The Best Vegan Meals You Can’t Miss in Seoul
BY: Marcos Ortega
<about the author>
A vegan entrepreneur living in Gangnam, Seoul. Part of the V Market team that imports and distributes Violife vegan cheese to restaurants and shops across the country. An avid photographer, and animal activist, he is always working to reduce animal suffering in any way possible. He has rescued more than 15 cats in Korea and is always looking to feed any hungry kitty he may find.
Seoul has always been at the vanguard in the fashion, music and drama industry. From the worldwide success of singer groups like BTS or BLACKPINK, to the exciting episodes of Kingdom or Crash Landing on You, Korea is always one step ahead defining the next trends.
The vegan scene in Seoul is no exception, and in the last year, numerous vegan and vegan friendly places have appeared across the city. In this article, we will show you the best dishes that the trendiest places have to offer. These dishes have captured the attention of both locals and visitors, for their unique Korean taste, mixing influences from traditional cuisine with tendencies from the modern world.
To make it even easier for you, we have prepared this list in order from north to south, so that is easier for you to visit these places on your next visit to Seoul. You can also visit these places in reverse order depending the location of your stay. Without further ado, let’s start with the first dish you will enjoy after you put your luggage in your room and are ready to enjoy the taste of Korean spicy foods. You can find these restaurants easily by the Happy Cow app.
- Maru (마루) – Insadong
Right in the middle of the busiest tourist district of Insadong, between art galleries and cafés where poets and artists join to discuss cultural topics, you can find Maru, a new place that offers the best selection of Korean street food. Here you can have the full experience of Korean spicy dishes that are the staple of every Korean drama. For our selection we recommend 2 dishes:
A thick red spicy sauce made of pepper paste and spices, covers the soft and chewy sticky rice cakes, which have been boiled. A hot dish to start any meal, and commonly served at the center to share with your friends. Maru has the only vegan tteokbokki in town, so you can’t miss it!
Fried Chicken (양념콩치킨)
Surely you have seen on numerous kdramas, the scene of picnic on the grass along the Han river with fried chicken. Made of soy/gluten protein, boiled and fried with spices to a tender point inside, but crunchy andon the outside. Maru uses a deliciously spicy & sweet sauce to set this on a plate for you. The texture and hot punch is identical to any non-vegan chicken! You can now tell your story for your friends in Instagram about the best of Korean street food.
Other notable mentions at maru are the Oden bar (오뎅), Hot bar (핫바), and cold noodles (비빔면).
- Osegaehan (오세계향) – Insadong
Also, In the center of Insadong, you can find one of the most important vegan restaurants in the whole city. The Mecca of Korean vegan foods in traditional style. This menu has many of the main dishes you would expect from Korean cuisine. The most notable examples are:
Mushroom Stew (버섯전골)
A selection of local mushrooms and herbs on a big wide pot are set up over fire at the center of the table. The soup will cook right there on the spot and everyone can take some to their bowls. You can get rice or add dumplings at an extra charge.
Soft Tofu Gang-doenjang Bibimbab (국산콩순두부강된장비빔밥)
A central bowl of vegetables, with a pot of doenjang stew and a bowl of soft-boiled tofu. Aside, numerous side dishes with an wide array of tastes from Korean cuisine. This dish is the ultimate Korean vegan dish experience! Sample small bites of rice and soft tofu, with the rich and deep aromatic taste notes of doenjang, alternating with strong piquant bites of seasoned ham, the sourness of fermented fried kimchi, and the soft notes of vegetable side dishes. The best part is, you get unlimited refills on all side dishes!
Other notable mentions at Osegaehan are the luxurious Mushroom Rolls with hot sauce (표고버섯말이), Noodles with stir-fried bean paste (채식자장면), and Perilla Noodles (들깨국수).
- Vege Green Buffet (베지그린) Gangnam
Right at the south of the city, in the district of Gangnam, you can find one of the most historically relevant vegan buffet places. The staff at Vege Green has been working for 20 years offering a temple-style menu at the restaurant, as well as catering service to numerous Buddhist temples across Korea. Being a buffet restaurant, you can sample lots of different dishes. Get a few perilla leaves on your plate along with doenjang paste, fried meat (콩고기), a bowl of lotus seed soup (연자죽) and a side of kimbab (김밥) and sushi. For your second round, grab a bowl of cold noodles with wasabi (냉면).
- Loving Hut Café (러빙헛 카페) Gangnam
Part of the Loving Hut brand, the fastest growing vegan franchise in the world with 20+ branches in Korea. The Gangnam location is iconic for its dishes, deserts and shopping area. After eating, spend some time in the shop section and buy all those delicious vegan hams and deserts to bring back home.
It’s a local tradition to eat at Vege Green first, and then walk around the corner to Loving Hut Café for drinks, cakes and ice cream. Superb taste awaits you on the Stracciatella taste with chocolate bits. Add a ball of coffee cookie Biscotti, right next to a ball of the new flavor coconut vanilla.
A set of 2 freshly baked waffles and 2 balls of strawberry and vanilla ice cream, topped with vegan whipped cream. A true delight.
Notable mentions at Loving Hut Café: vegan meat stew (콩불고기찌개), soft tofu stew(순두부찌개), and soy cutlet (소이커틀릿).
These are some of the places you can try on a quick weekend visit to get a taste of the traditional Korean vegan foods available now. There are many other new vegan places that just appeared last year, with numerous different styles of western dishes and fusion Asian cuisine, like those in the vibrant districts of Itaewon or Hongdae. We will present you more of these options in a future edition.