If you are vegan, it can be very difficult to remain so in Seoul. That is not to say it is impossible, just that it will be hard. Whilst a number of western style vegan restaurants have opened up recently as the cruelty free way of eating has become more popular, veganised Korean food has been more difficult to find. The only Korean options tend to be the Buddhist temple food. however I recently came across a restaurant that serves vegan takes on some of Korea’s most famous meat dishes. Having a few close vegan friends and a number of vegan readers I felt it my duty to go and give this place a go.
오세계향 is located in Insa-dong, an area which you will certainly want to explore if you are visiting Seoul. The restaurant is located in an old Hanok style building which is really in sync with neighbourhood. The restaurant continues its traditions with its low tables and floor style seating, it also festooned with plants and greenery.
For such a niche restaurant, I was surprised at how large and varied the menu was. There were many of Korea’s most famous dishes on the menu. I decided to try the vegan version of one of my favourite dishes, pork cutlet. The Soy Protein Cutlet (13,000), came with rice, salad, and cutlet sauce. As a meat eater I was actually quite impressed by this. The texture was reasonably similar to the pork is it usually made with, and the rice and salad rounded out the dish. Now I cant say it was the best I have ever eaten, but for a meat free option it was impressive.
My dining companion ordered the Grilled Soy Protein Stew (10,000). This hot post style dish was very spicy, and filled with vegetables. The meat texture was again quite similar to real meat, although it didn’t have quite the same flavours. Along with our main dishes, we also got a selection of side dishes or banchan as they called in Korean which again really rounded out the meal. While many side dishes in Korea are generally made with vegetables, they often contain hidden animal products in the seasonings and sauces, so knowing that everything on the table was suitable for the vegan diet really put my friends mind at ease.
Overall I am thrilled to have a vegan Korean restaurant to recommend to my vegan friends and readers. There is a large variety of dishes on the menu, and I was impressed by the use of faux meats to recreate popular dishes. In a neighbourhood that can often be considered a bit of a tourist trap the prices are very reasonable too.
오세계향 is located at 14-5 Insadong 12-gil, Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Anguk Station (line 3) and come out of exit 6. walk straight and then take your first left. Walk down this street and take your first proper left turn again. You will walk down a kind of smaller alleyway, it gets confusing so keep looking at the map, at the end of the ally you need to turn right and you should see the restaurant ahead of you (see the picture above for reference). For more information you can call them on 02-735-7171 or check out their website.