Korean Temple Food

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So we just came back from an epic trip to Seoul, South Korea and we had to share  something amazing (and of course food-related) with you that we discovered: Korean vegan food. Yes, we didn’t know about it either. We like to think that we are knowledgeable about quite a few international food cultures and we thought we knew all about Korean food – bibimbab, barbecue, hotteok, kimchi, mung bean pancakes, chicken and ginseng soup, rice cakes….but there’s a lot more. And sure, meat (particularly beef, pork, fish and shellfish) seems to be an important part of every Korean meal.

But Korea also has a long history of Buddhism which involves a diet free of meat, eggs, dairy, garlic and scallions. Technically, people refer to it as “temple cuisine” because it is is commonly served at Buddhist temples throughout Korea. The reason why we tried temple cuisine – apart from our curiosity – was that we’re both highly allergic to shellfish and not knowing the language meant eating at non-vegetarian places in Seoul was a bit like Russian roulette. (Though we certainly tried these foods and lived to tell the tale!) And our experience of temple cuisine in Seoul was that it was wonderfully imaginative, tasty and healthy.  It was also incredibly filling – we were served huge portions and numerous dishes. (In Korea, it seems impossible to order a dish by itself – and we’re not complaining! MORE PLEASE.) For your viewing pleasure – these are pictures of deep-fried mushrooms with a sweet glaze and pumpkin seeds (super yummy even though we hate mushrooms), glutinous rice wrapped in a lotus leaf, pumpkin dumplings and Korean vine leaves, homemade vegetable crisps and vegetarian kimchi. Yum!

So what do you think? Feel free to share your questions and comments below! We’d love to hear what you have to say.

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