A growing number of Korean restaurants offer non-meat dishes for health-conscious vegetarians, including temple foods, vegetarian buffets, imitation meat with soy protein, and vegetarian Chinese food.
/ Courtesy of The Korea Tourism Organization
By Michael Ha
Barbeque dishes like bulgogi and galbi are perhaps two of the best-known Korean foods around the world. But in Korea, there are also numerous offerings of non-meat dishes for health-conscious vegetarians. Here are a few of the leading vegetarian restaurants in Seoul that are definitely worth a visit:
Temple Foods in Modern Setting
``Chaegeundam" is one of the best places to enjoy vegetarian meals usually offered at Buddhist temples. The restaurant, located near Samseong Station, is run by top Korean chefs who also manage a restaurant specializing in traditional palace foods, according to the Korea Tourism Organization. The restaurant offers a vegetarian full-course meal and temple foods using organic vegetables. Visit www.chaegundaam.com for further details.
Another place worth a visit is ``Country Life Health Cafeteria.'' This restaurant offers more than 30 different vegetarian dishes and fresh vegetable wraps. Included on the menu are steamed brown rice, seaweed soup, potato pie, bean and brown rice cakes, pumpkin soup, corn bread, whole wheat bread, and salads. It's located in Seoul (Subway Line 3, Sinsa Station).
A 40-Dish Non-meat Buffet
The SM Vegetarian buffet, first opened in 1996, offers a wide-ranging selection of vegetarian dishes. Meat substitutes, such as wheat or beans and vegetarian ham are especially popular with newly turned vegetarians who recently enjoyed meat. Check www.smvege.co.kr for more information.
Another great vegetarian buffet restaurant is Hangwachae. It offers a vegetarian buffet with fresh organic vegetable dishes. Soup, rice, and Korean pancakes are offered as the basic menu at the restaurant and are also included in the buffet. The rice served is made with 20 different Asian herbs, while the buffet menu offers some 30 different dishes.
To substitute meat protein, the restaurant uses homemade tofu, and nut jellies. One of Hangwachae's most famous dishes, according to the Korea Tourism Organization, is the green salad served with ``cheonggukjang" thick soybean paste.
Even Kimchi is prepared specifically for vegetarians. Generally, Koreans add pickled salted fish to the spicy side dish to enhance the flavor.
At this restaurant, though, chefs have come up with an inventive alternative: Kimchi flavored with fruits and fruit sauce. The restaurant, one of the top picks of the Korea Tourism Organization, is located in Jonggak, in central Seoul. (Subway Line No.1 Jonggak Station. )
For Vegetarians ``Sosim"
The restaurant offers traditional Korean foods using only vegetables. Traditional dishes including ``jeon," or Korean pancakes, are prepared without the original ingredient of eggs, but are instead prepared with gardenia seeds.
The main course offers 16 different side dishes, soup, and rice, with the soups made with perilla seeds. A single dish of vegetable ``bibimbap,'' a rice bowl with assorted ingredients mixed in, is also available. (Subway Line No.3 Anguk)
Non-meat Chinese Foods
For those who love Chinese food but want to stick to their vegetarian diet, Shindongyang Chinese Restaurant in Yeoido, Seoul, offers Korea-Chinese cuisines without seafood or meat.
The restaurant has large dining halls, and offers a separate vegetarian course meal. The place has a long history: it has been operated by three generations of Chinese emigrants. The restaurant serves mainly Peking cuisines, with additional cuisines from Szechuan province and Taiwan.
The restaurant offers single-serve vegetarian dishes as well as a vegetarian course.
The vegetarian dishes use ingredients including asparagus, mushrooms, green peppers as well as tofu and processed soy prepared in the traditional Chinese fashion. (Yeoido, Seoul, Subway Line No.5)