The peace summit in Panmunjom between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in was big news. The world is pretty happy at the prospect of conflict on the Korean peninsula coming to an end. But that wasn’t the only thing which caught people’s attention? Kim Jong-un brought with him a noodle dish known as “Naengmyeon“, a delicacy in Pyongyang which is the city’s signature dish. The focus on the noodles at the summit sent people in South Korea crazy over it. Reportedly, locals were set off in a “craze” for it, with people reportedly forming long lines outside of restaurants in Seoul! But for a westerner who knows little about Korean cuisine, you might be wondering, what just what are these noodles? And what makes them so special from other noodles! Well, as long time favourite eaters of Naengmyeon in Pyongyang, we’re happy to share the secret with you!
First of all, Naengmyeon are just not noodles, but cold noodles. The name Naengmyeon (냉면) literally translates to this. Yes, noodles that you don’t actually heat up to eat. This is what makes them unique. Now long ago before I had ever tried them, I used to find the idea of it quite weird and I was, admittedly, afraid of trying them. Now, I am actually of the opinion that they are better than normal noodles! How so? Naengmyeon comes in a spicy, vinegary swoop often with a meat flavour added to it, as well as Korean chilli paste (Gochujang). The noodles are placed in and the soup is cooled to the point it becomes of a slushy texture, with the noodles situated somewhat artistically in the centre of the bowl. On the top of the noodles are often placed a hard boiled egg, some radish and cucumber, giving you a bit of salad in the process. The noodles are consumed with chopsticks like any others, but usually a pair of scissors are given to help you cut them for practical purposes.
Naengmyeon comes in a variety of forms and styles. Sometimes the ingredients and specifics can differ. Whilst Pyongyang Naengmyeon is very famous, another North Korean city, Hamhung, also has its own variety which uses fish! (Due to its coastal proximity). Whilst in South Korea, I have even restaurants specifically called “Hamhung Hangmyeon“, despite the division between the two countries.
Finally, on North Korea tours you will get the opportunity to try the famous Pyongyang Naengmyeon. Plenty of local restaurants in Pyongyang serve the dish, with one restaurant on Tongil street serving it as their specialty. Now that these noodles have become symbolic of inter-Korean peace and reconciliation, all we can recommend is that you join one of our tours and try them for yourself Happy eating!