What do you think of food without any meat? Some people will think that it will be very healthy while others do not prefer eating food with absolutely no meat. The recent trend in Korea is a significant increase in the number of vegetarians. One will notice that the variety in diet is on the rise, and naturally, restaurants and cafes that cater to specific diets are on the rise. The Argus visited vegan restaurants and a cafe to take look at the very place vegetarians find to suit their dietary needs and discover what kinds of food people can have there.
Who is vegetarian?
The International Vegetarian Union defines vegetarians as “people who do not eat meats from land animals and fish that live in the sea and river. However, some do consume milk and eat eggs.” Vegetarians are divided into eight types depending on the extent of their vegetarianism.
How do vegetarians eat hamburgers?
The hamburger is a food that we can eat easily in fast food restaurants. It is hard to imagine a hamburger without meat. Perhaps, many people think that vegetarians do not eat hamburgers for this reason. However, thanks to ingredients that are different, vegan burgers are possible. In a vegan burger, bread is made of brown and white rice. Patties are made by a mixture of wheat, rice, tofu and beans instead of meat. In the vegan bakery “Yummyyomil,” which is near Hapjeong station, the reporter could try the vegan burger.
The reporter entered the bakery and ordered the “barbeque burger.” In a barbeque burger, there was a patty which looked like meat. Truly, at first, the reporter could only assume that it was not a vegan burger. Though unbelievable, the patty was textured vegetable protein, which is a vegetarian source of protein and carbohydrates. Its likeness with meat is so great that it is known for its similar texture and appearance. Many people, including the reporter himself, can not so easily distinguish it with actual meat. In the restaurant, the reporter met Monica, who introduced herself as a vegetarian. For readers of The Argus that are not vegetarian, a question may arise: What kind of people look for this kind of eatery? Well Monica answered, “I was a vegan ever since I was a little kid. I was naturally inclined to food that does not contain meat. The great thing about a place like this is that it satisfies my needs as a vegetarian all the while satisfying my desire for hamburgers. Needless to say, the burger is pretty spot on and allows me to enjoy a burger without burdening my values.”
Various types of vegan foods are on the rise
The vegan food culture is not entirely limited to food that is produced specially for vegans. There are types of foods in the world that naturally have a very vegetarian diet. One of these is food from Thailand. Thailand, as of recent, is a pretty popular country in Korea, with its culture and identity in the media limelight. As a result, Thai food has been pretty popular in Korean as well. The thing about Thai food is that their very nature allows it to be easily transitioned into a vegan dish.
There is a Thai place in Mangwon-dong named “Mongthai” that does this. Customers have the option to enjoy vegan Thai meals. When ordering the food, all they need to do is notify the waiter their preference. Including “Tom Yang Gung,” a very popular Thai dish, visitors can easily eat vegan. When they order the vegan menu, the meat and seafood ingredients are replaced with vegetables and beans. For example, the Tom Yang Gung contains seafood originally, but without compromising the identity of the dish, the ingredients are swapped with vegetables and beans.
The reporter entered the restaurant and ordered the vegan Thai mushroom stir-fry. While enjoying a hearty vegan meal consisting of mushroom, vegetables and rice, the reporter came across a vegan enthusiast, Chris Da Canha. He said, “I definitely enjoy vegan foods. One great thing about Thai food is that meat is not the main ingredient in their dishes, so their non-vegan versions are not too different from their vegan versions. It is this characteristic that sets apart vegan Thai food from other types of veganized foods.”
Vegan desserts prepared for the vegetarian!
There is a café where vegetarians can enjoy desserts made just for them. Once impossible for vegetarians, thanks to this café, they can now enjoy universal delicacies such as ice cream, cakes and muffins. The café named “cook and book” is making various kinds of vegan desserts such as vegan muffins, vegan cakes and vegan tofu brownies with ice cream. Chun Soo-mi the writer of “Sweet Natural Baking” and owner of this café said, “I coupled my interest in cooking food and dessert with organic ingredients with my studies to cook professionally.” Thanks to Ms. Chun, vegans are able to have the same kind of desserts as anybody else. These kinds of breakthroughs in vegan culture can help streamline it into the mainstream.
The reporter ordered a vegan cake. By appearance, again, the cake did not indicate its “vegan-ness” at all. The animal-based creams usually used in a cake was replaced by cream made from tofu and almond milk. Of course, even cow milk was excluded from the ingredient, making it completely vegan. There was a customer happily chowing down the vegan desserts, though the reporter later found out he was not vegan. Requesting anonymity, he said, “Though I am not a vegetarian, I recently gained interest in vegan desserts because I heard that they were very healthy. They do away with factors that make the average dessert unhealthy by replacing all the fattiness with healthy material. This is an ultimate win for those seeking out healthy food.”
What kinds of hardships do vegans face, and how are the vegan restaurants helping?
Veganism is a lifestyle that many people choose because of their values and preferences. Because of this lifestyle, people do run into situations that are uncomfortable to them. Whether it is because our existing food culture is so suited towards meat-lovers or because of society’s lack of consideration for different values, the fact remains that vegans face difficulties when keeping true to their values. The Argus interviewed individuals who frequent places like the ones mentioned above to show to readers the need for an increase in vegan-friendly environments.
Lee Jae-yeon (HUFS Department of Spanish ̒17)
I used to have recurring stomachaches. After reading the book “Fit for Life”, I came to know the cause and realized the extreme danger of meat consumption. Shortly thereafter, I introduced the book to my father, who had to take regular medical check-ups due to the nature of his job. He took the message of the book to heart and now maintains a strict vegan diet. Needless to say, his health improved, and the medical results confirm it! Despite these successes, there are hardships. Outings, that I unfortunately cannot avoid, usually take place in Korean barbeque joints. I usually end up eating the limited veggies on the table, like bean sprouts, and end up having to eat again at home. Though there is a rise in vegan places in Korea, it is still not too accessible. Because of this, I sometimes frequent places out of my day-to-day travel radius.
Park Soo-yeon (Ewha Womans University Division of International Studies ̒17)
Early this year, my friend came back from a trip to Canada and announced she was pescatarian. I did not understand her at first. And then, I was asked out by a guy at a vegan restaurant. He was vegan and sent me a video with a lecture on veganism. It showed how animals were severely abused in the meat industry, and how excessive levels of meat consumption led to increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. After thinking the reasons through, I cut meat off. However, I feel like a burden at times now when eating with non-vegetarians, having to explain myself each time. Many vegetarian/vegan meals also happen to be more expensive than the typical meal. Affordable meals are low-quality. There are not many options in Seoul in general, but I do try to go to vegan restaurants or cafes like We Saladu a few times each month.
The growing vegan culture calls for food culture to become more and more vegan-friendly. And why not? It is healthy, clean and not much different from the food you and I already know. When tired of your everyday food, why not visit a vegan restaurant and help the cause?
By Kim Ji-hyeon and Park Chang-hwan
Staff Reporter of Culture Section
Associate Editor of Theory & Critique Section