Today I was at a middle school out in the countryside. Every second Wednesday this school serves a decidedly average bi bim bap. It's okay, but compared to a good bi bim bap it's pretty lousy. This was the off week which means things get far worse. Where other schools have varied their offerings (within a narrow range) over the time I've been here, this school serves bi bim bap one week and something they should be embarrassed to call "curry" the next.
Here's a photo of today's lunch:
|See that thing on the bottom left that looks like someone burnt a very specific part of my portion of rice? That's curry. apparently.|
I can't quite bring myself to describe the "curry" yet, so let's start at the top left and work our way around. First is kimchi, back with a vengeance after yesterday's mysterious absence. The kimchi here is actually pretty good; it's only moderately spicy and somewhere between fresh and mature so it's not too overpowering. Maybe being dropped from the team gave kimchi the wake-up call it neede to sort it's life out and stop being so gross.
Next is a mixture of broccoli and a weird chewy Korean mushroom served with a vinegary red pepper sauce. As expected the broccoli is overcooked, but it's still nice to see a green vegetable that hasn't been completely mangled. The mushrooms aren't great, but I can't really blame the lunch ladies for that. They're a variety I've only seen here and they need to be cooked for a long time or they're impossibly tough. Unfortunatley once the toughness is cooked out the flavour is long gone. The whole thing is picked up by the sauce, which is spicy and tangy, and also good with squid or octopus.
Before you ask, yes the next thing is a banana. Just a regular banana. I never thought I'd be so excited about a fruit I don't even really like, but school food will do that to you I suppose. To be fair this school did once serve mandarins, so this is not entirely unprecedented.
On the bottom right is a bowl of egg soup. This sounds - and indeed looks - revolting.
Those floating things that look like they fell off the arm of someone with some sort of horrible sin disease are actually tofu. The general murkiness is egg. The egg is swirled through the soup as it cooks. I'm not sure how else to describe that. Maybe I'm just bad at describing stuff. But my school is bad at making lunch, so I guess we're even. This abomination is boiled in seawater for several weeks and served lukewarm. It says something about the "curry" that it's worse than this "soup".
Much worse. Take a close look at this stuff.
It looks like someone drank a bunch of petrol, ate a bag of frozen mixed veges, and threw up on a bed of rice. It tastes slightly worse than this. The lumpy bits I think were once potato, but could equally be made of rice, soy beans or just about anything else. They give the dish its distinctive flavour, which is a bit like a turd rolled in dirt. The sauce has the texture of paste and absolutely no flavour to speak of. There's also a browner version of this thing, which is the same except that it looks and tastes browner.
I'm back at my main school for the next two days. I'm not sure what they'll be serving, but they'll have to try pretty hard to beat today for sheer revulsion.
Here's today's Random Korean Insanity, two flavours of ice cream:
|Almond in Snow|
|Red Carpet Cheesecake|
I'm allergic to snow so I couldn't try the first one, but the Red Carpet Cheesecake was surprisingly good.