Veg*an in Korea

No meat in sight!

Anyone who's spent any time here is familiar with Korea's seemingly endless varieties of meat cuisine.  Kalbi, Bulgogi, Samgyeopsal, Makchang, Bosintang, Chobap, Sannakji, Spam.  Land-based, sea-based, air-based, dirt-based, can-based.  Ribs, spines, wings, drumsticks, fat, intestines, organs, wombs, whole.   Grilled, stir-fried, steamed, battered, skewered, marinated, raw, still squirming.  On a mountain, on the street, on the floor, on a stick, in a chair, in a tube, in a paper cup, at a buffet.  Innumerable animals, along with most of their parts, prepared in various ways, eaten in various settings requiring diverse prepositions - that's meat in Korea for you.  Avoiding it may seem like an impossible task.  There's good news, though: going (or staying) vegetarian is easier than you think. 

Actually, Korean cuisine is one of the healthiest and most vegetable-packed you'll find.  Almost every meal comes with somewhere between two and twenty side dishes, many of them made of raw, pickled, or quickly steamed vegetables.  In addition to different kinds of Kimchi, peppers, and leafy greens, hearty sides of beans, nuts, mushrooms, tofu, soup, pancakes, eggs, and potatoes are common and, along with a bowl of rice, easily add up to a complete meal. 

As with anywhere else in the world, those looking to maintain a strict vegan diet will have a tougher time, since most soup stocks use a few anchovies or animal bones for flavor, and most pickled foods use a bit of anchovy or shrimp paste.  Aside from that, though, avoiding eggs, butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese doesn't pose much of a problem. 

While not every restaurant serves up such a bountiful selection as the monk-operated 산촌 (pictured above), there are lots of places that serve primarily vegetarian food or specialize in a particular vegetarian dish.  Other restaurants - even ones that primarily serve grilled meat - generally have at least one vegetarian-friendly item on the menu, and those that don't are usually happy to leave out the egg or clam if you ask politely. 

So, whether you're in Korea and considering vegetarianism, or you're a vegetarian considering a move to Korea, or you're already a vegetarian and already in Korea and are just looking to expand your culinary horizons a bit, please have a look at the information below and around the rest of the site.  And, if you've got the time and are so inclined, please contribute!

Here are some pages I'm planning on putting together:

- Profiles of our favorite vegetarian dishes, with pictures and information regarding ingredients, nutrition, prices, and availability. These could be about mains, sides, or even just a particular ingredient.

- Our own recipes; how to cook vegetarian meals using local ingredients.  How to make do without other ones.  Any special local stuff you didn't know of before that's now become one of your kitchen staples?

- Where to go shopping? 

- List of useful phrases

- Other social and logistical tips

- Anything you'd like to request or post yourself.