Packed meals, or lunch boxes, known in South Korea as Dosirak, have a long history here. From the early kimbap meals that I had as a child to the fancier ones of today, these dosirak have been served on tours and school trips for a long time.
One of the more famous packed meal companies in Korea is Hansot. Started in 1993, they now boast over 700 locations around the country.
In university, when I was in Seoul, I really liked going to Hansot because you could get a meal with many flavors for a really low price.
These days, Hansot is still around. Many of the food items are the same, but they are expanding their menu range to include many pricier packed meals. They have also begun to renovate many of their locations. In the early days it was very much a “plastic” store, very similar to 1990s McDonalds. These days however they have been making it look more natural, including more wood and plants.
Recently, a Hansot location opened in my neighborhood, so I decided to pick up a couple of packed meals to capture a little bit of childhood nostalgia.
The store looked a little different than in the past from the outside, and inside was even more different.
There were a small number of tables for sitting.
Some items you could buy a la carte.
And even a wall of ferns!
Hansot has also gone self-ordering, and after taking a few minutes to figure out what exactly I was trying to order, I decided to get two packed meals. The first one was the Meat Meat, and the other was the Sweet and Sour Pork Young Master Meat Meat. While the names may seem a little unusual, I was really hoping that they would be tasty!
While waiting for my meals, I looked at the menu on the wall, and very surprised that they now have packed meals that cost almost $10. In the early days the most expensive one was around $5, so Hansot is really emphasizing a more premium image these days.
After arriving home, I unpacked my two packed meals. The first one I tried was the Meat Meat meal.
The Meat Meat meal came with some bulgogi and spiced bulgogi (with gochujang) as well as rice, kimchi, seaweed, and some cabbage salad.
The two different meats, while both being pork, were quite tasty. The regular bulgogi was very sweet, and the meat was tender.
The spiced bulgogi was also tasty and made for a nice contrast, as it was not too sweet or spicy.
The second packed meal was the Sweet and Sour Pork Young Master Meat Meat. I’m not sure about the reason for the Young Master in the title, but the Sweet and Sour Pork is a bit of a mislabeling.
While this set does have the same meat we would get from this type of dish at a Chinese restaurant here in Korea, the sauce that Hansot includes with the set is a chili sauce, not a sweet and sour sauce.
In any case, this Sweet and Sour Pork Young Master Meat Meat meal has FOUR different types of meat. There are the same types of bulgogi as the Meat Meat meal, and also some pork cutlet pieces and the breaded and fried pork that comes from the name.
The meal also comes with pickled radish, rice and kimchi.
As the only real difference between the two was the battered and fried meats, it felt very similar to the first meal. The pork cutlet pieces were easily my favorite out of everything that I had. The pork cutlet had ample meat, and the coating was soft and flaky, not crunchy. It was also nicely seasoned.
The sweet and sour pork meat was not overly special, as it was a bit overcooked and didn’t have a lot of pork in it.
The chili sauce was tasty and added a nice level of heat that was also different in flavor to the kimchi and the spiced bulgogi.
By the time I was done eating, I was quite full and was overall happy with the two packed lunches. The only real disappointing part was the sweet and sour pork meat, but I think you can definitely enjoy some food from Hansot in South Korea.