I don’t know about you fine folks, but as a kid, when I got home from school, the usual after school snack was some cookies and a glass of milk (or Dunkin’ Donuts on those extra special occasions when my dad had gone to the dentist and had picked an assorted dozen or some Munchkins on his way home — I may be the only person who positively associates dentists and donuts…)
Apparently, in Korea, however, after school food treats tend more toward kimchi fried rice with cheese and ramen with Spam. Or at least that’s what School Food, the new Korean import in Los Angeles’ Koreatown would have us believe.
School Food Blooming Roll, which is the full name for the joint, purports to specialize in the kind of food that K-pop teenagers enjoy after a long hard day of school (and from what I gather the Korean school day is long and very exhausting, so these kids have worked up an appetite.)
In addition to an assortment of ramen, topokki (soup with rice cake), and fried rice dishes, many of which are topped with cheese (the only thing that could make ramen and fried rice even yummier,) School Food offers a wide range of kimbap, Korean-style sushi rolls.
I heart kimbap, so I stuck to that.
Thinking myself conservative, I ordered two rolls, both of which, it turns out, were massive and came with free soup. One would have been enough even for a person with an enormous appetite comme moi.
A great lover of teeny, tiny fish, I went for the hot pepper and anchovy roll-
These were whole, head-on baby anchovies, the sort you pop by the handful as free banchan appetizers in Korean restaurants. A little sweet and a little chewy, the fish were matched nicely by the tang of a pickled raddish and the unctuous bite of the spicy oil sauce.
My second behemoth roll was actually a mix, called the Special Roll II, which came with three offerings – –
At the top is smelt eggs with daikon sprout. A little oily from some sort of sauce, the smelt eggs themselves had a nice pop and the daikon a good crunch, so with the toothsome nori and rice, it was a veritable textural symphony.
Next up, the Spam roll, featuring a “special School Food Sauce.” Folks, spam gets a bad rap. While the way my great aunt in North Carolina served it on a white bread sandwich with mayo and wilted lettuce may not have been fine dining (but in retrospect, perhaps delicious), what Asian and Pacific Island cultures do with the canned wonder meat is pretty fantastic. From Hawaiian style Spam musubi to Samoan Spam and eggs with rice, the salty, texturally challenged blob does wonders when paired with some spicy sauce and rice. This was no exception.
Finally, at the bottom, with the black rice – squid ink rice with teriyaki squid. To my surprise, this was my least favorite of the bunch. The squid ink rice didn’t have the subtle briny flavor that squid ink pasta often does and the teriyaki squid was too chewy and cloyingly sweet. But I did find that when I popped out the squid and replaced it with Spam, somehow the black rice sang.
Spam it turns out is the answer to everything. Or at least to Korean after school specials.