Vegetarian sabotage

Ok so I admit it, being a vegetarian in Korea is definitely not as easy as i thought it would be!  Having been here for almost 2 months, I have eaten noodles roughly about 5 out of the 7 days a week… making a grand total of 45 bowls of noodles.  For those of you who know me, and my slight insanity about fitness, eating right and my love for all things veggie, than you might find this blog a bit of a shock. “what! Sam eating carbs every day of the week!!!”, ya I know, crazy eh! but hey, when in…Korea do as the Koreans??

bowl of noodles

I knew full well that with my dietary restrictions that my travels are slightly less adventurous in the food area then most.  But that being said Pete and I are avid cooks and enjoy cooking just as much as going out to a restaurant. Coming to Korea I assumed that living in an Asian country, the birth place of tofu and soy milk, both staples in almost all vegetarian diets, that there would be new awe inspiring vegetarian options! But it seems as though they have not moved passed those two items.  And on top of that, their selection of soymilk doesn’t have the delicious flavors like chocolate or strawberry…its just plain old soymilk.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a nice glass, but even France, the country that puts ham on EVERYTHING, had countless more varieties, including banana!

So in spirit of not starving, I have dialed down my vegetarianism a tad…as sad as that sounds.  Previously, I would not have eaten anything with an animal by-product in it… For example; gelatin, chicken/beef/fish stock,anything that was cooked with meat, and so on.  But now, with the language barrier and the fact everything is written in Korean on ingredients lists I find this ever so difficult. Simple grocery store visits have turned into day trips where i bring the words “pork”, “beef”, “chicken” and “fish” written out in Korean.  Besides one questionable dumpling, I think I have done an OK job with avoiding meat all together.

Making a spider pinata for Halloween

The only real trouble I have got myself into is with  a devilish 6 year old who takes pleasure in trying to trick me into eating meat. For those of you who do not know, I work one-on-one with the directors son, MuBon, from 10 am until noon.  After which we go out for lunch with his 2 year old brother June-Young and his auntie. This one particular afternoon we were going out for noodles at a restaurant.  They ordered kong gook su (cold noodles), kal gook su (hot noodles) and dumplings. The only time I had eaten dumplings before were when they were kimchi on the first night in Korea.  But here sat in front of me were the most deliciously smelling, soft gooy dumplings that made my mouth water just by looking at them.  Oh how I craved something other then noodles! I asked MuBon, who acted as my translator to his non English auntie, if they had meat in them.  He mumbled a few Korean words to his auntie, looked back at me with a smile and said “she says no”.  So, I pick up my chop sticks, grab one of these enormous dumplings and stuff it into my mouth with excitement. Yummy, you ask? Well not quite. The first bite into the dumpling I chomped down on what was unmistakably pork.  The tough, chewy texture made me slightly gag and look around for a napkin.  There were none to be found. So in spirit of not being rude, I chewed, and chewed, and chewed some more (I forgot how tough meat was!).  Finally I built up the courage to swallow the lump of doughy pork and washed it down with copious amounts of water. MuBon, who watched me eat the entire thing, was quick to ask “did you like it!”.  I replied neutrally, not wanting to offend the cook, saying “there was meat in it MuBon! I don’t eat meat”. He persistently asked again “ya! But did you like it Samantha teacher!? Did you? You like meat! I knew you liked meat! Here have another one!”… and thus began the struggle between a persistent little boy who fails to understand vegetarianism (who actually thought I was a veterinarian at one point) and my wish to maintain a meat free lifestyle.