What can Indians eat in South Korea?
South Korea is an amazing destination emerged with numerous charms alluring tourists from all over the world. Korean cuisine has also gained popularity over time with its authenticity and variety it offers for every type of foodie. Given so much variety available within Korean cuisine, most dishes often include meats such as seafood, beef and pork. Hence food options for Indian visitors and vegan foreigners become limited. Most Indians are entirely vegetarians, some who are non-vegetarians may only prefer certain types of meats like chicken, lamb and fish.
Many Indians (mainly Hindus) do not eat beef and pork due to religious sentiments. Seafood like eel, squid, octopus, clams, snakes, jellyfish etc. may be scary and some fishes are even served raw or fermented. A lot of dishes don’t look delicious and make people lose their appetite. So what can Indians eat in South Korea? We faced the same concern being there and we feel you.
Basic things to know about Korean food
Tofu Stew, vegetarian
- Korean food is quite healthy, it is usually a combination of soup/stew, rice/noodles, meats and veggies. Hence it keeps light on stomach, well hydrating and nutritious.
- Korean food comes with lots of free vegetarian side dishes, like sprouts, pickled/spiced veggies, fried tofu dishes, seafood, omelette and kimchi which is commonly served with every dish.
Fishcake Stew at Red Station
- Main course consists of either stews (jjigae, made from meats/vegetables /dumplings in a broth) or Gimbap (meat and veggies rolled with rice and seaweed like sushi) or/and Bibimbap (rice with vegetables, sprouts and omelette).
- Snacks & Street food on stick have varieties like bulgogi, cheese sticks, fish cakes, fried chicken/tofu, rice cakes, vegetable rolls/dumplings and sweet cakes etc.
- Summer delicacies include ice noodle soup and seasonal fruit flavours within rice cakes, bean spreads and ice-creams.
How to find your food options in South Korea?
Street food-Yeouido Park, Seoul
Luckily, at many restaurants, Koreans are aware of English keywords like meat, chicken, beef, pork etc. So you can ask for ‘no meat’ or ‘no beef/pork’ in whatever you order. That means you can easily have most Korean delicacies like bibimbap, stir-fries and stews without meats if you tell them. Most restaurants have an English menu for tourists. We also used translation app to read Korean menus, to talk and find out which meal was vegetarian or what type of seafood/meats are included in a particular dish.
You will easily find fast food outlets like McDonald’s, KFC and Starbucks in South Korea but keep these as last resort. We didn’t want to miss trying authentic Korean cuisine with varieties we never tasted before and yet we also couldn’t eat beef or pork. So we decided to learn more about our options in order to enjoy local delicacies without having to rely on fast food chains and general stores.
Some vegan Korean food options are:
Octopus Bread-Street Food
- Kimbap (Sushi Roll)
- Joomuk-bap (Rice Balls)
- Ramyeon (Noodle Soup)
- Japchae (Sweet Potato Noodles)
- Pajeon (Green Onion Pancake)
- Vegan Bulgogi
- Bibimbap (Mixed Spicy Veggies and Rice)
- Mandu (Dumplings)
Fish N Chips at Wilala
Some places in Jeju Island and Seoul where you most certainly will find food you can eat. People like us who are non vegetarians but restrict themselves to certain meats, here is a small list of food we tried and loved it.
- Abalone Pot Rice at Seobudu-gil road, Jeju city (just near jetty)
- Antoinette Bakery at Imhang Ro, Jeju City
- Black Pork Street at Gwandeong-ro) and Chisung-ro
- Café Delmonte at Hamdok ri-beach
- Jamae Noodle- Located opposite to Jeju Folklore & Natural History Museum
- Fish N Chips at Wilala located at 33 Seongsanjungang-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo
- Fresh sandwiches, cookies, dessert & drinks at Paris Baguette- Seongsan Ilchulbong at Tuff cone parking lot.
- A cheesy bite of Octopus bread, near Seopjikoji hill parking
- Chicken Bulgogi at Olle Market
- BBQ Lamb Kebabs at Lamb Kebab Korean Grill at Myeongdong street (the best dinner we had in Jeju)
- The Cliff (for pizza and coffee) at Jungmun Tourist Complex, Saekdal Beach- Amazing location
- Spicy fishcake stew (try blue ocean ore red ocean) at Red Station in Jeju City- The fishcakes here aren’t bland at all.
We also recommend eating at this traditional Korean Restaurant for a more authentic experience. Your table will be certainly full with lots of side dishes.
Yeouido Park Street Food
- Lamian in peanut sauce with shrimp dumplings at Gangnam station exit 1, Tehran-ro, corner shop at ground floor.
- Drinking yogurt and Nutty Coffee
- Egg waffles and Bean Waffles outside Changdeokung Palace street food
- Tofu n Seafood Stew outside Hanok Village
- Chicken, Grilled Cheese, strawberry etc. on stick at Yeouido Park Street food in the evening
- Lotte world tower -Food court has some unique food stalls
Ready to set your feet out, start with exploring upcoming festival in Seoul
2020 EDC Korea Festival Ticket (Aug 15 & 16)
Indian restaurants in South Korea
South Korea has more than 300 Indian restaurants including south Indian and vegetarian ones. Many are in located in major cities like Seoul, Busan, Jeonju, Gwangju etc. featuring Indian, Western and Continental cuisines.
Particularly in Seoul, areas like Itaewon, Myeongdong, Euljiro and Gangnam have bunch of Indian restaurants. Itaewon specifically is a foreigner friendly place where you can get global cuisine. Just keep your map application handy to find the nearest one. Some top rated names are:
- New Delhi
- Gurkha Indian
- Bombay Grill
- Luna Asia
Antoinette Bakery, Jeju City
Korean Food Vs Indian Food
Historical invasions and foreign traders have deeply influenced and added to Indian food diversities however Korean food varieties hold fusions with Japanese, Chinese and other Asian cuisines.
The best things about both cuisines is, neither is bland, instead integrates with unique blends of spices to enrich flavours. Although Korean and Indian food are altogether different from each other, you may still find slightly similar spices in both.
Both cuisines use some strong ingredients such as Gochujang (red chilli), ginger (galangal) and garlic. Korean food is also spicy, especially kimchi (fermented and great source of vitamin C), stews (soupy bowl of goodness) , stir-fries, sauces (like Indian chutneys) , hot-curries etc. The love of Indians for spicy food, has resulted inventive fusion of Indian spices into foreign street food, typically seen in Indian versions of Asian, western and continental food.
Korean recipes blend ingredients along with soybean paste to mellow the flavour whereas similar ingredients are either smoked or fried in oil to enhance flavour of oil/curries in Indian cooking. Indian food can be really oily sometimes depending on the way of cooking. Both offer several healthy varieties like soups, salads, curries, sauces/chutneys and seasoned rice varieties.
There are more varieties of vegetarian delicacies and breads within Indian cuisine since most of India is land locked favouring agriculture of diverse vegetables and grains other than rice. Whereas due extreme winters, Koreans prefer delicacies inducing warmth, such as fermented foods – kimchi and soybean pastes (doenjang) in hot stews, spicy noodles, and steaming broths. Hence Korean cuisine mainly has combinations of rice bowls or noodles along with animal meats, seafood, tofu, beans, sauces, kimchi and veggies.
The only part we didn’t enjoyed much were the desserts available as most were either bean pastes or flavoured rice cakes. Overall, we really enjoyed trying variety of Korean delicacies during our trip. Wandering out in cold temperatures (7°c- 12°c) during spring left us feeling dehydrated and their flavourful hot stews were such life savers.
So if you had any reservations about limited food options in Korea, we assure you there is nothing to worry about. You will always be able to find something to eat. Just open your heart and let Korea surprise your taste buds. Happy eating folks!
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