Living in Korea as Muslim is kind of hard, especially regarding Food Preferences. Because due to religion restriction, we are prohibited to eat Pork, and other foods that are not Halal or suspicious. I have been living in Korea for almost 2 years, and thanks god I could survive until now 🙂 I’ll give you several tips to adjust your food preferences here.
For your information, almost all restaurants in South Korea serves Pork (돼지고기), so it is very difficult to avoid them. But, recently, South Korean Government have started to see Halal Food Market opportunity so that they provide many facilities regarding this issue.
Finding something to eat
First of all, if it is your first arrival, try to remember and avoid anything that contain Pork (돼지고기, dwaeji gogi) and Ham (햄). Following is survival conversation and recommended to do before eating.
Q: Is this containing meat? I don’t eat meat. (고기를 들어가요? 고기를 안 먹어요. gogi reul deurokayo? gogi reul an mogoyo)
A: Yes (네, ne) or No (아니요, aniyo)
Some main dishes that contain Pork are 순대 (sundae), 감자탕 (kamjatang), 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal), 김치찌개 (kimchi jjigae), and 김치볶음밥 (Fried Rice with Kimchi). Don’t judge food by its name. Even the name is not containing Pork or Ham things, but it might be yes. Because Koreans love meat.
For me, in the beginning of my stay in Korea, I only eat seafood, such as tuna, fish, octopus, shrimp, clamps (reference for other seafood vocabulary). But be careful, Muslims are not only prohibited to eat Pork, but also alcohol. Let’s say, you want to eat sushi, be careful of the soy sauce, could be contained a bit alcohol.
Following are list of Korean Food that is safe at least:
- bibimbap, 비빔밥 (vegetable mixed with rice)
- kalkuksu, 칼국수 (noodle)
- kimbab, 김밥 (rice roll). note: safe if you ask to remove the Ham. almost all kimbab contain Ham
- sundubu jjigae, 순두부찌개 (Tofu Stew)
- chamci jjigae, 참치찌개 (Tuna Stew)
- godengo gui, 고등어구이 (Mackerel Fish Grill)
- jjukkumi, 쭈꾸미 (Small Octopus Grill)
Even finding snack also very very very tricky here. For example chocolate-based snack, some chocolate could be contained pork’s part, such as gelatin, lecithin, whey, and so on. I’ll explain the detail in the Advance Tips below. But don’t worry because there is a simple way to survive for this. Instal Halal Korea application, and scan the barcode of the products based on your restriction preferences.
For students who have to spend more than 6 months here, luckily you have another option other than eating outside. You can cook your own food! As long as you have place to cook, you can cook your own food with halal ingredients that are sold online or offline at the Asia/ Foreign Market. In Seoul, you can go to Itaewon or nearest Muslim Center. In my case, since I am Indonesian, I could find many Muslim Center in here, and they also sell Halal Food and Ingredients. Itaewon is the most popular place for Muslim, because The biggest Muslim Center and Masjid is located here, Itaewon, can be reached by subway line 6. You can find Pakistan, Turkish, Malaysian, Indonesian, India and others’ special dishes here.
For foreigners that are able to read or understand a bit Korean, it’s more challenging! For finding main dishes is okay, because you are already aware of it. But for snack or bread, you have to aware of its ingredients also. Something that is nice from Korea is that every processed products here (reference for the vocabulary), they put the ingredients in detail, at least most of them put it in detail. What can I share about this is, be careful of following ingredients:
- 유화제 (emulsifier), except its written 대두 or 식물성 that has meaning plant-based emulsifier
- 유청분말 (whey powder)
- 펩신 (animal-based enzyme)
- 주정 (alcohol etanol)
- 육수 (broth) , it is safe if the broth is made of anchovy (멸치), or seafood (해산물)
- 쇼트닝 (shortening) , if its written 대두 or 식물성, then safe
- 우지 (beef tallow)
Basically, if the suspicious ingredients are containing 대두 or 식물성, then it is plant-based ingredients. Otherwise it is better to avoid it if you can.
Yeah, it is not easy to surviving here, especially regarding food choice. If you only avoid Pork and Alcohol, then you have more options since you can eat chicken and beef.But some of us prefer not to eat meat unless it’s Halal. The longer you stay here, the more you will feel familiar with all of this. But God will always help you 🙂