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30 Expat Living

The Vegetarian Experience in Jeollanamdo & Gwangju 2020 www.gwangjunewsgic.comJanuary January 2020


Written by Michael Goonan


ost people would say that Korea is not an easy place to be a vegetarian. The national cuisine is based heavily on meat and seafood, and in much of the country, the concept of vegetarianism is unknown, misunderstood, or thought to be very exotic. Some Koreans might be familiar with vegetarianism in the context of Buddhism, but the vast majority of Buddhists in Korea are meat-eaters, with ordained monks being the primary exception. While Seoul offers many vegetarian dining options given the large number of foreigners living there, a vegetarian diet can seem especially tricky to navigate in smaller cities like Gwangju or in the rural towns of Jeollanam-do. Last year, I made the decision to go vegetarian as a New Year’s resolution. I had previously been vegetarian back in the States from 2011 to 2013 but got away from it for a few years in favor of pescetarianism. I will not lie to you: Being a vegetarian around these parts definitely requires commitment and planning. But while it may take some getting used to, it is definitely possible to maintain a delicious vegetarian diet in Jeollanam-do. It is simply a matter of knowing the resources at your disposal and making the most of them. After nearly a year of trial and error, I can honestly say that I am very comfortable in my vegetarian routines and, to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!” Here are some of my suggestions for making a vegetarian diet work in Jeollanam-do. GROCERY SHOPPING (The Internet Is Your Friend!) To be truly happy as a vegetarian in most of Jeollanamdo, I believe it is necessary to cook at home. Do not get me wrong. Bibimbap, sundubu-jjigae, and kimbap are all tasty, healthy Korean meals that are widely available and easily made vegetarian. But unless you are the type of person who really loves your routine, you are going to get sick of them and want some variety in your diet.

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Korean grocery stores are, of course, full of tofu and fresh vegetables. This can help you make lots of great stir fries and Korean, Chinese, or other Asian-style dishes at home. You do not have to be limited by what is available at your local Nonghyup or farmer’s market, though. Here are some great online resources to help stock your fridge with all your vegetarian ingredients. Expat Mart: This Indian grocery store in Seoul offers a wide variety of ingredients for home cooking, including bulk dal (lentils), basmati rice, fresh and frozen naan and roti, paneer, fresh vegetables, and a huge selection of Indian spices. They also offer lots of pre-packaged or canned curries for when you are in a hurry, as well as a rotating selection of items from Costco such as bulk cheese and whole-wheat pasta. Everything can be delivered to your door within a day or two of your order. ` Gmarket: Gmarket has lots of vegetarian foods available. I regularly buy chickpeas, hummus, and feta cheese from this website to make some of my favorite Mediterraneanstyle meals. Many items you are looking for will be easily found with a quick search. Two of my favorite “shops” on the site are those of Loving Hut and Vege Food. Loving Hut is an international chain of vegan restaurants. Vege Food is a Korean supplier of vegan foods. From their Gmarket stores, you can order vegan versions of various Korean dishes such as samgyeopsal, vegetarian dumplings, and soy “pork” cutlets. • Loving Hut Website: CustNo=TI0MR38zNzMxNkxxNjYzNDQ1OTF/Rw== • Vege Food Website: CustNo=TE0MR38TNzcxNk3xNzYxNDI1NjF/Rw==

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