From Road Meals to Eating places: Why South Korea Would be the Subsequent Vegan Hotspot

While you’re selecting a trip vacation spot, there are most likely a number of belongings you’re aiming to verify off your listing. And it would go one thing like this: gorgeous surroundings, vibrant nightlife, wealthy tradition, and engaging historical past. However certainly, for many vegan vacationers, scrumptious meals is among the most essential trip must-haves. And South Korea has it in spades—in addition to the surroundings, nightlife, tradition, historical past, and … properly, you get the image, it has all of it.

While you consider Korean meals, kimchi might be one of many first issues to come back to thoughts. The spicy, pickled cabbage is standard everywhere in the world and has grow to be an emblem of the Asian nation’s delicacies. Kimchi is usually vegan (when made with out fish paste), which, regardless of the excessive charges of meat consumption within the nation, is definitely removed from uncommon for a conventional South Korean dish. Meat consumption didn’t begin to surge till after the Korean Battle, which implies that many of the nation’s dishes have vegetarian roots. And in lots of Buddhist temples, you’ll discover that plant-based delicacies continues to be the norm amongst monks and nuns (extra on that later).

However South Korea’s fashionable vegan scene is surging—notably within the capital of Seoul. In reality, Comfortable Cow truly has greater than 600 listings of vegan-friendly eating places on this one metropolis alone because of the demand by the nation’s younger individuals. In accordance with a survey carried out in 2022, South Koreans aged 18 to 29 are the group most definitely to buy vegan meals merchandise. And the Korean Vegetarian Union says about half 1,000,000 South Koreans establish as vegan, whereas 1.5 million are vegetarian or flexitarian.

To get an thought of simply how a lot plant-based delicacies is evolving, we spoke to a number of vegan journey specialists (all of whom have hung out in South Korea) to get their suggestions for meat-free eating places in Seoul, in addition to their suggestions for locating the tastiest Korean road meals. A warning for you and your financial institution stability: you’re going to need to e-book a flight instantly.

VegNews.SouthKorea.MajiRestaurant.2Maji, one in all many vegan-friendly eateries in Seoul, serves temple meals. | Korea Tourism Group

Sorts of Korean meals

Korean barbecue is a staple of the restaurant scene in most main US cities. In reality, some experiences recommend there are greater than 7,000 Korean barbecue eating places throughout the nation. However whereas barbecue is among the nation’s most-loved exports, there may be way more to South Korea than grilled meat.

When visiting, you’re sure to come back throughout rice-based dishes such because the spicy, flavor-packed bibimbap. At its core, the dish is plant-based, though eggs and meat are sometimes added (merely ask for it with out). Like many standard dishes, bibimbap is made with assorted greens, together with mung bean sprouts, spinach, and Korean radish, in addition to namul (which refers to edible grasses or leafy greens) and a savory, candy paste with a kick known as gochujang.

There are additionally noodle dishes, like japchae, which options candy potato glass noodles and could be veganized simply (simply ask for no meat), mul naengmyeon (which is a seasonal noodle dish that’s vegan when made with radish water and no beef), and jjajangmyeon. The latter encompasses a thick black bean sauce, greens, and pork, however you too can discover vegan variations in a number of eateries (trace: take a look at our restaurant suggestions beneath). 

“Jajangmyeon may not be probably the most attractive-looking meals you’ll eat when you are in South Korea, however it’s so yummy (and never spicy in case you want a break from spice),” Verena Erhart of Vegan Excursions New York says. “It additionally occurs to be Korea’s hottest supply dish, like pizza within the US. You may need even noticed it in Ok-dramas.”

Erhart additionally recommends ordering loads of banchan, that are the small, usually vegetable-centered aspect dishes provided in South Korean eating places.

However in case you’re a vegan customer, one of many first locations you ought to be heading for top-notch plant-based delicacies is a temple. “Don’t go away South Korea with out attempting temple meals,” Erhart says. “It’s a vegan’s finest pal.” 

In these peaceable locations of Buddhist worship, meat-free is the norm. You’ll discover kimchi, in fact, alongside simple, low-waste meals like tofu stew and rice soup. The meals is allium-free (so that you received’t discover elements like onions and garlic), strikingly minimalist, wholesome, sustainable, and vegan (aside from the occasional use of honey).

Donna Zeigfinger of Inexperienced Earth Journey, who visited Jingwansa, a Twelfth-century Buddhist temple in Seoul’s Bukhansan Nationwide Park, agrees that temple meals is subsequent stage relating to taste and expertise. “I liked the temple ambiance,” she says. “I actually thought that it might be bland meals and boy, was I flawed.”

VegNews.SouthKorea.TableSpreadSeoul’s vegan and vegetarian restaurant scene is constantly rising. | Korea Tourism Group

Korean road meals is vegan-friendly

On the subject of Korean delicacies, you can also’t ignore the various vary of road meals that’s all the time on provide for natives and vacationers alike. 

A big piece of South Korea’s cultural DNA for the reason that 1300s, meals stalls are half and parcel of native life. In reality, the main journey platform Tradition Journey has even described Seoul as “one massive open-air restaurant.” And in additional nice information for vegan guests, whereas the scene is undeniably meat-heavy, you’ll nonetheless discover it simple to come back by plant-based choices when you’re strolling the streets for a fast and engaging chunk—if you understand what you’re in search of. Zeigfinger recommends to start out by searching for out probably the most conventional of dishes.

“Search for gimbap (seaweed rice rolls), tteokbokki (spicy rice truffles), and japchae,” she says, that are both animal-free already, or you possibly can ask for modifications. “Don’t hesitate to ask meals distributors if they will make dishes vegan-friendly,” she provides.

Kim Giovacco, the founding father of Veg Jaunts and Journeys, additionally recommends searching for out gimbap or tteokbokki. “That is quite simple and informal meals, and I completely liked it. It felt like consolation meals to me,” she remembers. And Erhon can be an advocate of “the less complicated, the higher” motto relating to navigating the road meals scene in South Korea. Like Giovacco and Zeigfinger, she has come throughout vegan-friendly gimbap and tteakbokki, however she additionally has a number of completely different options, too. 

“Roasted chestnuts or ginko nuts are great,” she notes. “If you’re touring within the fall, you need to attempt contemporary persimmons (or purchase the dried variety, it’s a complete course of). Gamjajeon can be the Korean model of hash browns or Swiss Rösti and is a pancake that’s often simply manufactured from potato.” She provides that “another pancakes resembling bindaetteok (manufactured from mung beans) are sometimes, however not all the time, vegan (some use eggs).”

VegNews.SouthKorea.MatchaLatteCount on to take pleasure in loads of matcha inexperienced tea in South Korea. | Getty

plan a vegan journey to Korea

Most vacationers begin in Seoul after they go to South Korea, which affords vacationers the proper mix of futuristic innovation and tradition together with gorgeous temples, landscapes, and culinary delights. However don’t sleep on the remainder of this stunning nation. For contemporary historical past, head to the Korean Demilitarized Zone; for volcanic seashore resorts, Jeju Island is a should; and the port metropolis of Busan has all the pieces from shoreline to nature reserves to pure scorching springs.

To get the most effective out of your go to, take into account reserving a visit by a vegan journey agent. World Vegan Journey is seeking to run luxurious journeys to Japan and Korea in 2024 and 2025, and Vegan Excursions New York is heading to the nation in October 2024. However in case you favor to determine issues out solo, you too can head to the Go to Korea web site for recommendation and recommendations on actions, transportation, meals, lodging, and extra.

The highest 5 vegan eating places in Seoul, in accordance with journey specialists

Offering proof that Seoul is sort of the vegan hotspot, listed here are a number of the high plant-based eating places to attempt in accordance with our South Korea journey specialists. As a result of in case you are beginning off on this bustling metropolis, the most effective factor to prioritize above all once you get there’s a full stomach. And don’t overlook to say jal meokkessumnida earlier than you tuck in.

VegNews.veganrestaurantsouthkorea.ohsegyehyangOh Se-Gye-Hyang affords ‘heart-warming’ stews within the winter months. | Oh Se-Gye-Hyang

1 Oh Se-Gye-Hyang

“I actually just like the ambiance and meals at Oh Se-gye-hyang—in the course of the scorching summer season months, they provide wonderful chilly noodle dishes, and within the winter, heart-warming stews,” Erhart says. “Whereas within the midst of a buying district, you’ll really feel like you could have stepped into a conventional Korean home. You have to to take off your footwear (normally, be ready to take your footwear off usually!) and sit down on the ground to take pleasure in your meal. Western tables and chairs are additionally an choice.”
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VegNews.veganrestaurantsouthkorea.forestkitchenHead to Forest Kitchen for a style of creative, scrumptious delicacies. | Forest Kitchen

2 Forest Kitchen

“This place is aware of how one can stand out with its unbelievable service, cool vibes, and a multi-course menu,” Brighde Reed of World Vegan Journey says. “It was a feast for the senses, with every dish artistically offered and full of flavors that made us go ‘wow.’ Forest Kitchen has a approach of mixing Korean elements with unique ones like contemporary truffle and white asparagus, and the outcomes had been mind-blowing.”
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VegNews.veganrestaurantssouthkorea.plantcafePlant Cafe focuses on Western-style meals and has two areas in Seoul. | Plant Cafe

3 Plant Cafe

“If you’re beginning to really feel slightly longing for Western meals, I’d head to Plant Cafe, which has two areas in Seoul,” Erhart says. “They make superb burgers and a number of the finest vegan desserts, resembling banana cream pudding and black sesame cake.”
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VegNews Balwoo Gongyang affords a style of conventional temple meals. | Balwoo Gongyang

4 Balwoo Gongyang

“Whereas no alliums resembling onion and garlic are utilized in temple meals, this can be very flavorful and pure, and often displays what’s at the moment in season,” Erhart provides. “In Seoul, I like to recommend Balwoo Gongyang, which was as soon as awarded a Michelin star, however in case you get an opportunity to attempt temple meals at an precise temple, will probably be much more particular.”
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VegNews.SouthKorea.JinkwansaTempleFor an genuine temple meals expertise, head to Jinkwansa in Seoul. | Getty 

5 Jinkwansa Temple

Jinkwansa is technically a temple, not a restaurant, however the expertise was a standout for Zeigfinger. “We had a sampling of crispy greens, marinated tofu, mushroom fritters, fermented radishes, chestnut stew, and candy sticky rice squares sprinkled with fruit and nuts. However I liked the customs of the best way it was served,” she remembers. “The whole lot is grown proper on the temple, and it’s all natural. However I believe probably the most memorable factor was the temple and its environment.”
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Thanks to the Korea Tourism Group for partnering with VegNews on this story.

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