Have you ever wondered what Buddhist monks eat? Well, in Korea monks follow a very specific diet. They don’t eat anything that harms life or can break concentration. While not entirely vegan (eggs and dairy products allowed), most animal products are prohibited along with pungent foods, and certain vegetables that require killing the plant during harvesting. If you want to try Korean temple food for yourself, you can start by visiting Sanchon in Insa-dong!
Have you ever been to a traditional temple restaurant? Well, me neither and that’s why I decided to give it a go and have a dinner date with my girlfriend there! It was actually her idea. She wanted to go after seeing an Instagram post about it. From the pictures she showed me, I could already tell that the ambiance of the place was really calming and intriguing.
I was really excited since we’re both students, we normally just go to typical restaurants you can find anywhere. It was definitely something different. Also since I only saw pictures of the interior and not the food, I really didn’t know what to expect. What kind is temple food? let’s find out!
The Location of the Temple Food Restaurant
The restaurant was located along the famous Insa-dong Street. The whole street is packed with Cafes, Restaurants, and Souvenir places with traditional Korean themes. If you are a tourist or looking for unique gifts to send back home, I highly recommend checking out the neighborhood.
One building near the temple food restaurant is the Ssamziegil plaza. It is a place with multiple floors and on each floor, artists sell their work. You can find everything from caricature artists to hand-made earrings and music boxes with Ghibli music and perfumes. There are also some stores that let you customize your products! It is a really nice place to just wander around and window shop for a while.
Oh, also, on the very top floor of the plaza is the famous Korean poop cafe. Despite the theme, it sells really delicious treats and refreshing drinks. Give it a go, trust me!
The Temple Food Restaurant
Back to the temple restaurant! Kinda got lost for a moment. It turned out that finding the establishment was more difficult than we had anticipated. It is not as visible from the main street. You’ll have to navigate via fairly tight streets between residences in order to find the place. We got lost a bit and were a little nervous about the sketchy surrounding area.
So after we finally found it, we were delighted to see the interior lived up to the pictures! The place was immediately recognizable by the sound of birds chirping. When we walked in we found ourselves teleported to a small but very mystical garden, hidden away from the busy streets of Seoul.
It was stunning! I would not have expected to find such a little gem in the middle of the city.
The Temple Food
The food served here is entirely vegetarian. Both the owner of the restaurant and many of the cooks are former child monks and grew up eating exclusively temple food, so you know you are getting the real deal. I’m not sure about the entire menu, but what we had was fantastic!
It was a touch on the pricey side, at roughly 30,000Won per person, but I would argue it was worth it. We began with a traditional tea – the name of which I have forgotten… and quickly moved on to our small appetizers. We didn’t recognize a lot of stuff, but it was all wonderful.
After they saw us finishing the appetizers, they started to bring in the main course. And I gotta say, it looked awesome! And it was huge. In the end, we couldn’t finish it all but we were well satisfied and happy.
For dessert, we got a small cup of tea with some homemade potato chips. I guess temple food doesn’t have much of an emphasis on sweets, but it was lovely all the same.
If you want to try something a little different, healthy, and traditional – I highly suggest this restaurant! Not only is it vegetarian and cruelty-free which is hard to find in Korea, but it also has a beautiful atmosphere. All of the lovely flowers, the traditional decor, and, of course, the adorable birds singing in the background create the setting of the perfect day out.
If you want to try temple food on the cheap, why not go to a Buddhist temple? Click Here to read all about staying overnight at a Korean temple and living as a monk for the day.