Post-talk banquet dishes have political flavors
The Blue House unveiled the menu for the banquet taking place on the southern side of the border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday. Each dish was meticulously selected for its connection to the historic moment.
“This menu was selected so as to honor those who have endeavored to achieve peace and unification on the Korean Peninsula over the past many years,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the Blue House.
Most dishes feature seafood, meat and rice from the hometowns of South Korean President Moon Jae-in as well as the former presidents who went to Pyongyang for two previous inter-Korean summits - Kim Dae-Jung in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.
To start, Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be served a cold octopus salad. The octopus for the dish will come from Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, the hometown of internationally celebrated composer Isang Yun (1917-95).
As an advocate of Korean reunification, Yun came in contact with North Koreans while living in Berlin and had close interactions with them, leading the South Korean secret service to believe he was a spy.
Another appetizer is rosti, a Swiss potato fritter, made with a Korean twist. The dish is a nod to Kim’s upbringing in Switzerland, where the North Korean leader attended boarding school.
The two leaders will then enjoy pyeonsu, steamed square-shaped dumplings stuffed with croaker and sea cucumber. The ingredients are sourced from Gageo Island, South Jeolla, the hometown of former President Kim Dae-jung.
Another fish dish, roasted dalgogi, or John Dory, comes from Busan, the hometown of Moon.
Next up is barbecued beef from a ranch in Seosan, South Chungcheong. The ranch was where Chung Ju-yung, the late founder of Hyundai Group, raised hundreds of cows to send to North Korea as a donation in 1998.
The main course will be North Korea’s most famous dish: Pyongyang cold noodles. The naengmyeon, as it is called in Korea, will be made by the head chef of Okryugwan, a famous restaurant in Pyongyang. The Blue House said Pyongyang agreed to send him and a noodle-making machine to the venue to produce fresh noodles.
It will be accompanied by a bowl of bibimbap using rice from Bongha Village, South Gyeongsang, the hometown of former President Roh. The greens in this rice dish will be sourced from the demilitarized zone.
The final dish before dessert will be a steamed red snapper and catfish, two types of fish commonly eaten throughout the Korean Peninsula. The Blue House said it included the dish to emphasize the culinary similarities between the two Koreas.
For dessert, the leaders will have a mango mousse decorated with spring flowers and a flag representing a unified Korea. A pine mushroom tea from the Baekdudaegan mountain range in North Korea’s far north will also be on the table, together with small bite-size pieces of hallabong (orange) rice cakes.
The night’s liquor will be myeoncheon dugyeonju, a rice wine brewed with azalea flowers, and munbaeju, a distilled liquor dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The two leaders have yet to decide which liquor to drink during the toast.
“It looks like the menu has been drawn up with good intentions,” said Lee He-rim, a food writer. “However, it would have been better if our government took this occasion as an opportunity to show advanced hansik [Korean dining] culture. Right now, the dishes seem old, a bit like a course meal served at a hotel in the ’80s, considering how developed hansik culture is.”
Lee also added that there could have been more dishes using seasonal ingredients. “But perhaps they were not included because they were too focused on finding the symbolism in each dish, even if it lacks harmony,” she said.
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [email@example.com]