North Korean cuisine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Various North Korean dishes and foods

North Korean cuisine is the traditional culinary practices and dishes of North Korea. Its foundations are laid by the agricultural and nomadic traditions in southern Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula. Some dishes are shared by the two Koreas; however, availability and quality of Northern cuisine is much more significantly affected by sociopolitical class divides.

Historically, Korean cuisine has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Originating from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions in southern Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula, it has gone through a complex interaction of the natural environment and different cultural trends.[1] Rice dishes and kimchi are staple Korean foods. In a traditional meal, they accompany both side dishes (panch'an) and main courses like chuk (porridge), pulgogi (grilled meat) or myŏn (noodles). Soju liquor is the best-known traditional Korean spirit.[2]

North Korean cuisine[edit]

P'yŏngyang-raengmyŏn (평양랭면/평양냉면) is a cold noodle dish.

Some North Korean dishes and foods are also prepared in South Korea, and many dishes that originated in North Korea were brought to South Korea by migrating families after the Korean War.[3] Many of these imported dishes became staples in the South Korean diet.[3]

The flavors of some North Korean dishes differ from South Korean versions, with some being less spicy and more varied in composition than South Korean preparations.[4][5] North Korean dishes have been described as having a specific tanginess that is derived from using ingredients with flavors of sweet, sour, pungent and spicy, in combinations that create this effect.[6]

Some restaurants, particularly in Pyongyang, have expensive pricing relative to average worker wages in North Korea.[7][8] North Korean citizens typically cannot afford restaurants.[7][8] Per their pricing, upscale restaurants are typically available only to well-paid leaders of the North Korean government, tourists visiting the country, and the emerging affluent middle class of donju in the country.[9][10] Donju means "masters of money", and the donju typically hold positions in the government, positions operating state-owned businesses outside of the country, and positions involving bringing investments and the importation of products into the country.[11][12][13][14]

Some street foods exist in North Korea, such as in Pyongyang, where vendors operate food stalls.[15][16][17] North Korea's first pizzeria opened in 2009.[18] Alcoholic beverages are produced and consumed in North Korea, and the country's legal drinking age is 18.[19]

North Korean dishes and foods[edit]

An example of kajami shik'ae, a fermented and salted food prepared in North Korea using flounder
An example of kimbap
An example of chokbal
Raengmyŏn served at Okryu-gwan restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea
  • Noodles and noodle dishes[29] – in North Korean culture, long noodles represent a long life or a long marriage, and long noodles are served to people at weddings.[27]
    • Beef noodle soup[25]
    • Corn noodles[30][31]
    • Raengmyŏn – referred to as "naengmyeon" in South Korea, it is a traditional Korean cold noodle dish that is prepared using buckwheat noodles in North Korea.[26][32][27] In North Korea, additional ingredients in the dish typically include some slices of meat, dried egg and hot sauce.[27] The noodles are prepared using the flour and starch from ingredients such as buckwheat, potatoes and sweet potatoes.[3] Some variations of the dish in North Korea is to include raw fish, cucumber, radish and Asian pear.[33][6] Some North Koreans state that raengmyŏn originated in North Korea, and that it was introduced to South Korea by North Koreans who emigrated to South Korea after the Korean War occurred.[33]
    • Ramyŏn – referred to as "curly noodles" in North Korea.[30] Shin Ramyun is a brand of instant noodles produced in South Korea that is nicknamed "money ramen" in North Korea, due to its relatively expensive pricing in North Korea at around 800 won per unit.[30] In 2009, boxes of Shin Ramyun that contain twenty packages of ramen per box cost around 30,000 North Korean won, which in North Korea is expensive, and therefore not available to most North Korean citizens at this price.[a]
    • Rice noodles[24]
P'ajŏn: pictured is haemulp'ajŏn, a seafood scallion pancake
An example of kangjǒng


Koch'ujang is a red chili pepper paste

Some condiments used in North Korea to add flavor to foods are listed below.


Taech'u-ch'a tea
  • Bottled water is imported from China, and is typically consumed by the donju, "the new affluent middle class" in North Korea.[9] "Shindŏk' Saemmul" is a spring water produced in North Korea, but it is exported to countries in Southeast Asia, and is typically not available in the North Korean market.[9]
  • Coffee[41]
  • Ginseng tea – a common beverage in North Korea[43]
  • Soft drinks – soft drink bottlers exist in North Korea, such as the Wonbong Trading Co. in Pyongyang.[44] Soft drink products produced within North Korea are sometimes labeled as "carbonated sweet water".[17] Sometime in 2017, Air Koryo, North Korea's flagship airline, began offering its own brand of soft drinks on flights to and from Beijing, China.[44][45] Air Koryo soft drinks are also sold at some North Korean grocery stores.[42] Coca-Cola bottled in China is available in upscale grocery stores in Pyongyang, and Pepsi bottled in China is also available, although it is rare compared to Coca-Cola's availability.[44]
  • Ryongjin Cocoa - a North Korean own brand cola made and canned in the country
  • Taech'u-ch'a – a traditional Korean tea prepared with jujube and a pine nut garnish[22][46]

Alcoholic beverages[edit]

Alcoholic beverages are consumed in North Korea, and drinking is a part of the culture of North Korea.[47] North Korea's legal drinking age is 18, but minors are sometimes allowed to consume alcoholic beverages, and some shop keepers readily sell them alcoholic drinks.[19] Some North Koreans brew and distill alcoholic beverages at home, despite such home alcohol production being forbidden in North Korea, and some sell these beverages to markets, although this is also illegal.[19] Home brewed liquor is made using ingredients such as potatoes and corn.[19] Some North Korean consumers purchase alcoholic beverages directly from alcohol-producing factories in the country, using cash.[19] In recent times, imported Chinese liquor has been allowed to be sold in markets, and a well-known Chinese liquor purveyed in North Korea is Kaoliang Liquor, which has a 46–50% alcohol content.[19]

North Korea has some bars and other drinking establishments, and in recent times, beer halls have become popular in Pyongyang.[48][49][19]

A glass of Taedonggang pilsner beer
  • Beer is produced in North Korea, and craft beer production has increased in recent times.[50] The major breweries in the country are Taedonggang Brewing Company, Paradise Microbrewery and the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery.[51] In August 2016, the Taedonggang Brewing Company held the country's first beer festival, which included several Taedonggang varieties and other local beers.[52][53] Local beers at the festival included rice beer and dark beers.[52]
    • Beer brands produced in North Korea
      • Pohak
      • Ponghak
      • Pyongyang
      • Rakwon ("Paradise")
      • Ryongsong
      • Samgak ("Delta")
      • Taedonggang – brewed by the state-owned Taedonggang Brewing Company based in Pyongyang[22] In 2017, Taedonggang was the most popular beer in North Korea.[27]
  • Makkŏlli – a specialty rice wine with a milky appearance, it is common in the countryside of North Korea[22][27] Makgeolli is produced using the same process used for the production of soju, and typically has a lower alcohol content compared to soju.[27] It is considered by some to be inferior compared to soju.[27]
  • Rice liquor – rice-based liquor is consumed by more North Koreans compared to beer.[54]
  • Rice wineglutinous rice wine is a specialty alcoholic beverage in North Korea[21]
  • Soju – referred to as nongtaegi in North Korea, soju is a clear specialty spirit prepared from sweet potato or barley in North Korea.[19][25][22] It is similar to sake.[22] In North Korea, soju's alcohol content ranges from 18 to 25 percent.[27]
  • Whisky – in 2019 North Korea created its first batch of homemade whisky. Samilpo Whisky has been designed to resemble Johnnie Walker to aid brand recognition for North Koreans[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In North Korea it is only the high-ranking government officials and military officers who can afford to give and receive boxes of Shin Ramyun as a present," – stated to Radio Free Asia by a Seoul-based North Korean defector.[34]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]