I have lived in Korea long enough to feel like I have sufficient information to write this post. I am a vegetarian. (Read my disclaimer at the bottom of this post). The kind of vegetarian that does not consume animal products in any other form than dairy products. The kind of vegetarian that does not mind other people eating meat around while not touching non-veg food (the way we refer to it in India). The kind of vegetarian (by birth, yup it’s a thing in India) who marries a person who eats all sorts of meat. The kind of vegetarian who sometimes eats bakery good containing eggs but claims not eating eggs directly.
I believe in being my own person while allowing others to be how they wish to be. Most of my friends eat meat, while I have never tasted or felt tempted to eat it. There have been a lot of times when I was eating out and the chef/waiter made a mistake, I somehow always found out before consuming. And I do take pride in being that way.
So anyway. I have been in Korea for a while now. And new people come to Korea everyday, many Indians I meet are vegetarians (about 55% of them) and they always ask me what I am going to write in this series of posts:
What to buy at the supermarket, how to find vegetarian options, where to eat out and how to order food in restaurants?
I understand that not many people need this info but something like this could have been helpful to me when I first came here, it could have saved me a lot of money.
So here are a few pointers to shop for grocery:
- Do not look for the green and red food labeling for Veg and non-veg food. It is only followed in India. When in doubt, leave it!
- Korean rice is more nutty in flavour and a little more sticky than other rice varities I have tasted and I really like it. But if you are used to Basmati rice, go for Thai rice which is comparatively affordable and easily available. I would still urge you to try Korean rice at least once. Of course you can get Basmati rice in Indian food marts.
- Wheat flour available in the markets everywhere except Indian grocery shops and marts is white flour (maida).
- If you eat sandwiches, always look for Omega 3 grain bread or something like that in Paris Baguette and Paris Croissant. All other are white breads predominantly. I like eating white breads but I love brown bread hence the specific tip.
- If you like mushrooms (I don’t), there are so many varieties that you will never get bored.
- You will find red onions at select outlets. I get mine at Kim’s club. I am usually okay with white or yellow onions too but some recipes call for the sharp red onion flavour! Red onions are also available in Indian grocery shops but they sell out fast!
- Korean cuisine features some pulses so you can find red beans, yellow gram (dehusked and split green gram), lentils, black beans and occasionally kidney beans in supermarkets.
- Some people get frozen green peas and let me tell you, it ain’t easy to find. So stock up if you do. I last got one pack 5 months ago! The ones at the Indian grocery shops are stale, white and tasteless!
- The vegetables that we are accustomed to eating are not always easy to find. You can find cabbage (red and green?), cauliflower, cucumber, brinjal, radish, tomatoes (of course), spinach (a little different than we are used to). And sometimes gourds (lauki, tinda and stuff). So take your time to find them, many of the vegetables look a little different here. Potato zindabad?
- The herbs like Coriander and Mint are very difficult to find. Ginger and garlic, however, are easily available.
- There are a few online Indian shops that have home delivery options so check them out for Whole wheat flour, semolina, gram flour, rice flour, Indian masalas, poppadums, pickels and Maggi (and many many other things)!
- Curd/Yogurt – If you are not a fan of flavoured or sweetened (or both) yogurt, only buy Denmark Plain Yogurt. And it sells out fast. Really fast! Beware that it is creamy and don’t start dreaming about Boondi Raita (you will be disappointed)! Of course you can always det curd at home. (As for me, ain’t nobody got time for that!)
- If you stock up frozen fast food, you can only get Cheese sticks (Mozzarella) and french fries. Sometimes there are frozen tortillas (I know it’s Mexican but I use’em for making kathi rolls), plain or stuffed parathas in Foreign Food aisles (I don’t know how good these are since I have never used them but they are there).
This is all I know!
I hope you find this information helpful. I am going to write a few more posts about finding vegetarian food (eating out) in Seoul. Stay tuned for that. Please share your tips in the comments section!
Disclaimer: This is only meant for Indian vegetarians so bear that in mind while judging the content of this post. All of this things have worked for me but I cannot guarantee they will work for you. I do not mean to offend anyone, but if you still don’t like what you read, I would suggest you leave this post and perhaps read my other posts that do not deal with food or other life choice I make. I am a vegetarian and there is nothing wrong with that like there is nothing wrong with being a vegan or meat-eater (non vegetarian) or whatever you choose to be.