If you think finding vegetarian food to eat will be difficult in Korea, then you are right! It is definitely not a walk in the park, especially when you first arrive here. However, after adjusting to the surroundings for a couple of weeks, you will be able to find many great places to eat around campus and Seoul.
First and foremost, there are a couple compromises that vegetarian students will need to make when they arrive to campus:
- Do not be picky about cross-contamination. Koreans will use the same gloves, knives, grills, deep frier, etc. for meat and non-meat dishes. Just let it go.
- Expect to spend more on your meals than your non-vegetarian peers.
- Be motivated to go out and eat. You will rarely find suitable meals in the dormitory cafeteria.
- Were you looking forward to eating kimchi? Most kimchi contains seafood, so you may not be able to.
- Last but definitely not least, learn some important Korean phrases to help you get the food you are looking for. This means you should not only know how to ask if something contains meat, but you should also be able to understand the answer you receive.
In order to help you get started, here are some helpful phrases you can use in order to inquire whether a food item contains any meat or fish:
저는 채식 주의자 입니다. Cho-neun chae-shik ju-ee-ja im-ni-da (I am vegetarian).
고기 안먹어요 Ko-gi an-mu-geo-yo (I do not eat meat).
해산물 도 안먹어요 Hae-san-mul dho an-mu-geo-yo (I also do not eat seafood).
이걸 제가 먹을 수 있어요? Ee-go jae-ga mu-geol su-ee-seo-yo? (Is this food suitable for me to eat?)
*For more helpful phrases, check out MUSLIM & VEGETARIAN GUIDE
Keep in mind, seafood eaters are considered vegetarian in Korea. If you do not eat seafood you need to emphasize this, otherwise you may end up ordering a meal that contains seafood despite asking for a vegetarian dish.
Now that we have the basics down, let’s go over some of the dining options you have near and around campus. The list includes a variety of cheap, middle-range, and expensive dining options. Keep in mind, with some of these dishes you need to specifically ask for the dish to be made vegetarian. Be prepared to say you do not eat meat every time you order food.
Vegetarian Options From Restaurants Near Campus
McDonalds: French fries, cheese sticks, waffle fries, Jeju tangerine salad
Address: Front Gate (in front of R&D center)
Subway: Veggie delite sandwich, cheese and egg breakfast sandwich, veggie delite salad
Address: 195-19 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Pizza School: Cheese pizza, sweet potato pizza, irish potato pizza, vegetable quesadilla pizza, garlic potato fries
Address: 10 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Pomato: Yachae kimbap, yachae bibimbap, gyeran bokumbap (egg fried rice)
Address: 223-6 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
To Go Salad: Green salad, ricotta cheese salad, mozzarella cheese salad
Address: 190-49 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
BHC: Cheese fries
Address: Address: 195-19 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Bonjuk (본죽): Pumpkin congee, nuts congee, veggie congee
Address: 190-51 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Dos Tacos: Refried bean burrito, potato burrito, vegetable burrito, fried vegetable burrito, cheese quesadilla, chips and salsa, cheese and salsa nacho, potato fries, avacado chimichanga, original salad ensalada, rucola salad ensalada
Address: 190-34 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
Curry Ya: Dal makhani, mix vegetable masala, paneer makhani, palak paneer, shahi paneer, vegetable curry pasta, aloo paratha, paneer paratha, nuts honey paratha, salad cream pratha, assortment of naans (plain, garlic, butter, honey, cheese, palak, sesame)
Address: 189-4 Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul
For those days when you have the time and energy to leave Heukseok in search of your meal, the following places are some of the top tried-and-tested places to go:
- Ose Gye Hyang in Insadong (Completely veganized Korean menu. They sell vegan snacks and ramen as well.)
- Han Gwa Chae in Insadong (Vegetarian Korean food buffet.)
- Huggers in Hannam Dong (Western vegan food menu.)
- Jyoti Restaurant in Sinchon (Vegetarian Indian food options.)
Students also have the option of buying groceries and ready-made meals from nearby stores and marts. The two marts closest to CAU are emart and the underground Hanaro mart near the CAU hospital. Most marts will include reasonably priced cereal, milk, dairy-free beverages, energy bars, instant rice, cucumbers, lettuce, and other basic pantry foods. When buying savory snacks or ramen, be aware that most will contain meat in some form. Use the cute animal pictures on the packaging as a hint. In terms of nearby marts, the spaghetti ramen is one of the only choices vegetarians have in terms of instant noodles. Also, one should continuously be on the lookout for sales. The mixed grain, instant rice which usually retails for over 2,000 won each was once on sale – 5 for 5,000 won at the emart near the front gate of the school. Just like this, there are many great offers that show up every now and then which students should take full advantage of in order to remain within their budgets.
One of the first things you will notice when you walk into a mart is that vegetables and fruits are relatively pricey in comparison to produce from North American and European countries. In fact, there will even be premium fruits on sale for mind boggling prices – for example a box of 8 premium peaches can retail for around 25,000 won. Although regular produce will be much cheaper, you can still find better deals elsewhere. In order to find cheaper produce, students can make their way to open markets on the street where tiny vendors sell more reasonably priced produce from their stalls. If you walk towards the e-mart near front gate, walk past it and keep going straight for a couple meters. There will be a turn to the left. Walk down that road and you will find a market full of many different types of food and clothing vendors.
When vegetarian students first arrive in Korea they tend to have a hard time finding suitable foods to eat. It is our hope that the information provided in this blog will help incoming students to have a comfortable eating experience from the very first day they arrive!