My latest iHerb haul for living as a cooking-mostly-from-scratch, on-a-budget vegan living in South Korea. This post contains affiliate links, all products are purchased by me.
While South Korea is a paradise for online shopping in general, iHerb still is my go-to source for certain organic, vegan or natural foods and supplements. I've used iHerb even before I went vegan, mostly for facial oils and similar natural cosmetics that went well in combination with my Korean skincare routine.
Staple ingredients for 'international' vegan recipes
Korea has a traditional cuisine rich in vegetables, grains, beans and seafood which has in recent years evolved to include a lot more meats and dairy. Living on Jeju Island gives me traditional temple food restaurants, organic tofu places and a variety of rice cakes and Jeju-style breads, but limits some other foods.
So while I can easily find a lot of staple products on local markets, others are harder to come by - especially following 'international' vegan recipes and meal plan tips can be a bit of a challenge when bananas are on the expensive side, almond milk can only be found in the large supermarket an hour away, oatmeal isn't the cheap staple grain you might expect, and avocados are pretty much non-existent.
This is where iHerb comes in handy. While I can't order any fresh produce, they have a lot of specialty food available that is hard to find on Jeju in particular. I order from them once every three months (which is how long their loyalty coupons last after each purchase) for just enough value to get free shipping.
Of course, I also buy the occasional special treat (because who could resist?), like in my latest haul a dark coffee by the brand 'Kicking Horse' - 454 Horse Power Dark Whole Bean Coffee. One can never have enough coffee beans, and I already can't wait to use that beautiful packaging for something else #recyclelikeaKoreanahjumma
On that note: I also got myself a new Hurraw! lip balm - coffee scented! These aren't the most moisturizing lip balms in the world (they give instant moisture, but it doesn't last particularly long) but they just taste so good I can't resist. I mentioned their coconut version here.
I also bought what I thought at the time was coconut milk, but actually turned out to be something even better: Creamed coconut, which arrived as a solid block thanks to the slightly colder temperatures on that day. I keep it in the fridge now. To use the creamed coconut, you mix it with two parts warm water. I've used tiny portions of this (one tablespoon at a time) to mix into curries and baked goods and it gives just the perfect hint of coconut. Its expiration date is in 2018 and I plan on buying more of these since they're easier to store than normal coconut milk.
Another special treat: GoRaw Choco Crunch Sprouted cookies - I normally don't buy processed foods since they're more expensive than just getting the raw ingredients and making/baking/cooking myself, but these seemed really hard to make myself and looked delicious. I loved them! May have eaten all of them over just a few days... I'll probably not re-purchase since they are quite expensive, but will give the chai version a try instead!
I also got some new peanut butter by the brand 'Bell Plantation'. I'm definitely a 'crunchy' person - for some reason, smooth peanut butter is gross to me. The brand was new to me, but the tub was really cheap and it definitely passed the taste-test! It has a bit of a denser texture than other peanut butters we'd tried, and I personally prefer this. Goes really well on fresh baked bread! It's currently sold out on iHerb, but luckily I still have more than half of the jar left. Fingers crossed for its swift return!
Superfood, secret bread ingredients and favorite breakfast muesli:
Organic raw cacao nibs by Now Foods. Cacao nibs have become popular in Korea lately, but are still very much over-priced around here.
Look, I want to say that I only use these for baking or in smoothie bowls (something I rarely make, by the way...) BUT to be completely honest I just eat these by the hand-full. Don't judge!
Flaked, unsweetened coconut is another baking ingredient. I like to just toss ingredients into a single bowl and make random breads, and coconut flakes are a new addition to that ingredient-roulette I've got going. They're delicious on and in banana bread!
And then, of course, with me coming from Switzerland, I need Muesli. This one by Bob's Red Mill comes closest to my personal preferences - not too sweet (I hate most of the crunchy granola ones, especially since in Switzerland, we mix our Muesli with fresh fruit and yogurts that automatically make everything sweet enough) with a nice mix of dried fruit bits, different grains, seeds and nuts.
I normally don't care for gluten-free products, but the mix for this one is just too good to switch to another one.
Swiss muesli breakfast habits, living in Korea
I mix my Muesli with basic oats, and generally use a lot of oats during the day. Hot oatmeal with cinnamon is one of my favorite comfort foods, and I mix oats into my breads (both sweet and plain) or to balance out excess humidity when making vegan bean burgers or lentil meatballs. They're great in smoothies, too, especially for busy days when there's no time to cook or prepare any elaborate meals.
It's way cheaper to buy oats online if you're not keen on GMO - pretty much all of the affordable options in Korea are import products with no special certifications. Locally grown oats are more expensive and are mostly not for use as cereals, but to mix into rice when cooking.
Baking bread in Korea
While there are a lot of bakeries in Korea, taking inspiration from France, Japan or even Germany (I see Bretzels everywhere lately), I still prefer to bake my own breads, both sweet and 'normal' ones. Bread isn't particularly cheap here - except maybe basic toast - and I just love full-grain breads with crunchy crusts too much to go for the mostly sweet and soft breads that are the most common here.
Jeju has a lot of traditional breads like barley buns with our without filling, but not a lot of people bake themselves or even own an oven, since traditional Korean breads are steamed instead.
I get basic whole-grain wheat flour at the local supermarket (it tends to be cheaper than actual white flour!) but most Korean whole-grain flour is still pretty bland, so I like to order special flours online to mix with my usual fare here. This Dark Rye Flour really adds flavor and texture to bread even if I only use a little bit for each batch. Currently sold out, but the brand has a lot of different flours to try if you're into baking.
That's it for my vegan staples haul from iHerb! As you can see, I'm a total bread & carbs girl. Not saying this is the healthiest haul in the world (definitely not) but it sure is delicious and gives me a lot of basic ingredients to cook and bake from scratch here in Korea.
Do you use iHerb? Any product you'd recommend - I'm always on the look-out for new muesli or sweet treats. :)