Encounter of North Korean Food

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Encounter of North Korean Food

"South Korean food is generally either sweet, sour or hot. In contrast, food in North Korea is refreshing and mild."

This remark, summing up the basic difference between Northern and Southern Korean food, was made by Han Bok-ryo, (53) of the Institute of Korean Royal Cusine. Han accompanied the recent government delegation to Pyongyang along with 9 other Korean chefs from some of South Korea's most renowned hotel restaurants, such as the Shilla and Sorabol.

Han, commenting on the differences in cuisine between the two Koreas, went on to say that, "The division that has continued for over 5 decades has clearly caused a division in food cultures as well."

He then added, "The Southern officials who first came into contact with Pyongyang food described it as being 'plain and tasteless.' But as time passed those people seemed to gain an appreciation of the characteristic tastes hidden inside the food."

Han chose 'naeng myon,' a dish of cold noodles, and du-duk, a dish made of wild roots and flowers, as two of the most unforgettable foods he ate while staying in Pyongyang. Han also commented that the noodles were thicker than those in the South, but perfectly suited to the recipe. Du-duk paste is a sauce that is not used in the South.

Commenting on the differences in table etiquette Han said, "Western style tableware was mainly used except for the kimchi. The kimchi was scooped out from a glass bowl, set up straight like a vase of flowers. It was in Seoul where the idea of straightening Kimchi originated. It's a pity the trend has disappeared."

Han believes that, "The true unification of North and South starts from sharing various eateries. This requires much effort from both cooks in both sides to bridge the gap of food culture between two regions."

by Yoo Ji-sang

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