My Seoul vegan shopping list
Switching to a vegan diet seems daunting to a lot of people. I’ve figured out that most of the time this is due to a lack of knowledge about the surplus of vegan products available to provide you with a balanced diet. Along with my vegan staples ~ beans, whole grains and fresh veggies and fruit, here is a list of my favorite (healthy) foods that I just can’t live without here in Korea.
This list would probably look somewhat different in Canada 🙂
The king of Soy products! Hailing from Indonesia, this addictive food is always in my meal rotation. Heavier than tofu, tempeh is made from the entire bean and is packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants and more. It’s also fermented which is good for the gut and a nice change from beans 🙂 Marinate it in your favorite sauce, bake or fry it, and add it to any dish as a meat substitute.
2 – Soymilk
Can’t live without my soy lattes! Soy milk in Korea, however, can be a bit deceiving as some are not actually vegan as they contain D3 which is derived from animals. To be safe, my go-to brand is Maiel Soymilk. I love that its unsweetened so you can use it in food recipes as well without it turning out sweet. No one wants sweet mashed potatoes!
3 – Tofu
I think tofu gets the most flack in the food world, but I’m all about it. Unlike legumes, it’s a complete protein and a great source of iron and calcium. And you can make it taste like whatever you want! Just like tempeh, choose a marinade then bake or fry it. Add to curries, stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, you name it! You can also use it to make sauces, dressings, throw it in a smoothie etc. Tofu wins for its versatility alone.
4- Nutritional Yeast (Nooch)
What the heck is nooch? It’s a deactivated yeast, sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder. It has a strong flavor that is both nutty and cheesy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It’s also fortified with Vitamin B12 which is often lacking in plant-based diets.
Mac and cheese, tofu scramble, popcorn~ if you want a cheesy flavor, nooch has you covered.
5- Black salt (Kala Namak)
Now, I have yet to see this available in Korea, but a lovely woman messaged me one day and gifted me a whole bag that I’m still using. It’s popular in Indian cuisine and its unusual color comes from the presence of tiny amounts of iron and other minerals. It smells like eggs and has been total game changer in my tofu scrambles. I have yet to experiment with it in much else but I will get there 🙂
6- Hemp seeds
I remember in my early years of living in Korea when hemp seeds were not even allowed to be delivered here. Now you can find them at Costco 🙂 They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, packed with protein and have a yummy nutty flavour. Sprinkled on salads, smoothie bowls, avocado and toast, they can up the nutrition level of most of your meals.
I can’t remember who turned me on to this stuff but I’ve been touting its attributes to anyone that will listen. Yes, its the green pigment found in plants, mixed up with a little mint flavour ~ magic in a bottle. Benefits include: stimulating the immune system, eliminating fungus in the body, detoxifying your blood, cleaning your intestines, getting rid of bad odors, energizing the body, and preventing cancer. I can attest to most of these, we’ll see about the cancer 🙂
8- Natural Peanut butter
Recently, I’ve been shocked at how many people thought peanut butter had butter in it. For real? It’s just peanuts. And oil and sugar if its the processed kind :(. When I realized how easy it was to make nut butter, I never bought it from the store again. All you need is a food processor and the nut. And nuts are good for you! Don’t let anyone try to fool you. They’re full of protein and good fats which make them perfect for a snack. I could probably put peanut butter on anything but my absolute favorite is still is a PB & Banana sandwich, but with a slight upgrade ~ coconut bacon :).
The absolute essential nut in a vegan diet! They are cholesterol-free and contain good amounts of heart-healthy fats, fiber, and protein. I use them as a base for almost all dressings (I prefer creamy to vinaigrettes^^), creamy soups, toasted for a snack and vegan cheeses. They really are the wonder nut for a vegan diet.
10 – Coconut oil
This has become a controversial one in the last few years but happy to have it available in Korea! It’s high in saturated fats but also has a number of health benefits including increasing good cholesterol, enhancing healthy skin and hair and helping to control insulin levels. I just love the taste of this oil, so buttery and flavourful, I definitely prefer it over olive oil. And everything in moderation right?
Which of these staples do you also have in your kitchen? Are there any others that should be on my radar? Let me know in the comments.
Look out for next week’s post where we look at the slew of vegan celebrity influencers that have been emerging both in Korea and the west.