The rice cake typically used in tteokbukki are tubular and cylindrical, but School Food serves their version in a shape more similar to marshmallows, tater tots or fun size Snickers bars. It's as if the restaurant purposely cut the size of the rice cake down so that elementary school children would enjoy their lunches more. Who doesn't like miniature versions of everyday food?
The flavor profile is not just spicy but a melange of sweet and spicy together. The thick, crimson sauce from the first taste of the tteok is sweet, but the peppery spice penetrates the taste buds soon after. This wasn't the spiciest tteokbukki I've ever had, but it was pretty damn close to it. We all know that gulp after gulp of water doesn't help, but I think that the spiciness led to a bit of temporary insanity because that's all I did to relieve the pain of the spice. It wasn't until I munched on the kimbap and the accompanying sweet mayonnaise that my tongue calmed down and my ears stopped ringing.
Our massive platter included the following types of rice rolls: beef, garlic and bacon, anchovies, squid and squid ink, smelt roe, Spam, tuna, spicy anchovies, and kimchi. And just like the tteok, the kimbap were bite sized too. Korean style rice rolls are usually bigger than Japanese style sushi, so it takes more than one bite (depending on the size of your nom) to munch on the entire thing. Luckily, these itty bitty kimbap were junior sized, which meant that popping a rice roll into your mouth didn't require much effort. Hmm... is this the lesson we want to be teaching in schools?
My favorite kimbap were the ones that had tuna, Spam, and squid ink wrapped inside. The tuna and Spam weren't anything out of the ordinary, but the saltiness of canned tuna and canned lunch meat really complemented the neutral flavor of the white rice well. Japanese sushi relies heavily on the freshest raw fish to taste good, and since Korean kimbap focuses on ingredients other than raw fish, I found that the stronger the flavor, the more I ended up liking the kimbap.
The squid ink kimbap, on the other hand, didn't quite have a strong flavor. In fact, the squid was subtly sweet, and the flavor of its ink didn't really shine. We all liked it just because the rice was black, and it seemed almost like a novelty food item. It was unique, and we have the evolutionary bodily function of a certain cephalopod to thank for it.
After seeing the dishes, I could really imagine Korean school children carrying the fun size versions of tteokbukki and kimbap to class. The food wasn't amazing delicious, but it was definitely fun to eat. It was almost like revisiting the school cafeteria to have some of those nostalgic chicken nuggets, fish sticks... or for those of us from AUSD... crispitos! By the way, where can we find crispitos? Simply reminiscing about those school lunches from the good ol' days isn't going to cut it for me. I'm going to need to munch on some real crispitos real soon. But until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.
ML - 20120225