Hi everyone, my name is Kayla Kerr, and I am a senior at USF. I am a senior at USF pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Integrative Animal Biology: Human Track with a certificate in Japanese. Currently, I am studying abroad at Yonsei University in South Korea. Here at Yonsei University I am taking three class: Korean 1, Contemporary Korean Cinema and Society, and Traditional Korean Society and Modernization.
I have been in Seoul for a few months now and I really enjoy the atmosphere, the people, and the weather. However, since I am a vegetarian, I have struggled with finding vegan friendly places to eat. The first night I was able to go out after quarantine, I remember how long and far my friends and I had to walk to find a restaurant that had a dish I could eat. Many of the restaurants did not offer anything that was truly vegetarian (no meat broth, seafood, etc.). Also, of the very select restaurants that had a single dish that I could eat, we were not able to actually dine in the restaurant because many places require QR codes to be scanned due to COVID-19. Being that this was our first night out, our inability to speak Korean, and not having our alien registration cards at the time, we were unable to figure out how to obtain QR codes. Finally, after 40-50 minutes of walking, we found a restaurant that had some dishes that we all could eat. This was not the last time that this happened either. While there are many vegans and vegetarians in South Korea, not many restaurants offer foods that reflect this alternate lifestyle. Living as a vegetarian and a foreign college student in Korea is so difficult that many students at my university who did not eat meat in their home countries have now begun to eat meat again. Because I personally understand how hard it is, I have decided to dedicate this post to highlight a few vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants I have found since living in Seoul.
If you want to try more traditional Korean food and experience, Osegyehyang is the place to go. Due to its location in a more traditional village area near Insadong Street and its proximity to a temple, many monks and locals frequently visit Osegyehyang for lunch or dinner. Also, the food variety here is one of the largest of all the vegan restaurants I have visited in Seoul. They offer different meals from a fried chicken cutlet (pictured above) to a bean paste stew. If you want to have the traditional Korean cuisine while also eating vegan, be sure to visit here.
Out of all the vegan restaurants I have been to in Seoul, Maru is my favorite. Also located off Insadong Street, it is a very small restaurant with some outside and inside dining space. The restaurant is ran by three workers who are vegans themselves. There is a menu located in Korean and English at the counter where orders are taken, and the staff know English as well. The food served at Maru consists of typical Korean dishes like kimbap and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes). The food there is also relatively cheap with the delicious soy chicken (pictured on the right) and the fried dumplings (on the left) only costing ₩4000 each, which is roughly $4. The taste of the dishes along with their prices had me coming back time and time again.
While I eventually was able to find some vegan/vegetarian restaurants, most of them only serve those types of dishes. This is good because it allows those who cannot eat meat more options; however, most of my friends eat meat and did not want to eat vegan food. This is where Songongmalatang shines. The main dish at the restaurant is malatang, a spicy soup broth with meat and vegetables in it. Not only does this restaurant offer a vegan broth but you also get to choose what specific foods get put inside of the malatang. The customization aspect of Songongmalatang made it a go-to choice when my friends and I wanted to eat out together.