One of the top things I wanted to try once I got to Korea was Temple Food. Temple Food seems to be all the rage lately, though it's been around forever. It's vegetarian, vegan, MSG-free, local, organic, and just deliciously GOOD.
It's in a modern, 5-story, industrial building. On the 5th floor you can find Balwoo - which is quite popular and requires reservations. On the 2nd floor, however, you'll find Balwoo (kong) which is basically temple food self-serve. The banchan (side dishes) and soups change every day depending on what they have around.
The rule is basically this: It's not a buffet. Take a plate, and make sure it's empty when you're done. The temple food mantra is that food should be eaten to satisfy the earthly stomach - not to make it so full like you're about to burst.
So for lunch I had some steamed bean sprouts, some soy "bulgogi" (without the "gogi" = meat), mushroom cold salad with carrots and radish, and a delicious miso soup with local spinach and pumpkin! It was amazing. I followed the rule - of course. My plates were empty within a good 10 minutes. And the cool part?
The monks actually eat there! And overall you can just feel the appreciation for the work that goes on to prepare the food and to feed people. It seemed like a place to come and relax and re-think your priorities in life... just from eating. Eesh, who knew that could happen?
For more info on Balwoo (sometimes spelled Baru) head to their website here, or go check it out for yourself.
Balwoo Gong Yang (Kong) 2F
71 Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-170
Directions: Line 1 Jong-gak Station. Head out of Exit 3-1 and walk straight for about 400m. Balwoo will be on your right! Second floor from Balwoo "Kong" and Fifth floor for Balwoo (reservations recommended)