Vegan eats at Plant

By Korea Herald

Vegetarian sweets and grub at new cafe in Itaewon

  • Published : Oct 25, 2013 - 19:15
  • Updated : Oct 25, 2013 - 19:16
Plant’s vegan pumpkin salted caramel cake is a double decker, cinnamon-and-nutmeg-spiced dessert topped with a toothsome caramel drizzle. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
One bite of Plant’s moist, fragrant pumpkin salted caramel cake is not nearly enough.

Despite its double-decker heft, a slice of the new vegan-vegetarian spot’s cinnamon and nutmeg-spiced cake disappears in an instant, leaving behind a small trail of crumbs that beg to be licked off the plate as well.

Rich ivory icing, caramel drizzle and soft, sweet crumb come together for a great dessert that is 100 percent vegan, according to Plant co-owner Mipa Lee.

Along with pumpkin and soy milk, Lee, 29, explained, “I use sunflower seed oil. It’s to replace butter and I think that adds some moisture.”

The nectar-like center between the two spiced layers is apple jam. The toothsome frosting is crafted with the help of vegan butter and the caramel drizzle gets its oomph from coconut cream.

In short, what Lee is saying is that there are no animal products ― like butter, milk or eggs ― in the cake.

The same goes for most of the sweets and eats at the newly minted cafe and baking-cooking studio located in Seoul’s Itaewon-dong. And whatever isn’t vegan is vegetarian.

Plant, which opened this July, is the offspring of Alien’s Day Out Bake Shop owner Lee and “Yona’s Kitchen” author-food stylist Koh Jeong-yeun.

Both Lee and Koh teamed up to bring their respective brands, Alien’s Day Out and Yona’s Kitchen, to one space.

What started off as a shared studio has turned into a full-fledged bakery-cafe. The small, 10-seat space spins out food and drinks from its off-the-beaten-path perch in a tiny alleyway branching off from Itaewon’s main thoroughfare.

The vegan and vegetarian menu is a natural extension of the owners’ food philosophies.

Alien’s Day Out Lee transitioned from vegetarianism to veganism around five years ago while Koh, though not a vegetarian, preferred cooking with vegetables due to personal preferences for a veggie-centric diet.

“I don’t like meat that much,” explained Plant co-owner Koh, 25. “So we decided to go vegetarian and vegan.”

Koh admitted that sticking to a vegetarian pantry has its challenges, but it also kindles her own culinary creativity, forcing her to become inventive with her fare.

“It is fun,” Koh said.

Lee first started her blog, Alien’s Day Out, approximately four years ago before launching her online-offline vegan bakeshop of the same name in 2011.

Her business was seeing steady growth, Lee revealed, but after Plant launched, “I definitely have new customers. ... Response has been great.”

In addition to a wide range of cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes and cookies, Lee and Koh also serve two hearty meals daily from noon till they run out of ingredients.

This week, Lee put out a vegan Indian spinach curry and Koh, a vegan California roll.

Lee’s tofu-zucchini-spinach-loaded curry packs a spice-rich punch and comes with a millet-brown-and-white rice blend and curried soy carrot and cabbage coleslaw, while Koh’s California roll is served up bulging with avocado, fried tofu, carrot and romaine, crusted in sesame seeds and drizzled with a soy-dill mayo.

Both dishes taste great, with the curry’s blend of ginger, garam masala and coriander teasing the tongue and the roll playing up the buttery, nutty and creamy flavors and textures of the avocado, tofu and sesame seeds.

At Plant, Koh and Lee also give their beverages, like the caf’s delicious soy chai latte, the same amount of care and attention they give to their food.

“All drinks are brewed in-house from scratch,” said Lee.

By Jean Oh (

Plant dishes out vegan and vegetarian sweets and eats to patrons in a cozy, 10-seat space.
(Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

- 1F, 63-15 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

- (070) 4115-8388

- Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (meals available from noon till sold out); closed Mondays

- Meals cost around 10,000 won to 12,000 won, cakes and pies by the slice range from 5,000 won to 6,000 won; drinks cost 3,500 won to 6,000 won