dish with its own taste and texture. Sometimes, mothers will prepare this meal in a stacked bento box to keep the contents separate and warm.
The rice will be in one compartment, followed by meat and vegetables in another. However, unless the container is divided into divisions, most Koreans will shake the container before eating to ensure all ingredients are blended into one delightful meal.
Dosirak vs bibimbap
The main difference between these two iconic dishes is that they use different ingredients. Traditional Korean lunch boxes are cooked with only a few essential elements and come with side dishes packed neatly in a metal box. As a result, it is easy to carry when you are on the go.
On the other hand, bibimbap is a mixed rice dish that features a larger variety of veggies. For example, some common veggies used are shitake mushrooms, carrots, leafy greens and bean sprouts. Then, the rice is covered in a spicy gochujang-based sauce. However, like Korean packed lunches, it is often mixed and is also served with a fried egg and some protein.
The components in every dosirak recipe vary by household. But, it will usually have two to four ingredients, with rice and protein being its main base. For our classic recipe, you will need the following:
There are endless protein choices to choose from when making this dosirak recipe. For our recipe, we will be using spam. Besides spam, you can also use tuna, bulgogi beef and Boon Hong (pink) sausage.
A popular and healthy alternative to spam is anchovies. Anchovies are cheap, yet they are high in nutrients. These small fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of protein. The anchovies taste fantastic when stir-fried with other ingredients and sauces.
Alternatively, spicy tofu is an excellent option for a plant-based Korean lunch box idea. Incorporating this incredibly versatile ingredient is a great way to add flavour, texture and heat to your meal. You can make it as hot and spicy as you like by adding chilli peppers. Plus, it's a great source of protein and other nutrients such as iron and calcium.
Kimchi is essential to Korean food culture and society. Most dosirak recipes will use kimchi prepared from Napa cabbage. However, you can also swap out traditional kimchi for seasonal pickled vegetables like cucumber kimchi or Korean cucumber salad for hotter days, green onion kimchi during spring, as well as gat kimchi (wild mustard leaf).
Furthermore, if you want to go the extra mile, pickle some perilla leaves to make Kkaennip Jangajji. This traditional side dish is sweet and salty. The leaves will give your food a distinct aroma and flavour.
Additionally, we suggest that you throw in some pickled mu. Its tangy taste perfectly complements the spam and egg flavours in this Korean bento box. If you cannot access Korean pickles, you can substitute them with other pickled vegetables like sauerkraut or any canned pickles of your choice.
Seaweed adds a unique flavour and crunch to the dish. It also provides abundant vitamins and minerals. Dried seaweed is best for this dosirak recipe. There are a plethora of seaweed varieties available on the market. But, the main popular seaweed types often used for dosirak are wakame, kombu, and hijiki.
Wakame is a sweet, nutty-flavoured seaweed with a thin, tender texture. Hijiki is a light, black seaweed with a salty, earthy flavour. It adds great texture to the dish and is a nice flavour contrast to the other ingredients. Meanwhile, the kombu variety has a salty, umami and mushroomy flavour. However, for this dosirak recipe, we will be using nori sheets. Nori seaweed is perfect because it has a smooth, thin texture and a mild flavour.
We recommend using short-grain white rice for your Korean-packed lunch for the best results. The sticky texture of this rice makes it perfect for absorbing all of the flavours from the other ingredients in your dish.
Mix in some chilli paste or hot pepper flakes to make spicy dosirak rice for a fiery twist on the traditional meal. You can also add some sesame oil for an extra layer of flavour.
Korean lunch box variations
As our recipe is quite versatile and customisable, you will probably come across a few different Korean lunch box ideas. However, there seem to be two main structural variations; Yennal and Kimbap.
Yennal dosirak consists of cooked rice, pan-fried sausages, fried eggs, stir-fried kimchi, and shredded seaweed. Most people will prepare this meal in a tin plate container with a single compartment and will shake it before eating to blend the components.
Kimbap dosirak refers to "packed kimbap" or seaweed rolls. They are frequently used to entertain guests or family members at picnics, given their aesthetic appearance. You can even get quite creative with them and make flower kimbap.
Unlike the traditional rice in most dosirak recipes, the kimbap recipe uses sesame oil to season the rice in these seaweed rolls.
How to make dosirak
Here are the straightforward steps to make our fail-proof dosirak recipe!
- First, ensure you have soaked the rice in cold water for a few hours before cooking. After cooking, use a fork to fluff up the cooked rice to prevent it from clumping.
- Then, scoop and place the cooked rice in the middle of the container using a rice paddle. By placing the rice in the middle, the rice will mix better with the other side dishes. We recommend using a metal lunchbox container to keep the food warm for longer.
- Next, you must prepare the protein (in our case, spam). Dip sliced pieces of spam into some whisked egg and lightly fry them. Ensure that you don't over-brown it. After, arrange the protein on one side of the lunchbox. The egg coating aids in retaining the meat's juices, keeping it moist for lunch. Additionally, it also gives an extra crunch and is tasty! However, simply cook your meat if you have an egg allergy.
- Afterwards, cook your kimchi and some onion in a thin layer of vegetable oil in a skillet. Lightly saute until the items are tender, and the juices have dried up. Add the cooked kimchi to the other side of the box.
- Top your rice with a fried egg to complete this dosirak recipe. How you prepare your fried egg is up to you. If you like your rice glazed with a soft runny egg, lightly sauté it in a nonstick pan over low heat. Alternatively, you can cook the egg over medium heat if you don't want to cover the rice with the soft yolk.
- Finally, as a finishing touch, crumble up a sheet of nori seaweed and place it on top of the kimchi. You can also sprinkle some sesame seeds to give your Korean packed lunch a more nutty flavour.
Storage and making in advance
If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days in the fridge. However, we suggest eating it as soon as possible before the veggies and side dishes lose their flavour and texture.
Wait until everything is at room temperature before storing securely. Furthermore, you can make most of this lunchbox's components in advance. Ensure they are stored correctly in airtight containers and left in the fridge until use.
How to enjoy Korean lunch box
One of the best ways to enjoy this Korean bento box is to use a metal spoon to separate the items. Then, cover the lid and shake the container vigorously. By shaking the dosirak, the ingredients mix, resulting in the individual taste of the food flavouring the rice. Pair it up with cold Korean strawberry milk for a delectable meal.
Why not go on a delightful picnic with your loved ones? Impress your friends with a kimbap-style packed lunch and other delicious foods like an Inkigayo sandwich, spring rolls, and a drink alongside your cute Korean lunch box. Couples could also bring a Korean lunchbox cake for a sweet touch to a picnic date.
If you want to add a boozy twist to your meal, pair it with a bottle of soju. It is a great way to bring out the flavours of your meal and is an easy and affordable Korean lunch box idea to add some extra fun to your experience. Plus, since soju is relatively low in alcohol content, it makes for a great pairing with your afternoon meal.
Alternatively, pair this with some makgeolli and samgyeopsal for a whole K-meal experience! Makgeolli is a refreshing and slightly sweet traditional Korean rice wine. Whatever you choose, adding a bit of alcohol and Korean barbecue can be a great way to enjoy this cute Korean lunch box.
Dosirak (Korean Lunch Box) Recipe
- Use a fork to fluff up the cooked rice. Then scoop and place the cooked rice in the middle of your lunchbox.
- Beat one egg in a bowl. Heat a skillet on medium heat and lightly brush it with oil. Dip each slice of the spam into the whisked egg and fry each side for a few minutes or until golden brown. Place the cooked spam on the right side of your lunch box.
- In the same pan, add more oil and set over medium-high heat. Sauté the chopped onions until they are colourless and tender. Then mix in the chopped kimchi. Cook until the kimchi juices have entirely evaporated. Once cooked, place the kimchi on the left side of your dosirak lunch box.
- Next, fry your egg sunny side up or over easy, depending on your preference. Place the cooked egg in the centre of the rice.
- Then, break up a piece of roasted seaweed or nori and sprinkle it on top of your kimchi. You can top the kimchi and fried egg off with a sprinkle of sesame seeds as a garnish.
- To serve, close the lid and shake the lunchbox to mix everything together. Alternatively, pack up your cute Korean lunch box to enjoy for later.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
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