William Alderton came to Korea September this year. Now he works as English teacher in Suwon. He is vegetarian. He never had any problem with this wherever he goes, but except Korea. He told me some of episode when he just came to Korea.
He went to a restaurant and asked some food without pork or meat. He only could say ‘고기(go gi : it includes meat, pork, chicken and etc.)’, so he showed her ‘X’ with his arms and said “No 고기’. And she seemed understand him and recommended him a noodle with vegetable. But after few minutes, he got a vegetable noodle with meat on it.
It’s not a problem of language. But is a lack of understanding of vegetarian. In Korea, vegetarian is not popular. And also, they easily think that vegetarian dishes are which main ingredient is not meat. It means they use meat or some banned ingredient even you said to them; “I’m vegetarian”.
That’s why he usually makes his lunchbox by himself. It makes him feel at ease. Because finding Indian restaurant or some of Aussie is not easy in Korea. You can only find some in center place, like Insa-dong or Itaewon. But recently, he found very special restaurant near his workplace.
That’s the ‘김밥천국’(Kim bab chun guk). That is fast food restaurant with over 30 menus. You can find it any place easily. One of his favorite is ‘김치만두(a kimchi bun). Different with other bun, it is made with kimchi and tofu. But you should check carefully, some of them are pork instead of tofu.
He always keeps the menubook of 김밥천국 with him. And he checked some menus he can have. He said it’s very useful wherever he goes. Even he goes other restaurant, it can choose similar menu on his ‘secret paper’.
Also meet good people for help is important. Most menubooks has no sufficient information about dish in English. So you need to know what exactly it has in and how it cooked to choose appropriate food for you.
Live in Korea as vegetarian is quite tough. While you check and looking for some dishes for yourself, on the other hand, it can be chance to know more about Korean food. Below are some recommend restaurants and tips from Will.
1. 오세계향(O se gye hyang) ( http://www.go5.co.kr/ )
It’s restaurant in Insa-dong. It’s designed as Korea traditional house, 한옥(Han-ok). And all the food is for vegan but everyone can enjoy it. Meat made by beans will give new perception of vegan food.
2. Vips ( http://www.ivips.co.kr/ )
This is big franchise restaurant. It’s famous for Salad bar. You can have both western and eastern styles of food in your taste; Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Italian. The price is different in lunch and dinner and you should pay 10% of tax.
3. Keep a piece of paper.
Always keep a piece of paper which has wrote “I’m vegetarian. I want to have dish WITHOUT any little MEAT PORK CHICKEN FISH..” in Korean. There’s some people can understand English but tell them exactly what you avoid is more safe.
Journalist : firstname.lastname@example.org
more information : http://koreaprose.com/