When you think of Korean food, you likely think of the popular Korean BBQ restaurants and meat-based dishes that have become synonymous with the cuisine in restaurants across Australia. It's true that many traditional Korean dishes are meat-based, and meat is also often used as a garnish for vegetable-based dishes, but there are also several authentic dishes that are accidentally vegan. This is somewhat due to the fact that meat was once a much more expensive and scarce ingredient than it is today, so it was eaten less often and dishes that used meat as the main ingredient were more likely to be reserved for special occasions. So, if you're vegan and want to explore authentic Korean food, you'll find you have several options without having to ask for dishes to be modified. Here's an overview of 3 traditional Korean dishes that are suitable for vegans:

Kongnamul Japchae

Kongnamul japchae is a filling dish made with sweet potato noodles, soybean sprouts and a variety of vegetables, which tend to vary based on availability. Popular vegetables for this dish include bell peppers, spring onions and mushrooms. The noodles and vegetables are fried in sesame oil, and once they're cooked, a light sauce consisting of minced garlic, sesame seeds, sugar and soy sauce is stirred though the dish.

Tofu Gimbap

Gimbap is similar to Japanese sushi, but the rice is seasoned with salt and sesame oil rather than rice vinegar and sugar. This creates a more savoury flavour, but gimbap is also filled with naturally sweet vegetables, such as red bell peppers and julienned carrots. The tofu in this dish is fried until crispy, which makes it satisfying to bite into. Enjoy tofu gimbap as a light lunch or with steamed greens of you want a more filling meal.

Beoseot Jeongol

Beoseot jeongol is a mushroom hotpot that's traditionally cooked at the table. An assortment of mushrooms varieties are used to impart an earthy flavour into the vegetable broth the dish is cooked in, and the mushrooms also give the dish a meaty texture. Soy sauce and dried kelp are also added to the broth, so the dish has an umami flavour profile that's simply delicious. Carrots, cabbage and Korean radish are typically added to this hotpot, and some restaurants will offer it with tofu, too.

These are just a few examples of Korean dishes that can be enjoyed by those choosing a vegan lifestyle, and you'll find that Korean restaurants offer many more options that are free of animal products. So, next time you visit a Korean restaurant, let your server know you're vegan and ask them to recommend some traditional dishes for you to try.