Some stick to the belief that being a vegan in Korea is a difficult task. You often hear things such as, “So, what do you eat?” “It’s too difficult in Korea!” “Where do you get your protein?!”
For anyone after the ultimate in tasty health food, Busan offers a wonderfully wide range of places to eat out. Whether you want a delicious alternative for the sake of the air, water, soil, the animals and yourself – or just an easy option for your Meatless Monday meal – there is something for everyone in the Busan veggie food scene.
Jack and the Beanstalk
Geumnyeonsan Station, exit 5, 051-556-8777, 010-9539-0365
This is a firm favorite among the wider expat scene, due to both the cheerful enthusiasm of bubbly owner Sophia and her wide range of Korean and Western foods. Popular dishes, like pizza, incorporate nuts, while others include the strangely familiar texture of “fake meat” vegetable protein, making staple Korean meals like spicy bulgolgi dupbab and tangsuyuk available for the non-meat eater.
Seomyeon Station, exit 1, the block behind McDonald’s, 5th floor upstairs from Wa Bar
Perhaps the longest established, hardest to find and the best-kept secret in Busan, this “cafe” has a fantastic menu, including fairly priced Korean favourites such as a surprisingly authentic-tasting spicy yangyong chicken and a Jeonju-style bibimbap. The top of the menu, however, rightfully belongs to the slightly more expensive yeon-ip bap. At only 11,000 won, this feast of fresh organic vegetable side dishes includes a parcel of sticky brown rice wrapped in lotus leaves, a small savory pancake, fresh lettuce leaves and bulgolgi-style vegetable protein for making Korean-style bulgolgi wraps.
Kim Mija Veggie Buffet
Pukyong area at the T-World Building, 051-626-3478
Available and popular in most large cities throughout Korea is the veggie buffet, and Busan is blessed with at least two. For 13,000 won, Kim Mija prepares a very long table crammed with a range of delectable Korean-style treats: heated trays of sauteed bean meats, full platters of fresh organic vegetables, a generous selection of traditionally prepared Korean vegetables, and two types of fruit for dessert.
Burger Kong’s Coffee
Two locations: Jurye Station, exit 7, 051-316-6069, 010-2852-8399 and Jungang-dong, 051-466-3379
The inclusion of coffee in the name could be misleading: this ain’t no ordinary espresso cafe! The tiny diner specializes in organic vegan burgers and sandwiches, but the surprise fortes are the juices and smoothies. Using soy-meat patties with fresh bread and vegetables in the buns, the welcoming owner-operator also uses soy milk in the smoothies and mayo dressings. The fresh, organic flavor is consistent throughout the tasty menu.
Bujeon-Dong, Busanjin-Gu, 051-818-9289
A popular and centrally located restaurant, Namsae offers three tables full of variety for 15,000 won, including Korean-style sticky lotus roots and other prepared vegetable side dishes, white and brown rice, noodles, seeds and nuts, hot soups, fresh salads and bread, and even fruit too.
Seo-gu, Busan, 051-248-6166, 010-3877-9700
This kindly husband and wife duo produce some of the tastiest veggie dishes from the most eclectic range of nationalities, including a great curry and naan, organic cream spaghetti, a hot pizza made with vegan cheese created from nuts, and more standard though equally delectable Korean dishes, including bulgolgi dupbap.
Justin Eckl also contributed to this story.