Vegeterian Eats in Korea – Balwoo Temple Cuisine

When I was in Seoul last week I finally crossed something off my list of things to do in Korea – temple meal!

I have wanted to experience a temple meal for two reasons

1) I love food and the idea of having ten or so courses for one dinner is just awesome.

2) Traditional Buddhist temple food is all vegan, which means that I can actually sit down to a big meal and eat everything in front of me.

In my searches for vegetarian restaurants I came across Balwoo, a restaurant located in Insadong right across from Jogyesa temple. The price is a little more then most dinners in Korea, but as you are getting to try a variety of dishes and have a new dinning experience then I do think it is worth it. They have a lunch special which is 29,000won for ten courses, but I was there at dinner time and went for the 12 courses for about 32,000won.

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This restaurant is really beautiful, we were seated on the floor and got to look out over the temple. Within minutes of sitting down the first dish came out – along with a handy list of what each course was. The portions are small but I found that this was just enough to taste everything without stuffing myself.

I wish I could remember what each course was, but there were too many!

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In the mix were some small pancakes.

 

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tofu and mushroom dumplings (mandu) – it made me so happy to finally be able to eat mandu in Korea!

 

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Spring rolls with fresh veggies.

 

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Gingseng root with citron jelly. I was very skeptical of this as I am not the biggest fan of gingseng, but it was surprisingly delicious. The root had a parsnip like texture and the citron jelly pared really well with it.

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tempura style mushrooms with a spicy BBQ sauce. This was hands down our favorite part of the meal. The mushrooms perfectly combined sweet, spicy and crunchy, I could have eaten more then one bowl of them.

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Soybean soup with spinach and rice cakes.

IMG_20140801_192729 And of course side dishes!! The main part of the meal at Balwoo is sticky rice served wrapped in a lotus leaf which comes out at the very end. I didn’t take a photo of this because, well frankly, It looked so unappealing when photographed. But peeling back leaves to find a hot, sticky rice was one of the high points of the meal. As if this wasn’t enough food we were given dessert – Korean dessert that is.

IMG_20140801_202245 Fruit chips and kiwi jelly. This wasn’t very sweet but as temple food is knowing for being a little bland and more unseasoned then other cuisines, I found that it was a perfect way to end the meal.

All up this was a fantastic experience and the food was amazing. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something different or just loves the idea of having multiple dishes. I thought the food was coming out a little fast but we were there for an hour and a half in total so it ended up being a great evening.

Balwoo is easy to find. From exit 6 of Insaong walk straight to the intersection and turn left. Keep walking until you see Jogyesa, the restaurant is directly across the road from the temple in the temple stay building on the fifth floor. Enjoy 😀 

 

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