On a recent trip to Seoul in South Korea, we were on a palace tour and a man told us that all he had to eat in Seoul was pizza because he couldn’t find any vegetarian food. I shot my daughter a look of amusement because we knew that Seoul definitely has vegetarian options, but it does help if you know some key phrases and words. Google Lens is very helpful in translating menu listings and ingredient labels! It’s also good to know what meals can generally be ordered as vegetarian or vegan. To be fair, fish, for whatever reason, is considered part of a vegetarian diet, so their pescatarian diet is considered vegetarian. You must specify that you do not want fish or fish sauce in your food.
Thankfully many Koreans speak some English, especially in tourist areas. Do not be afraid to ask, and they are very used to this question and are very friendly. Many younger Koreans are steering towards a vegetarian diet as well, so it is growing in popularity.
My vegetarian daughter just spent a little over a month doing a Study Abroad there and she came up with this helpful list of words and vegetarian dishes. Make sure to print this out and bring it with you on your trip!
Dishes: Vegetarian or Can be Made Vegetarian
순두부찌개= Soft tofu stew
된장찌개= Soybean stew
냉면= Icey buckwheat noodles
볶음밥=Kimchi fried rice (kimchi is technically not vegetarian)
잡채 = japchae
Helpful Phrases to Know
고기 있어요? (Gogi Issuh-yoh)= Is there meat?
___하나 주세요? (___hana juseyo) = Can I have one of ____ please?
고기는 빼주세요 (gogi-neun pay juseyo)=Without meat please.
저는 고기를 못 먹어요 (jeonen gogi-uel mote moe-gayo) = I don’t eat meat.
저는 채식주의자 예요 (Jeoneun jishig-joowuija yeyo)= I am vegetarian.
Words to Recognize
돼지고기 (dwaejigogi)= pork
햄 (haem) = ham
베이컨 (baeicon)= bacon
해물산/해물 (heymulsan)= seafood
비간 (peegan)= Vegan
재식 (jaeshig)= Vegetarian