Opinions vary wildly about how easy it is to be vegan in South -Korea. Korean cuisine is often meat-based. Having a meal with colleagues or friends might turn out to be a problem when your company is not aware that you are vegan.
In general, Korean restaurants might offer some, but not a huge variety of vegan foods since they tend to specialize in certain types of dishes making it hard to find suitable vegan options. So, if you are looking to eat vegan in a local mainstream restaurant, make sure to choose carefully a restaurant where some vegan options will be available. Best to inform your friends or colleagues about your dietary requirements in advance. Koreans respect the food preferences of foreigners and like to make sure they can eat the food offered. So express your needs both for you and for them so they don’t feel that they have disappointed you.
Assume that all soups, even vegetarian-labeled ones use meat in their broths. Kimchi, the national pickle dish will have fish sauce in it and that noodle dishes might be strewn with meat flakes or seafood. Even tofu dishes can be served with meat or fish. Surprise!
How to avoid it? Choose rice and cooked vegetables and pile up on the side dishes like the root salads, pickled cucumber, steamed greens in sesame sauce and other delicacies called banchan (the mezze-like side salads of Korea). Asking your waiter may be tricky since not many Koreans over 40 will speak English. Use our VEGAN WORDS page to make sure you are understood.
As in many other countries in Asia, the Buddhist temples’ food is vegan and exquisite. This is where you want to go to experience real Korean vegan food, as opposed to the fusion cuisine you can find in larger cities’ vegan restaurants. Eateries in the neighborhood of a temple are often vegan to suit the disciples visiting the temples.
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