Alcohol and food

Vegetarian cheese pizza and black beer with cinnamon in a Western-style pub. Seoul 2018.

In Korea, drinking plays an important social role.🍻 When meeting people in the evening, people often enjoy their food alongside alcoholic drinks. Koreans are respectful if you do not drink alcohol – but it will definitely influence the scope of your social activities. (Actually, people will initially expect you to not be fond of drinking at all, since you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.)

In terms with this, anju (안주) are a characteristic trait of Korean culture. This is a category of foods which are specifically made to accompany alcohol. They range from simple peanuts and fried potatoes to more complex dishes such as savory pancakes, raw fish or all kinds of meat barbecues.

There are also classical combinations of specific types of drinks with certain dishes. For example, you can observe the following patterns:

  • 🍺🍴 Pubs or bars, which offer beer (maekju 맥주) and other Western-style alcohol, have a menu featuring Western-style foods such as fried chicken🍗, french fries🍟, pizza🍕 and sausages🌭.
  • 🍶🔥 Soju (소주), a type of Korean liquor, is combined with barbecues of meat🥩, seafood🦑 or raw fish🐟.
  • 🥛🥢 Korean rice wine (makgeolli 막걸리) is frequently enjoyed with savory pancakes 🥞 (especially on a rainy day) and some other traditional Korean foods.
Savory Korean pancakes at a food stall on Gwangjang Market 광장시장. Seoul 2019.

What can you eat when going out? There are a number of options, which vary depending on the kind of location you go. Be aware that not every bar or Korean pub (suljip 술집) offers a dish that is vegan, vegetarian, halal or kosher. Sometimes it’s easiest to check the menu from the outside / online, before you enter the restaurant, pub or bar.

Here are some ideas for veggie-friendly anju, listed according to location.

🍺 Western style pubs aka Hof (호프) 🍴

Cheese platter and pretzels, served with beer at a Western-style pub. Seoul 2018.
  • 🥜 peanuts (땅콩) – VEGAN
  • 🥨 salted pretzels – VEGAN
  • 🍿 Korean popcorn or other puffed grains (ppeongtwigi 뻥튀기) – VEGAN
  • 🍟 french fries or fried potatoes (gamja twigim 감자튀김) – VEGAN
  • 🥗 salad (샐러드) – vegan if dressing is removed
  • 🍕 pizza (피자)
  • 🧀 cheese (치즈)
  • 🍹 fruit in sweet liquid / fruit punch (hwachae 화채) – vegan unless 🥛milk or milk soda (밀키스) is used.

🍶 Barbecues for beef or pork 🔥

  • 🥚 egg stew (gyeran jjim 계란찜) – occasionally contains 🐟fish roe or pieces of 🥓sausage.
  • 🍳 rolled omelette (gyeran mari 계란말이) – sometimes contains 🥓ham or sausage.
  • 🍜 cold buckwheat noodles mixed with sauce (bibim naengmyeon 비빔냉면) – often served with 🥚egg and 🐄beef broth; noodles may contain 🐚 sea shell powder. Customize by requesting to serve without broth (and egg).
  • 🍜 cold noodles in water kimchi (kimchi-mari gugksu 김치말이국수) – there may be an egg topping; kimchi may contain 🐟fish sauce

🥛 Korean pubs with traditional food 🥢

  • 🥞 savory Korean pancakes (buchimgae 부침개 / jeon 전):
  • warm tofu with kimchi (dubu kimchi 두부김치) –
    Tofu is VEGAN, but kimchi normally contains 🐟fish sauce.
  • pan-fried tofu (dubu buchim 두부부침) –
    VEGAN unless additionally fried in 🥚egg batter.
  • 🥗 acorn jelly salad (dotori muk muchim 도토리묵 무침) – VEGAN

Be aware that recipes vary by family/restaurant and each place will have their own version of the respective dish. Before ordering, you might want to confirm whether any 🥩meat, 🐟fish or 🐚seafood goes into your serving.

Also note that especially in the case of eating from an outdoor food stall, dishes may be prepared on the same grill. Knowing this is important in case of allergies or personal preferences. It is up to you to decide whether you eat under these conditions or not.

Anyways, hope you can enjoy your night out! Cheers! 🍾😊

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