Are you curious about the food in North Korea? Well, this was one of the most asked questions about my experiences in North Korea. If words like bibimbap, kimchi, tteok, samgyeopsal ring any bells then you are almost there with the answer. No, there’s no such thing as communist food and the North Koreans eat Korean food. Like in most Asian food culture, the Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, vegetables, and meats. With influence and traditions that date back to their nomadic days, their cuisine is a fusion of local Korean and southern Manchuria. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes or known as Banchan that is accompanied by fragrant steamed rice. Flavours and ingredients vary by province.
Their love for steamboats, barbecue and bibimbaps are the same as their southern brothers. They also share the exact same love for their kimchi. Almost every single meal, you’ll see this plate of kimchi staring back at you.
In North Korea, the locals have this odd eating habit. They tend to serve and eat their vegetables and meats first, then only their rice is served halfway during the meals. Unlike most of us Asians, who prefer to have our rice come first to eat with the other dishes. It took us the 3 days to only find out that we could inform the restaurants to have our rice come together with our side dishes.
Pork was not widely seen in thier food palette. Most of the time, we were served fish, chicken and duck. The North Koreans enjoy their seafood especially fish. During our first trip to the DPRK, fish appeared in almost 50% of our meals. Eggs were also common during meals. Our Australian friends were so sick of egg that they gave us their portion most of the time. In Malaysia, we eat eggs everyday too.
A delicious and special delicacy from the capital of Pyongyang is the Raengmyeon or cold noodles. It is a dish with long and thin handmade noodles made from the flour and starch of various ingredients, including buckwheat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, arrowroot starch (darker color and chewier than buckwheat noodles), and kudzu. With a long history that dates back to the Joseon period, Raengmyeon is an original delicacy from Pyongyang and Hamhung. Raengmyeon is served in a large stainless-steel bowl with a tangy iced broth, julienned cucumbers, slices of Korean pear, thin, wide strips of lightly pickled radish, and slices of cold boiled chicken or beef. Spicy mustard sauce (or mustard oil) and vinegar are often added before consumption. The icy broth makes this dish a local favourite especially during summer. One of my favourite raengmyeon was from Pyongyang’s Koryo Hotel restaurant that was situated at the ground floor.
Here are a few of the foods we tried during our trip in North Korea. Check it out:
For more photos of North Korean Food click here.