The last time I blogged about being vegan in Korea, it was 2011 and the world was a different place. Veganism was growing in popularity in Seoul. There were vegan buffets, more every month it seemed, Loving Huts with all kinds of options, Purely Decadent had dedicated stores and was even available in some convenience stores. It was an exciting time.
But in many ways, it seems the great vegan experiment is over. All but two Loving Huts are shuttered and gone. The buffets are closed and forgotten. The top 5 restaurants I blogged about in 2011 are all long gone. And it’s not a surprise. Korea isn’t really a place that vegans prosper. It’s more surprising that it even tried to catch on here.
Honestly, even though rents are expensive I think the market for veggie and vegan food is ready to expand. A restaurant that sells vegan mandu and ddukbokki could make a killing, I think. Plus there aren’t any mock-meat Indian, Thai, or Chinese restaurants that could clean up. It may take time, and the vegan market will skew away from Koreans and toward foreigners for a long time, cutting out so many potential customers. But the opportunity is there.
Anyway, until then, here are some of the best places to eat as a vegan in Seoul. It’s not a comphrensive list, but all of these places are pretty awesome.
This is probably the most famous vegan place in Korea, and it’s as tiny as it is delicious. Although it can be hard to get a seat, and the portions are, too my taste, both a bit expensive and a bit small. But it’s a great haven and the baked goods are incredible. I got my birthday cake here and it was so good it impressed my omni friends.
I haven’t actually tried the vegan sandwich, but the baked bread is so good. The Focaccia (tomato or garlic) might be my favorite edible thing in the whole city. You can also get hummus at High Street Market (about a 20 minute walk away) for a tasty little sumthin’ sumthin’.
JULY 2016 UPDATE: I actually will never go to the Baker’s Table again. Last time I went, the focaccia was so old and stale that I could barely eat it. Well, no worries. I went back and ordered the vegan sandwich. They cooked the vegetables in bacon grease, like a lot of bacon grease. I can’t recommend them as a vegan option anymore.
Thanks to some friends who introduced this place, it has become my favorite Mexican in Seoul. There aren’t too many vegan options, but if you order the veggie burrito without cheese it’s totally happy. It’s a bit cheaper than other Mexican places, plus the burrito comes with avocado.
Cafe The Bread Blue
A weird name, sure, and it’s a little expensive. But this place is cool; like a typical Korean bakery but everything is edible for vegans. They have cool little cups of parfait and soy milk for all their coffee drinks. The cafe is cozy and a fun place to, say, play a board game.
Not the first place you think of, but given that most of the vegan places in the city are either in Sinchon or Itaewon/HBC this place is a bit of a oasis. In order to get a vegan version, order a veggie sandwich with no cheese with Italian bread and hot chili or sweet chili or sweet onion sauce. This is a cheap and cool option and Subway has saved my fakin’ more than once.
A long time ago
There are a couple of other restaurants I’ve been to but don’t have pictures of, including Jack’s Bean in Hongdae. Also, at least some Paris Baguette’s carry a Quinoa Lentil Bean Salad.
Also every vegetarian or vegan who lives in Korea probably knows about Iherb, but it’s an awesome source for nutritional yeast, Braggs, herbal tea, quinoa, oatmeal and so much more. Here are some of my scores this year.
While it’s harder to be a vegan in Korea than it was even 5 years ago, there are plenty of places to go. Especially in the Hongdae/Sinchon and Itaewon/HBC area. It’s not 2011 anymore, but hopefully it’s better than just convenience store apples and pringles.