July 2013: Unfortunately Loving Hut in Seomyeon (where this review is based) and the Haeundae stores have both closed. They eased the omnivore-vegetarian-vegan transition for many and will be missed.
Loving Hut has been a stable and reliable restaurant for vegetarians and vegans in South Korea for almost three years. Last year a new restaurant opened up in Haeundae. Busan Haps set up a meeting with owner Kim Hyong Ryul (Emily) to find out what it’s like to run a restaurant and to be a vegan in a country where meat is available on every street corner.
This restaurant has been in her possession since July 2010 and the first thing you notice after you sit down is how clean the place looks; it’s almost like a dental surgery or operation theatre. The menu is laid out clearly with detailed English underneath explaining concisely what is within.
Emily eventually sits down and begins by explaining some of the difficulties she has experienced getting Koreans to try a vegan diet; “People think that it’s yucky, just cooked vegetables, so to taste the food is very important. Just eat the food. That’s very important!”
It seems so obvious to her what the benefits are to being vegan. She started off being vegan because of spiritual and health reasons, but she hopes that people don’t continue to do it just for those reasons; “It’s important to appreciate all living things when being a vegan. If a person is a vegan just for health reasons they don’t really stay vegan for a long time, but on the other hand those who think that for natural reasons will fundamentally stay as vegans for the rest of their lives.”
Her family, including her two sisters have been in the business since its inception and she boasts about how her niece is on a vegan diet how she is growing at a much quicker rate than her classmates.
Loving Huts food is an infusion of traditional Korean, Chinese and Japanese food with accommodations for western eaters. It is delicious and completely 100% vegan. I strongly recommend the Seomyeong store’s tang-su-you (sweet and sour pork) made with mushrooms or the tuna salad sandwich offered at the Haeundae.
Loving Hut sell faux meats, veg ramyeon, organic dried fruits and a range of cruelty free and GE free beauty care. They offer organic and sugar free soy which is a hit with the foreign community. Recently they have began taking orders (3-5 days) for their vegan bakery in Seoul which prepares a large variety of vegan muffins, cookies and bread.
I can recommend two Loving Hut’s; one in Haeundae and another (very well stocked) in Seomyeong.
Haeundae Directions; Take the subway to Haeundae station and walk towards MegaBox (The old Sfunz) Turn right before you cross the road to Megabox. Walk straight for about 400 meters until you see an angle-in-us coffee shop on your right. Loving Hut is on the second floor marked on the building by a yellow sign with a red L in the center. [Closed Sunday]
Seomyeong Directions; Take the subway to Seomyeong and follow the exit signs to Judies Taewha. [It is exit 3 BUT not the typical exit 3 you’d expect. Rather it’s exit 3 out of the underground mall. ] Instead of entering Judies Taewha turn right so that you walk past Paris Baguette. Continue in this direction without be distracted by the attractive sales people. Turn right just before you hit a large (empty) metallic building which is roughly across the road from Pagoda. It’s the 4/5 store in, on your left, with a large glass window and a yellow sign. If you come to Kyobo books you’ve gone too far.