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North of South - dining in Pyongyang and regions thereabouts


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Let's open this topic. 

 

I'll dredge through my photos from 2012, and we need to bear in mind that this was an organized tour, but there are interesting comments to be made on the public face of North Korean cuisine.

Okay, this may take me some time to figure out the new attachment options.....I am getting old.

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As kare rice goes, the meal on Air Koryo wasn't bad.  Fairly industrial, but the rice was very good....okay, you have to like rice to understand this.  As a flight, was it as good as travelling business class on Cathay or Singapore?...no.  Was it better than Delta or United?  Yes. 

 

Looking back on the pictures, that may be the best rice I've had on any carrier.

P1060492 (2).jpg

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Approaching Pyongyang by air, you don't get the sense of urban sprawl and chaos that you get down south.  Everything is sparse built, and organized to geometric patterns.

 

Mind you, there aren't a lot of trees down there.

 

Landing on the tarmac, it reminds me of Mongolia in the late 90's, or China or Laos in the late 80's

http://www.wayn.com/photos/18756053/67536392

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I know that soondae is a northern thing, as is naengmyeon. Also, there was a North Korean resto in Annandale, VA (DC's Koreatown) open for a brief period - they had a lot of stuff with pheasant and other game on the menu - I remember especially pheasant mandu. See any of that while you were there?

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We'll get to a certain amount of this in posts to come.  Without giving anything away...no pheasant.  However, I've seen a number of places doing pheasants on the route to seoraksan.  Naengmyon we'll get to (Pyongyang is famous for this).

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Let me back up a bit, as I've been a bit abrupt in introducing this.

 

I'd skirted about North Korean cuisine for some time, and had been teased with hints of Pyongyang for decades.

 

Some of you will remember how I picked up the trail in Shanghai, dueling in absinthia with the North Koreans for the honor of Canada's wormwood quaffing reputation.  http://forums.egullet.org/topic/100702-across-china-with-the-vermin/?p=1407233

 

Then there were the two old grannies in Seoul with their amazingly good mandoo, loaded with suk (and a fine steamed chicken, too).

 

But the topper was the Pyongyang Cold Noodle Restaurant in Beijing.  That was some of the finest Korean cuisine I've had.  Definitely the prettiest.  (A story in itself)

 

So, when the 100th anniversary of the Eternal Leader, Kim Il Sung, came up on my automatic reminders, we just had to go.

 

The year before we'd attended a talk by someone who'd been in the North, and then immediately raced back through China to the South so that he could talk with the guards he'd seen from the other side of the DMZ.  He'd used a group called Koryo Tours ( http://www.koryogroup.com/ ), and the more I read about them, the more apparent it was that I should make my arrangements through their offices.

 

And I'm always happy for an excuse to eat in Beijing.

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