Saturday 9 July 2016

Vegan in Korea: Convenience Stores

Coming from Japan where convenience stores hold all manner of vegan eats Korea was a little bit of a shock to the system. None of the samgak gimbap (Korean onigiri) on offer were vegetarian let alone vegan and a lot of the soy milks there contain either dairy products, vitamin D3, or both. As someone who is a huge fan of the bed picnic after a long day of exploring this was a little disappointing! I was up for the challenge though, nothing gets in-between me and a bed picnic, and I soon worked out what vegan eats could be found at the 7/Eleven and CVS stores that were dotted around the cities we visited.

It's not a long list but in a pinch you can make a filling, if not entirely satisfying, meal from the following items.

Microwave rice, tetra packs of Almond Breeze almond milk, apples, snack packs of grapes and tomatoes, and bananas - although they are shrink wrapped and on a polystyrene tray. The earth weeps. I also found Pringles (no longer owned by Unilever), the sweet potato snacks pictured above, and the seaweed snacks pictured below. As you can see I had to supplement my bed picnics, and make hotel breakfasts, with food from elsewhere most of the time.

I also found Almond breeze on sale at larger Olive Young stores as well as individually wrapped Misura chocolate and apricot jam filled croissants.

Major department stores like Lotte in Seoul or Hyundai by Beomil station in Busan have food courts with things like Almond Breeze and fresh soy milk as well as imported treats and snacks. I found vegan cocoa pop style cereals and choco granola bars from Nature's Path, Bio Zentrale granola from Germany, Ten Acre crisps, German pretzels, and Goody Good Stuff sweets whilst I was scouring shelves in department store food courts.

You can also find branches of Loving Hut in every major city and they often have stores attached. The best ones are at Gangnam in Seoul and near the National University of Education in Daegu. You'll find VioLife cheese slices on sale there as well as Lenny & Larry's cookies, Misura soy crackers and croissants, ramen noodles, and mock meats which are perfect if you're Air B&Bing it.

VioLife is also sold at DalYang Sweet Kitten and The Bread Blue in Seoul and combined with a baguette or some rolls (I only found vegan bread at The Bread Blue in Seoul) my favourite cheese slices often perked up an otherwise boring breakfast. In Busan Yammy Green has a great small store with Lenny & Larry cookies and other vegan snacks which should help fuel your beach days.

As you can see Korea is no vegan paradise but you won't starve and as well as convenience store foods there's a chain restaurant called Robot Gimbap that serve kimbap with tofu or soy meat which are vegan if you ask to remove the egg. I first read about it on the Alien's Day Out blog and I was pretty excited to find some bed picnic suitable food.

You'll need to ask to have the egg removed in Korean at most of the Robot locations. I found it super challenging to pronounce it correctly so I just took a screen shot of it on my phone which worked every time. You can also eat in at Robot but be warned that they will give you a bowl of mystery soup. I couldn't find out if the broth was meat based so I played it safe and gave it a miss. If you can't read the Korean alphabet deciphering the locations on the Robot Gimbap website will be impossible but the locations I found and ate at (with the help of Mipa from Alien's Day Out / Plant and the reception staff at the hostel in Daegu) are located at the Hyundai department store in Dongdaemun in Seoul, the Hyundai department store in Daegu, and at both the Hyundai department store, and outside the Jangsan metro station at the end of the green line, in Busan.

As you can see Korea isn't a vegan paradise yet but it's getting there and each major city has some great vegan options. You can read about my favourite eats in Seoul here and here. Where's the toughest place you've ever travelled as a vegan? For me Korea probably tops the list but I mainly self catered in Serbia, Bosnia, and Albania which I think may have given them an unfair advantage.


  1. Ha! Bed picnic! I am no stranger to these ;)

  2. Great finds! Are the packaged foods in Korean and English? How do you know they're vegan? I find a lot of imported snacks at the Asian supermarket and even with the US nutrition label slapped on it, sometimes it's hard to tell if it's vegan.

    1. They're all in Korean. Occasionally I'd find something in English at an import store but otherwise I had to use the google translate app and the help of Korean speaking internet buddies.

  3. I love your convenience foods posts - ferreting through the shelves for previously unknown vegan items is always a highlight of my holidays!


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