Vegetarian Korean in New Malden, Greater London?
August 18, 2018 1:27 AM   Subscribe

New Malden is known for its substantial Korean population and great Korean restaurants. Does anyone have recommendations for Korean restaurants in New Malden that have good options for vegetarians alongside the meat?
posted by rednikki to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Korean menus have lots of options for vegetarian fare. I don’t know if a specifically vegetarian friendly place but here are some dish suggestions that are:

- Bibimbap: As it is assembled before serving its very easy for them to leave out the meat portion. Dolsot Bibimbap is served in a piping hot clay pot, which my husbad prefers. Both are served with a fried egg in case the vegetarians do not consume eggs.
- Kimchi Fried Rice: also easy to leave out any meat (usually fried up with pork) and could ask if they could replace with tofu. Also commonly served with a fried egg.
- kimchi jeon (kimchi pancakes): sometimes made with meat, sometimes not. The batter will probably be prepped earlier so ask if it contains meat.
- pajeon: fried pancakes made of vegetables, but not kimchi. Usually does not contain meat.
- Mandu (korean dumplings/wonton): veggie versions are common so keep an eye out for that
- japchae: very commonly made as a vegetarian dish but sometimes may be made with bits of beef so just double check.
- modum namul: the general phrase that describes a variety of vegetable side dishes. I’ve seen restaurants serve between 3-6 dishes when you request modum namul. They will range from: spinach, bean sprouts, different kinds of kimchi, daikon, cucumber, etc depending on season and the restaurants own preferences.
- tteokboki (ddrokbeoki): Rice cakes in hot and spicy sauce. Sometimes served with fish cake which should be easy to request to leave out. Often served with a soft boiled egg
- mul nangmyeon: so refreshing on a hot day! Often served with a hardback boiled egg
- bibim naenmyeon: same as above but not in a broth, in a very spicy paste instead

Hope that helps!
posted by like_neon at 2:01 AM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

My husband noted to me that I should warn that kimchi is often made with some sort of fishy essence (shrimp paste, oysters, or fish sauce) in case that is a factor for the vegetarians as well. Vegan kimchi is becoming quite common, so best ask.
posted by like_neon at 2:06 AM on August 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yes, fish is a factor. Do you have specific restaurants in New Malden to recommend?
posted by rednikki at 3:13 AM on August 18, 2018

Hey, I don't know the area of New Malden, so I don't have specific places to suggest, but just wanted to chime in after saying like_neon's list of food suggestions. There's some solid suggestions, but just wanted to give some more warnings about specific food items because like kimchi, fish sauce/broth/and not obvious meat products can make up some of them:

In most Korean restaurants kimchi (or regular pa/scallion) jeon will contain seafood. No that you can't ask for them to leave it out, but when dining out I have seen the rare surprise where what's advertised as pa jeon on the menu come out with seafood even though the kind with seafood is usually called haemool pajeon. So be careful and definitely ask not only if there's no meat, but also that there's no seafood in it.

I don't know if japchae is that commonly vegetarian so wouldn't count on it. It can be (if the place is cheap like that), but it is a dish that a lot of times has beef or pork in it. Even if they say there's no meat, I have seen some places put shredded imitation crabmeat, which isn't exactly crab, but is made from some fish.

tteokboki: while you can omit the fishcakes, a lot of the times the base of the "sauce" is odeng or some kind of myulchi (fish) broth. So it's not guaranteed vegetarian even if you leave out the fish cakes.

Mul naengmyeon: it is garnished with an egg, but also usually sliced boiled beef, which is usually boiled to make the base of the broth. Not all naengmyeon is beef broth, since it can be made from just dongchimi (or brine of watery kimchi), BUT I will say, unless the restaurant makes it from scratch and it isn't something prepackaged and they advertise it specifically as being JUST dongchimi gukmul, there's a very high chance there could be some meat like broth at play. I'd maybe recommend that probably bibim naengmyeon is the safer but, which is the kind that you just mix with a sweet gochujang sauce. Just make sure the menu doesn't call it "hoe/hwae" naengmyeon (it'll be sashimi/raw fish) and make sure they don't garnish it with meat.

If you end up not getting suggestions for vegetarian specific places, your best bet is talking to the kitchen and just asking if they have anything vegetarian and hoping for the best and avoiding kimchi, finding things on the menu that say vegetarian. It might not be 100% a guarantee, but it's a start.

Another thing to possibly look out for is any place that serves "temple food" (사찰음식). I don't know how common these are outside of Korea and metropolitan areas, but Buddhist temple food is made to be vegetarian/vegan (also no onion/garlic, but they have ways of getting around it).
posted by kkokkodalk at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would follow earlier advice and just look at veggie options at any Korean restaurant in the area. I stay in Raynes Park, which is around the corner from New Malden and has a number of Korean places. We have a place called Gaya that used to be Ga-chi and was highly rated. Lovely barchan. Their menu is full of decent veg stuff. I've eaten here as well, but I'm not clear it's still open.

Korean is becoming more mainstream in London - there is even a Korean place at Waterloo now (Oseyo.) I don't think you will struggle.
posted by sagwalla at 3:08 PM on August 18, 2018

Kkokkodalk gives excellent advice. Although there are vegetarian dishes, "traditional Korean fare" is not exactly made to be vegetarian friendly. It's true, historically, Koreans would not be able to afford meat at their table but they relied heavily on things like anchovies and shrimp to flavour their dishes and even if you don't see these ingredients, they may very well have been used in the sauces and broths. The more vegan/vegetarian aware restaurants are more likely to be in London.

That said (and I'm trying not to be too biased here as a Korean) most places will try hard to help you select something that works! From my experience, we really want to share our food and culture with non-Koreans and make them happy. You just may be very limited depending on your restrictions so it's just best to manage expectations. At the minimum end you may just need to get rice and a selection of namul banchan (vegetable side dishes) minus any kimchi containing fish products. Most of these side dishes will be seasoned with a bit of sesame oil and salt, soy sauce, or lightly pickled (and very representative of "temple food" mentioned above). I won't list what they are because there are a ton of varieties and every restaurant will have slightly different selections (like, don't be surprised if you see a potato salad). But a bunch of banchan and rice will constitute a nice meal! I had many many meals growing up that was just this. I feel pretty confident that any Korean restaurant would be able to provide this at a minimum.
posted by like_neon at 2:02 AM on August 20, 2018

tl;dr the answer is "no," no one has recommendations for specific Korean restaurants in New Malden for you.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:18 AM on August 20, 2018

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