When you mention food in South Korea, you’ll get offered meat, meat and more meat. But don’t be scared if you’re a vegetarian – vegetable dishes can be found everywhere, too. These dishes are eaten as side dishes (banchan) with most meals and are a great option for vegetarian food in Korea.
First of all, vegetarian-friendly banchan would be kimchi (pickled cabbage), boiled or steamed roots, tofu, and other fermented vegetables. Might take some getting used to, but delicious!
My favourite dish
A great staple meal for vegetarians is bibimbap, a mix of rice, vegetables, and egg (optional). It has all the necessary components of a tasty, filling meal. Try it fresh, or crispy in a stone-bowl. My favourite!
Don’t forget soups!
Korean cuisine also has tons of soups and stews, most of which aren’t suitable vegetarian food ideas. The majority of broths are meat or fish based, although you’ll find those that are made with soybean paste. The most common of these is doenjangjjigae. Share it with your new Korean friends, or eat it as a full meal with a side of rice. Tasty tofu and vegetables (zucchini, wild mushrooms, onions)…how can you go wrong?
Or how about some fast food?
Most of all, Korean fast food is cheap and convenient. For a vegetarian, yachae kimbap is a tasty option. A kimbap is a seaweed and rice roll with vegetables, meat, egg, and/or cheese. Make sure to specify no meat! Along with the kimbap, order a side of ddeokbokki. This is a Korean rice cake snack in a spicy red pepper sauce. Ask for it without fish.
There’s always pizza…
For an alternative to Korean food, look no further than a pizza shop. Cheese pizzas can be found at all pizza joints (with a corn topping just because). Or grab a veggie pizza, but once again, double check for meat. Try the chain “Pizza Maru” that uses green tea dough for its pizzas.
Thank you Buddhism
Finally, the “safest” place to get true vegetarian food in Korea is to eat at a Buddhist restaurant or temple. The food is vegan, for the sake of Buddhist ritual. The meals are basically Korean dishes without meat, dairy, or eggs. And if you do a temple stay, you’ll get the food plus an amazing must-do experience in Korea!
che-shik-jui-im-ni-da I’m a vegetarian.
go-gi-an-mo-go-yo I don’t eat meat.
heh-mool-an-mo-go-yo I don’t eat seafood.
go-gi-beh-ju-seh-yo No meat, please.
heh-mool-beh-ju-seh-yo No seafood, please.
gyeh-ran-beh-ju-seh-yo No egg, please.
gyeh-ran-guen-chan-a-yo Egg is okay.