Historically, D.C. residents have had to travel to Annandale, Virginia to get their Korean food fix. Of late, however, Korean restaurants have been popping up throughout D.C. proper and are here to satisfy your Korean food cravings. For those of you less familiar with the cuisine, there is much more to Korean food than Korean BBQ. In fact, Korean food can be pretty vegetarian-friendly. Here’s a guide with lots of recommendations to help you choose the best vegetarian dishes local Korean spots offer.
Anju: The Upscale Korean Restaurant
There is nothing not to love about Anju. The warm and inviting ambiance, the creative cocktails and the decadent Korean fare. Their juk, which is a savory Korean rice porridge, is one of the major highlights. The dish changes with the seasons, but always remains divine. The ddukbokgi, Korean rice cakes, are another highly recommended dish. The rice cakes have just the right amount of chewiness and are soaked in a sweet and savory soy sauce. Wheels of lotus root add crunch while mushrooms bring a meaty element to the dish. I would be remiss not to mention Anju’s Korean sweet potato. It is one of the dishes that has people coming back time and again. The dish features baked sweet potato drenched in a silky honey butter sauce, sprinkled with Maldon salt and crowned with scallions and walnuts for texture. 1805 18th St. NW, DC; anjurestaurant.com // @anjufrc
BUL: Where Korean Beverages Meet Korean Food
This casual Adams Morgan spot has an extensive menu with a plethora of vegetarian options. The Korean pancakes, which are savory egg-based pancakes, come in a veggie version where crunchy carrots and zucchini are folded into the batter and cooked into the pancake. Egg mari, a Korean style omelet, is another winning dish with spicy siracha bringing some heat. The soondubu jjigae is my personal favorite of the vegetarian dishes on the menu; the tofu stew is warm and heady from an infusion of garlic, soy sauce and Korean red pepper flakes called gochugaru and the tofu is melt-in-your-mouth soft. Be sure to check out the drink menu as well, which includes different kinds of soju, which is a Korean liquor, Korean rice wines and Korean beers. The soju flavors range from yuzu-flavored to lemon-infused and, for the adventurous, yogurt soju. Korean sodas, in wild flavors like cream, rice and cinnamon, are also available for a non-alcoholic option. 2431 18th St. NW, DC; buldc.com // @wearebul
CHIKO: Korean Fast-Casual
The restaurant hosts a separate vegetarian menu that includes Brussel sprouts with furikake, a seasoning made of toasted sesame seeds and nori, green beans cooked with a fermented soybean and red chili pepper paste called ssamjang, noodles cooked in a wok to bring a smoky, earthy flavor to the noodles, and fried rice with crunchy fried shallots. Various locations; mychiko.com // @chikofrc
Magpie and The Tiger: The Best Korean Spot for Vegetarians
Kevin Tien’s newest venture is everything we hoped for. The menu is small but full of gems. Vegetarians are well taken care of, with eight of the 11 dishes either vegetarian or easily converted to vegetarian. The Korean potato salad is sinfully rich, with creamy chive-dusted potato salad serving as a filling for a crêpe made of griddled cheese. It’s as epic as it sounds. Battered cauliflower comes drenched in a gochujang-infused sauce and stir-fried pea shoots are tossed in a bold garlic dashi sauce. Every dish aims to, and succeeds at, lighting all your senses on fire. 828 Upshur St. NW, DC; magpieandthetiger.com // @magpieandthetigerdc
Mandu: The Authentic Korean Food Experience
Mandu are Korean dumplings and so it makes sense the crunchy, chewy veggie dumplings at Mandu are one of the venue’s best items. Mandu also serves up perfect chap chae — springy Korean sweet potato noodles swirled with spinach, mushrooms, soy sauce and fragrant toasted sesame seed oil. For the most classic Korean dish, try the vegetarian bibimbap — rice covered with stir-fried veggies, an over-easy egg and healthy drizzle of spicy gochujang. 453 K St. NW, DC; mandudc.com // @mandudc
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