If you are a vegetarian and you think visiting Korea is a challenge, well, it’s not. Finding vegan and vegetarian food in Korea is not much of a hassle. Not just that, Koreans have a range of vegetarian dishes that you can try at home in a jiffy and they’re delicious, to say the least.
Although Korean food is widely known to be an omnivore’s paradise, it is also a vegetarian’s heaven! Thanks to the Buddhist influences that have brought in vegetarianism to the land. Find out Why is Korean Food Heavily Vegetarian?
The association of vegetarianism with Buddhism developed because the key principles of Buddhism include non-violence and the avoidance of suffering which the Buddha propagated. These Buddhist practices and traditions that influenced Korean culture came from the Goryeo dynasty.
Traditionally, the Korean diet is largely vegan and has rice as a staple which is served with a variety of banchan (side dishes) made from vegetables. The diet of Korean Buddhist monks remains vegan, while staunch practitioners will even abstain from consuming root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots or onion and garlic as that would mean uprooting a plant and literally destroying it.
Certain most Korean dishes are naturally vegan, but when in Korea, the concept of a vegan diet is not widely understood, which is quite challenging at times while ordering dishes at restaurants.
The Buddhist monks and nuns are believed to have seen, heard or known that animals have been specifically killed to feed the alms-seeker, in which case consumption of such meat would be karmically negative.
Meat would mean that the animal would have to be sacrificed, which involves pain and misery. Moreover, consumption of meat would also mean high levels of energy that would activate the senses which in turn reflects in their religious and spiritual practices.
Buddhist would avoid eating garlic, meat, and any other strong-smelling plants including asafetida and shallots as they referred to these as wǔ hūn or Five Acrid foods which tend to excite the senses and hamper their meditative state of mind.
This was widely practised by people who were also staunch followers of the Buddhism faith and hence the abstinence from alcohol and meat was widely practised in Korea.
Here are some of the Korean vegetarian dishes you must try.
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