Vegetarianism is very important and popular in Korea, nonetheless one of the staple food ingredients is meat. There are many restaurants that serve vegetarian dishes mostly in buffet style. The alternatives depend on the season, so restaurant owners change their menus periodically according to this. Tofu, kimchi, and bibimbap could be the most preferred foods among vegetarians and vegans.
Here are some top popular and much preferred vegetarian and vegan Korean dishes;
1. Bibimbap: The word stands for mixed rice. In Korean, bibim means mixed, bap means rice. It is a typical and popular Korean rice dish. This rice is served in a bowl along with seasoned and sauteed vegetables (such as mushrooms, cucumber, radish, spinach, etc.), gochujang (chilli pepper paste), soy sauce and sometimes doenjang (fermented soybean paste). All ingredients are mixed just before serving. Also raw or fried egg and beef can be added as well. But not for vegetarians of course. Beef can be replaced with tofu. It is important to mention that CNN Travel chose Bibimbap as one of the World’s most delicious foods.
2. Kimchi: One of the staple side dishes in Korean cuisine. It is basically made from salted and fermented vegetables like napa cabbage and radish. The flavour is enriched with different types of seasonings such as gochugaru (chilli powder), garlic, ginger, and scallions. If you are dining outside or ordering Korean food online, do not forget to mention of not adding jeotgal (salted seafood) to the dish. Kimchi has many variations and could be made with different types of vegetables at the same time.
3. Noodles: Noodles in the Korean kitchen are known as guksu. There are many types of noodle dishes in Korea such as noodles with hot broth (guksu jangguk), cold buckwheat noodles (naengmyeon), cold noodles with vegetables (bibim guksu), noodles with cold soybean broth (kongguksu), sweet potato noodles with vegetables (japchae), and more. If you are a vegetarian and looking for noodle dishes like the Memil Guksu, be aware that they could be cooked in either meat or vegetable broth. So it is always better to ask for the ingredients of noodle soups.
4. Kimbap / Gimbap: Kimbap, the seaweed rice is a popular snack which looks like Japanese sushi. There are many varieties which some includes meat or seafood products, however, it is very easy to adjust for vegetarian or vegan. The outer piece made of cooked rice, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt. The rolled ingredients are mostly yellow radish, eggs, spinach, cucumber, and carrot.
5. Mandu: Dumplings in Korean cuisine! They can be steamed (jjin mandu), boiled (mul mandu), stir-fried (gun mandu) or deep-fried. If you are looking for the one stuffed with vegetables, you should order Pyeonsu. The shape is rectangular and this type is usually eaten during summer. Another vegetarian option is so-mandu which was also consumed in Buddhist temples.
6. Sundubu-jjigae: Literally means soft tofu (sundubu) stew (jjigae). This is one of the most preferred stew dishes in Korean cuisine. It is made from fresh tofu (not strained and pressed), vegetables like mushrooms and onions, chilli paste, and chilli powder. This dish is cooked in a stew which is also served in. A raw egg, types of meat or seafood can also be added according to taste. It is usually not consumed by itself, but with a bowl of white rice and couple side dishes.
If you are looking for a vegetarian or vegan restaurant to dine outside, our suggestion would be the places that offer jeongsik (set meal). If you are at least two people or more, ordering jeongsik is very profitable and affordable. The price is set on the type and number of plates. Side dish options are mostly steamed rice, vegetables, pickles, and pancake. Also, if you finish your plate, you can always ask for more and in this way, you might try different kinds of Korean food at once!