Just keep skewerin’

So last weeks post was for the ethically minded among us and this week, it’s all about the carnivores. Courtesy of the Kwandrys (Songdo-legends) I have been introduced to a range of different board games and my new favourite Chinese Bbq, which is located conveniently close to Daiso  and does takeaway (but not delivery). The picture of the front isn’t the best – I will try to take another one next time I’m walking by (cough buying breakfast lunch and dinner) and replace it. Called Chinese Cuisine Yangkochi Megak it has a red sign on the outside and if you peer in the window, you’ll see a bunch of people with rotating skewers on their tables. It is however easy to get confused with other nearby restaurants as this seems to be skewer street, but keep an eye out for ‘Megak’ on the sign and you’ll hit the right place.

Megak LocationIMG_5260

Now I left the ordering to our resident experts and we went with a mix of lamb and beef skewers (as in, some were lamb, some were beef, not lamb and beef on the same skewer), a wonderful pork dish that I’m told translates as ‘meat strips in fish sauce’ – it tastes way better than it sounds I promise and last but not least, a deep-fried aubergine dish. Now I am of the opinion that aubergines were invented to mess with the souls of the pure of heart but I have learnt that if you dip it in batter and deep fry it, anything can be made to taste great! Should have learnt this from the Scots a long time ago but there you have it.

I didn’t get a picture of the aubergine dish, but it isn’t hard to find. The pork dish (spicy slightly sweet taste of heave that it is)  I mentioned is the second one on the left hand side picture and I’ve been advised to try the dish on the right hand side too – but I will let you know if my tastes ever venture that way.

Sadly I can’t post a video of the automatic skewer rotator thingy on the table so wander down, give it a try and take your own!!

Happy Eating!

 

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Keep calm and vegan on

No, today’s much overdue post isn’t a treatise about my sudden conversion to veganism, or even vegetarianism, but the fact remains that it is a major commitment to be vegetarian, never mind vegan in Korea. Despite this, it isn’t impossible to eat out and eat within your ethical viewpoint, it just takes some research and planning ahead. But let’s go back to the start. Since my last post (two months, I know, I know but to my credit I have done a few different things in that time that will fill a post or two) we’ve had Raj’s mum (vegan) and sister (vegetarian) to visit and we had to think ahead a bit to plan meals and make sure that nobody got Hangry whilst still seeing some of what Korea has to offer.

I spent quite a lot of time doing some research and here are a couple of things that I have found:

(1) Almond Milk and soy Milk are easy to find everywhere – the only thing to watch out for is the hidden sugar. Almond Breeze is available in most big marts as well as the local ones so if you stick to the one labeled (helpfully, in English) ‘unsweetened’ you’ll be fine. There is such a variety of soy milk here, but after much searching, we figured out that this one is low-no (not quite sure which, but its close enough) sugar:

IMG_5235

(2) I don’t know about in Seoul, where I am sure its easier, but round here, and on the online sources that I had, it was near impossible to find a vegan alternative to butter/margarine. Even the renowned ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ is a dairy spread so my solution was to try refined coconut butter from iHerb – it wasn’t a hit as it still tastes too coconut-ty, but it is as close as I could get. My other option of making almond butter – super easy and tasty – works well, but, well, it’s a bit weird in a cheese sandwich I think…

(3) Vegan cheese: Again, not located in Songdo or Incheon. Possibly available in Seoul but the easiest thing is to ask guests to bring some vegan cheese with them – it freezes well and cheese sandwiches are a great back up snack to carry about with you when sightseeing.

(4) Vegan yoghurt: depending on how vegan you are, you can use the soy milk pictured above to make your own, with a tiny bit of yoghurt (note: a lot of yoghurt in Korea has gelatine in it, so buy the organic one from Lotte to make sure it’s veggie-friendly) to help it set. Then after you have your first batch, you can use the soy yoghurt to move things along for the next few batches. Or…and here is a find I’m quite proud of – order it from here: https://www.vegut.co.kr/ Like all online shopping in Korea, delivery is super fast once you’ve made payment and you don’t have to worry about even a tiny bit of dairy sneaking its way in. I’m half-minded to suggest they start some form of butter and cheese as well and then shopping in Korea will basically be the same as shopping in London. Almost.

(5) YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT IN ALL THE TIME.

Yes, most international restaurants have at least one veggie option on the menu, but unless you have a good grasp of Korean, making sure it’s vegan is super hard. However, lest we forget, we live in Korea. Land of Buddhism (well, not so much any more but it used to be) and hence, a Buddhist diet – which, all together now, is Vegan! So to experience Korean cuisine and flavours, do yourself a favour and join two groups on Facebook: Veggie in Korea and Restaurant Buzz Seoul. Through a combination of these groups, I found reviews for the restaurant MAJI – situated just behind Gyeongbokgung Palace and it was a wonderful dining experience. Last orders into the kitchen varies from night-to-night, so call ahead and make a reservation – it’s well worth it!

The outside of the restaurant is a super quaint and cute traditional style Korean restaurant – but no sitting on the floor here! You really feel like you are inside someone’s dining room when having your meal and that adds to the delightful experience!

The dish that caught our eye the most is the platter of nine delicacies – having tried this (in its vegetarian and non-vegetarian form) elsewhere, we were keen to try it, but unfortunately, it requires at least 4 hours pre-order to be prepared. In the end, for four people, we ordered two of the Lotus Leaf Sets, some seaweed soup and of course, the Maji Bibimbap and actually, that turned out to be neither an over nor an under order, so well done us.

Given the pre-order requirement, I did one thing that I am usually loathe to do (actually, I made Raj do it, so I didn’t have to) and took pictures of the entire menu, so that my next meal could be properly planned. Drinks are the usual fare, with some unusual hot and cold teas offered to round out the meal.

 

Having made our first foray into the world of Vegan Korean restaurants, I’ve discovered a couple more that I think look good. Not to mention the whole host of such restaurants in Insadong – if you’re in the right area, and mood, yummy food isn’t far away. And if not, well, at least Dominoes has an English delivery line nowadays…

 

Eating Out in Songdo

If you are regular reader of this blog, one thing you know about me for sure is that my life is very Food Centric. Mostly because I love to eat good food, especially when someone else will make it, but also because I live with a vegetarian in Korea – otherwise known as the land of meat, meat and some BBQ for good measure.

With this in mind, it is both surprising and unsurprising that I haven’t written about local eateries of note sooner. Well one reason is that the restaurant landscape is ever-changing in Sondo. Apparently high rates often make foodie ventures untenable for owners to maintain so where there was once a Cheese Melt (Cheese Toasties for the Brits amongst us) Shop, has also been a Tiramisu Place and now is, I think, a Sushi restaurant. Secondly, not all the restuarants offer veggie options and I don’t like to sit and eat while Raj watches (except when it comes to Ribs. I can eat Ribs all day long. Yum.) and even when they do, there is usually only one item on the menu that is veggie, so it can get a bit boring. Another is defamation laws in Korea. Woah boy are those strict. So strict that you basically can’t post a bad review whilst naming an establishment online, for fear of being sued. And even if you don’t overtly name the establishment, but allude to it in such a way that it can prove your review was responsible for losing it buisness, you can still get in trouble. Bearing this in mind, I’m only writing about the resturants that I like to go to in Songdo. I have by no means been to all the restuarants so feel free to add your favourites in the comments but there are certain ones I’ve left out on purpose.

Oh, and from your time in Korea you might have also noticed that the way the locals number their floors is different too. What we in Europe (not for long for the UK…sob!) call the ground floor is the first floor here, and then it carries on from there: European First Floor = Korean Second Floor and so on. On my map, I’ve given the Korean floors so that if you have to go up you know what button to hit on the lifts!

Banes Taco

Located on Central-Ro nearer to the Convensia-Daero end is a little Mexican joint that is perfect for a quick lunch or some after work beers and tacos while watching the sun go down. My favourite thing to eat here are the chimichangas (incidentally, also the name of the first Mexican restaurant I ever went to and the first Mexican dish I ever ate) and they do cater reasonably well for veggies. Try the Guava Soda too – it’s a hit of sugary deliciousness 🙂 I believe the owner speaks English as well, so they may also be able to cater to any trickier dietary requirements.

Burgerroom

Only the chips are veggie friendly here, but I often send Raj to get me a takeout and make veggie burgers for him at home, so we can eat same-same-but-different. The burgers here are big and meaty and juicy and yes, I feel really fat after demolishing one of these bad boys. Always with Bacon and Avocado. Always.

Café Hilo

A tiny cute little lunch spot that is perfect for paninis, salads and even some pizza.

Café Jarb

On the second floor of the G-Tower, this is the easiest option for GCF Staff. Aeran, the owner is super friendly and depending on how busy they are, she is willing to accommodate particular sandwich or salad requests. In fact, her latest menu has a sandwich named after one particular person in the G-Tower (not GCF I think) who always asked for a combination that others would copy!

Cave Beer

The best pizza in Songdo, albeit a bit on the pricier side. They do take out as well and is a tried and tested option for movie night!

Dominos 

Everybody needs some Dominoes goodness once in a while. If you speak Korean, you can order delivery, but we tend to turn up and take out – it’s just as easy!

Gianni Napoli

Located on the first floor on NC Cube – I think it is in winter, but if you walk along the Arts Centre Daero Side of NC Cube eventually you’ll come across it. Or you could just check the store guide at the start, whatever. Yummy pizzas and lasagne, with a limited wine list. They also do take away pizzas too. If you are a large group, you are recommended to book as the restaurant, much like many others in Songdo, isn’t huge but you’ll likely need a Korean speaking colleague to help you with the booking! Either that of get off your ass at lunchtime and take a walk – it’s good for you after all!

Impasto

Possibly our favourite Italian in Songdo with a chef who was trained oversees. Their steak, pastas and salads are all yum and in line with restaurant pricing in Korea generally. They don’t do takeaways unfortunately but service is quick and friendly so it’s no hardship to eat here!! 1st Floor, near Awesome International Mart.

Korean BBQ

OK. Obviously there are NO END to the BBQ restaurants you’ll find in Songdo. Seriously, just go for a walk and I dare you not to find one within 10 minutes. But there are two that I have been to and are our go-to restaurants for when visitors arrive. The first is the Beef BBQ restaurant on the corner of our street and Convensia Daero (ish). Order the Wagyu Set and cook away. The second is the BBQ in the Hanok Village in Central Park. Now the beauty of this place is the setting – its super pretty and also, when you call up to book a table, you can (and must) pre-order a hot vegetarian Bibimbap which by all accounts is super tasty. I understand that if you don’t pre-order for veggies, you can only get a cold Bibimbap which, whilst nice, is altogether less satisfying.

La Campagne

Another Italian with a deli counter for when you want to close your eyes and buy real cheese or sausage no matter the cost! Pizzas are big and filling and when the weather is pleasant, it’s nice to sit outside and watch the world pass through the park.

La Casa

Our top choice for Mexican food in Songdo. You WANT a house Margarita to accompany your meal and the owner speaks English, so adjusting to different tastes isn’t a problem. They at getting more and  more popular however, so book in advance for groups or get there early to snag a table!

Old Songdo

I’ve lumped Old Songdo together largely because I don’t know how to show these places on a map. There is (usually) always a logic behind  my actions. I’ve eaten at a fusion Arabian-Indian Restaurant called Arabesque, a Korean BBQ with a red sign and the altogether fancier Nostalgia. The BBQ restaurant can’t cater for vegetarians, so if you have one, feed it in advance of heading there!

PF Changs

I was super thrilled to discover a PF Changs in Seoul last year during Chuseok and even ore so when I found out that a branch has been opened in Triple Street. Whilst we are yet to eat at the local branch, I have no doubt that it will be every bit as delicious as the fake-Chinese-food I have come to love over the years. Mmmmm #beefwithbroccoli

Saint Augustine

Apparently this wonderful little restaurant has been in Songdo longer than us yet I only discovered it recently. Simon, the owner, speaks English and is great at suggesting dishes that can be vegetarianised. The sticky thai fish is my favourite and if you go with me, it is likely I won’t share. Unless you order something equally delicious in which case the more the merrier! Located in Dream City on the 1st floor, there is parking in the basement – apparently you have to pay for the parking but we haven’t figured out how to do that yet (I think the pay to park stops after 8pm. I think.)

Swagat

The only Indian restaurant in Songdo that we like to eat at. Located on the 3rd floor, near the drive through Macdonalds. Parking in the basement can be a little tricky but persevere and you will triumph and be able to gorge yourself on Lamb Saag and Mango Lassi. They also deliver (Over 30,000won – so I order extra food and don’t cook for two days!) or you can go and pick up.

Toulon 

A French restaurants vetted and approved of by actual French people (Hi AnaMatt!) On the 1st floor of the same building as Swagat, I had the duck and the crème brulee, which I would totally have again. Nothing for veggies except dessert and like a lot of restaurants here, closed on Monday.

I’m sure I’m missing a couple of places but equally sure that when he reads it, Raj (hello!) will point out my omissions. He’ll probably also have a lot to say about my attempt at marking places on a map, but I know that I’m broadly in the right areas at least and anyway, it’s good for you to discover these places for yourself, so actually, I’m just being helpful! Where more than one restaurant is marked by a cross it is because they are super close to each other and I can’t fit enough Xs on the map! (ed. It’s possible that all this writing about food has left our blogger in a state of delirium, so don’t mind her and we’ll pack her off for some lunch now!)

Bon Aproveché!

Restaurants

Update 18/10/2017: Here’s a Brucey-Bonus for you (Sidebar: How long until that catchphrase dies out? RIP Mr Forsyth!) Opposite Central Park. on the Korean 2nd floor, on the Burgerroom side of the street is a new Indian restaurant BombayBrau. A chain (we’ve seen them in both Busan and Seoul) the food is tasty and the home-brewed beers complement it well. Definitely one for the revisiting list but a word of caution: If you don’t do well with spice, it is worth asking them to tone it done when ordering!