One of my favorite things about Japan is how easy it is to find tranquility within its urban metropolises. In Tokyo, it’s not hard to find ethereal shrines adjacent to winding highways and looming office blocks…
Last weekend my globe-trotting uncle Jeff swung by Seoul for a speedy visit. We were super psyched to get the opportunity to show him around, and tried to pack as many sights and gastronomical delights into the weekend as possible!
Insadong is rife with traditional Korean vegan and vegetarian restaurants serving temple food; we’d already visited the two most well-known temple food restaurants in this area, Sanchon and Baru, so over Buddha’s Birthday weekend, we visited two lesser known establishments: Oh Se Gae Hyang and Han Gwa Chae.
Most restaurants in Insadong are located down a series of winding labyrinths with random dead-ends, hidden doors, and unmarked fronts. Even while using the most sophisticated navigation equipment, you’re bound to get a bit lost wandering around here!
Eating out in Seoul is a true delight, and a real treat for us since we’ve given up completely on eating out in Ulsan, the land of endless greasy Korean barbeque and fried chicken joints.
Our diets have changed completely since moving to Korea, due to a combination of factors, including price and availability of certain foods, and my outlook on the food industry has changed a lot since moving here. Korea is a country OBSESSED with meat. You can’t walk down a street without coming across posters depicting piles of raw beef and fatty strips of pork. And, as you’d expect in a country where the consumption of dog and whale meat is still very prevalent, there really isn’t much in the way of animal welfare, or the humane treatment of animals. Consequently, I’ve pretty much stopped eating meat and animal products entirely since moving here. The only animal products I still consume are organic honey and sustainably wild-caught sardines, which I have shipped over from the US.
Eoin’s still a meat-eater, though he only buys Australian beef, as we’ve both been disconcerted by the fact that even though beef seems to be the staple of the modern Korean diet, we haven’t seen a single cow in any of the stretches of farmland we’ve driven past. I’ve actually only seen two cows in Korea, harnessed into the back of a flatbed pick-up truck…
Thankfully, we were spoiled for choice with delicious vegan options in Seoul!
Righty-o! So, part two of our Seoul adventure took us to Insadong; this is the place to go if you want to buy Korean antiques and traditional crafts. It’s a pretty tricky area to navigate, loads of tiny little streets and alleyways absolutely brimming with shops and restaurants.
Our main purpose for visiting Insadong was to find a reportedly amazing Buddhist temple food restaurant called Sanchon. It took us a good while to find it after unsuccessfully following two different sets of directions I’d gotten off the internet. The best way to find this place is to type the address into your phone and wander around staring at your Google map, trying not to bump into anyone in the process.
Sanchon is tucked away in one of Insadong’s many alleyways, but the hustle and bustle of the city completely vanishes as soon as you walk in the door. It’s beautiful inside, with loads of Buddhist antiques, art, and hand-crafted souvenirs.