Hello to all you vegetarians/dietarily restricted eaters out there! Along with being a lover of Korean food, I am also a vegetarian—which can be contradictory at times as some of you may know. A lot of Korean cuisine has either meat and/or seafood incorporated into them, making it sometimes hard to enjoy all the delicious looking foods. But don’t worry! There definitely exists a way for even YOU to taste all the deliciously red eats of Korea!
Tip 1: Learn to cook your own versions while swapping out certain ingredients. I personally swap out any seafood and/or meat-based stocks for vegetable stock (the ready-made store-bought blocks because it saves time and money). For example, I love making my own tteokbokki at home where I start off with boiling some veg stock and gochujang (red-pepper paste, the store-bought kind) as my base. And I just choose to include things like tteok(rice cakes), an assortment of vegetables, ramen noodles, cheese, etc. as the ingredients rather than eomuk (fish cakes). I personally think I do a pretty good job, but hey! You should just try for yourself! Be sure to do some pre-cooking research by looking up recipes and watching cooking videos as well.
Tip 2: Go ahead and ask your waiter(s) at a restaurant what they might suggest. Even if they may occasionally give you a funny look for wanting something vegetarian/without a certain ingredient, go for it! You may even be suggested something you never thought of trying before and may find a new favorite. Most restaurants are even willing to alter/omit some ingredients if its not part of a pre-made base, turning a not-previously possible choice into a now-eatable option.
Tip 3: This is entirely a personally preference option, but depending on how you feel about your food having touched meat/seafood/etc., you can always eat around the meat/seafood/etc. when sharing meals with others—as long as you are not allergic to the ingredient! It’s a great way to try something that you may not have considered getting for yourself. Having friends who eat meat/seafood/etc. is always a plus at these times!
Tip 4: Research! There are so many people sharing their recipes, learned knowledge, and experiences on the internet now a days. It has become so much easier to find others who may have also run into similar situations and have shared their solutions to the world. There are some great recipes, cooking videos, and even vegetarian specific/dietarily-restrictive specific Korean food products out there. Just dive right in and eat till your buttons pop!
Feel free to leave other tips/tricks in the comments so we can all share and enjoy in the delicious goodness that is Korean cuisine (with a twist)! (I’ll also leave my full vegetarian tteokbokki recipe in the comments if people want it—though it’s just something I found on the internet plus a little personalization based on my taste buds).