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Being vegetarian in Korea means that I cook a lot. While a lot of expats go out to eat pretty regularly or pick up easy-to-make foods from the store, I spend my Sundays making food from scratch in my kitchen.
Cooking the majority of my meals means I typically keep my kitchen well-stocked and there are quite a few things that I always keep on hand.
If you’re living in Korea as a vegetarian or you’re making the move and are unsure of what it’s going to be like, I admit it is a challenge. Learning how to cook will one hundred percent make your life easier in Korea. Luckily for me, I’ve always enjoyed cooking. When I moved here, I just needed to learn how to make meals with what I had available. It wasn’t always easy, but it can be done. And I must admit, my cooking skills have improved so much since my first month here.
Perhaps the most important thing I keep in my kitchen is spices. Having a variety of spices allows me to make creative dishes even if I’m often using the same ingredients.
Some of my favorite spices that I always keep on hand are:
- Garlic salt
- Cayenne pepper
- Fresh cilantro
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- This Mexican Seasoning from Frontier Co-op
- Salt and pepper, of course
It’s important to keep your kitchen stocked with spices. My kitchen wouldn’t be complete without them. Many of the ones I always have on hand are incredibly versatile and can be used in so many different dishes.
In My Pantry
When I moved to Korea, one of the most challenging things I had to do was learn how to make dried foods. I once tried to make dried black beans back in Pennsylvania and failed. I never knew how long to boil them before they’d finally be ready to eat. In fact, I felt like making dried anything was such a time-consuming process that I stuck to the canned goods even though I knew it would be easier on my wallet to buy dried goods in bulk.
Now, I don’t have much of a choice but to buy dried beans if I want to make anything with them. Canned beans are difficult to come by, especially if you’re looking for black beans or chickpeas.
I started buying dried beans at Emart instead. At least until I discovered it was more affordable to order them online. Now, I keep my kitchen stocked with chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and lentils.
As far as cooking them goes, I’ve learned that soaking them for at least 24 hours helps shorten cooking time. I’ve also discovered that my rice cooker cuts down on the amount of steam being released into my apartment and cooks them to the perfect tenderness. While it still takes a few hours, turning on my rice cooker is a lot less hands-on than standing at the stove making sure all the water doesn’t dry out of the pot.
Along with dried beans and lentils, I also keep pasta and rice on hand to serve as the basis of any dish I make.
Fruits and Vegetables
The fruits and veggies I keep in my fridge varies. I tend to shop whats in season more now than I did in the States. Mostly because of the high price of produce in Korea.
I tend to stick to shopping at the outdoor market for produce because it’s easier to get a better deal at the market. The produce is fresher, too.
I’ve also taken a swing at growing some of my own produce in window boxes. So far, I’ve got quite a few babies peeking through the soil, and hopefully more on the way!