What comes to your mind when you think of “dosirak”? Dosirak is a Korean word for packed lunch that people carry from home. In Korea, it has existed for a long time in many different shapes. Therefore, it means a lot to each person. Our parents may think of the memories of their childhood when they waited for lunch time, putting their dosiraks on a rusty heater at school. Your friends may think of their mothers’ love, a lovely gift for someone, or just a simple lunch during a busy day. What does it mean to you? Let's talk about dosirak.
● Show Me the History of Dosirak!
In Korea, dosirak has a long history and has changed a lot. In the Joseon Dynasty, when the masters worked outside the home, such as in the government office or at the royal court, the servants carried lunch with a small table on their heads for their masters. As time passed, people's lifestyles changed and they had more opportunity to have lunch outside the home. Therefore, they started to carry their lunch and snacks in chanhap, which is a Korean layered lunch box. This lunch box changed to become simpler and it became dosirak. At first, they wove osier and a strip of bamboo into a dosirak. In addition, they used a thin strip of wood to make it. In the early 1900's, the mass production of aluminum dosirak stared. Around that time, students who studied at school until late carried two aluminum dosiraks for lunch and dinner. They put their dosiraks on the heaters during the class and shared their lunch together. As technology developed, plastic dosiraks and a lunchbox which keeps food warm for a long time also developed.
In the past, dosiraks were for students and workers who had to eat lunch outside. These days, however, students eat school lunch and workers usually eat out. Therefore, it is on the decline to bring dosiraks from home.
● What Does Dosirak Mean to You?
Nowadays, dosirak is considered a symbol of memory. In the past, almost every student brought dosirak from home. Rich students could bring fried egg, sausages, and meat. However, most students usually brought beans cooked in soy sauce, stir-fried anchovies, or only kimchi. They used to study hard, play around, and have dosirak together. They shared their dosirak together no matter what the side dishes were. What a wonderful memory it is! Therefore, many BBQ restaurants and pubs have side dishes named “old style dosirak,” or “dosirak of memory.” The case is made of aluminum and it usually has fried egg, sausages, kimchi, sesame oil, and so on. People hold it tightly and shake to mix all ingredients well before eating. Furthermore, dosirak also can stand for a fast and simple meal. Many busy men in modern life buy dosiraks when they want to have inexpensive and fast meals. Therefore, the dosiraks in convenience stores and dosirak franchised restaurants are increasing nowadays. There are various kinds of dosiraks, so there are a lot of choices. Someone may choose familiar menu items and some may choose new menu items that they have not eaten before. Sometimes, some people may choose the most expensive dosirak as a present for themselves. People can fill up their stomachs quickly and cheaply with dosirak on busy days.
● Special Dosirak Makes People Feel Special!
Since people do not eat dosirak at school or in the workplace, it is considered a special menu for picnics. Mothers woke up early in the morning and made dosirak for their children. They usually made rice and side dishes, fried rice, gimbap, yubu chobap (fried tofu rice balls), and so on. However, various shapes of dosiraks are appearing nowadays. For example, some foods which were considered unusual food before, such as hawaiian spam musubi, tortilla roll-ups, and ssambap (rice wrapped in leaf) are prevalent these days. Moreover, unique dosirak with the shapes of famous animations’ characters are also very popular. They are usually decorated with egg, sausage, laver, and so on. These not only taste good but also look pretty. Special dosirak makes people feel like a special person. That may be why it is getting more popular these days.
The reason why people keep recalling dosirak is not because the taste was special, but because they miss the memory of the days. It is May, and spring is finally here. Why don't you make a special memory, going on a picnic with people you love? If you bring your special dosirak, the happiness will increase more.