Korean food isn’t all about the meat, and we veggies shouldn’t forget that. Here are some simple tips to help you along the way:
1. It’s easier to say “Coggi anmigoyo” (I don’t eat meat) than “Chaesheek joowee imnida” (I am a vegetarian)
…and more people will understand you if you put it this way. If in addition you don’t eat fish or seafood, you will want to add these phrases to your repertoire (“sengsun anmigoyo” and “haemul anmigoyo”).
2. Make ‘baego’ requests
“Bibimbap bulgogi baego” (without the beef) is the way to go, but this will usually come with egg, so if vegan, ensure that you also request “kyeran baego” (without egg). “Kimbap ham baego” (without ham) is a delicious veggie roll snack, perfect for lunch. This is a great way to order food without going to the effort of explaining that you are a vegetarian.
3. Eat like royalty at a BBQ restaurant
The veggie tendency is to shy away from samgeopsal houses, which are a huge part of Korean food culture, but there is no need. As your friends tuck into their meaty delights, enjoy the kimchi, egg soup, tofu stew and spicy salad that come free of charge (and are usually neglected by meat-eaters). From many personal experiences of this, I can assure you that you will leave just as full as everyone else.
4. Veggie bar snacks are best
Even to non-vegetarians, bondaegi (little silk-worm larvae) are not always the most desirable of accompaniments to a fruit soju or glass of Hite. Instead, go for Kim (salty seaweed strips) dipped in soy sauce, fried courgettes or curried popcorn. Much more appetising methinks!
5. Kochujang and doenjang
…are completely vegan and utterly yummy. They are both versatile enough to be used as dipping sauces, to make stews, and to flavour side dishes. Make these your most-used flavours when cooking and eating at home.
Hopefully, this will help more vegetarians to explore and enjoy delicious K-foodstuffs. Chal mogoyo!