Korean cuisine has a large presence of vegetables, soups, rice and animal protein. Have you heard of Korean barbecue or fried chicken? They are very famous! Usually at the Korean table you will find a main dish surrounded by many accompaniments known as banchan, these include different appetizers that can be sautéed or pickled vegetables such as kimchi, but also others such as shrimp, dried fish, omelette, and others. Finally, rice and soups or stews cannot be missing.
There has been a boom in plant-based eating in recent years, so more options can be found even at popular places like Starbucks or convenience stores like CU and GS25 that are everywhere. Veganism is relatively new and more advanced in big cities like Seoul, however in smaller places it may still be quite an unknown concept. According to the Korea Vegetarian and Vegan Association, the vegetarian population in the country has increased tenfold, from 150,000 in 2008 to 1.5 million in 2018.
How to Veganize Korean Dishes
Veganizing some Korean dishes is very easy by simply asking to remove animal-derived ingredients. Another option is to try temple food, similar to that, in Japan, it is vegan and you can even have a Temple Stay experience and connect with nature for a few days while enjoying vegan Buddhist food.
This section can help you if you are somewhere where there may not be restaurants with vegan options and it is easier to find Korean food. Learn which dishes are easy to make vegan in Korea with a few small changes, and which foods are best to avoid.
What it consists of: Rice, sautéed vegetables, meat usually, but they can also add seafood or derivatives, fried egg and gochujang sauce.
How to make it vegan: Ask for it with just rice, vegetables, and gochujang sauce. No eggs, no meat or shellfish etc. to contain.
What it consists of: Similar to sushi, but the fillings usually include: mushrooms, spinach, julienned carrots, burdock root, and animal ingredients such as sautéed meat, fake crab, sausage, tuna, SPAM ham, or omelet. The rice is seasoned with sesame oil and everything is rolled in a sheet of nori seaweed. It is ideal to take as a snack and eat on the go.
How to make it vegan: Order it only stuffed with vegetables, it usually comes with danmuji (단무지) pickled turnip which is also vegan. Order it as Yachae Kimbap (야채김밥) but without the egg.
What it consists of: It is a type of breaded fry. Jeon can be made with ingredients such as fish, meat, poultry, shellfish, and vegetables, which are coated in wheat flour and beaten egg before being fried in oil.
How to make it vegan: Ask if you can omit the egg and ask for vegetable jeon. In the case of Pajeon, ask if they use eggs or shellfish and if it can be omitted.