HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Feb 15, 2000 12:10 AM

A tricky one....

  • j

All this talk of kimchi (other thread) has got me thinking back to an earlier issue. Does anyone have any leads/insight on NORTH Korean (DPRK) food?? As an American it is EXTREMELY hard to find much of anything with a DPRK bent.

In Beijing we knew of a few NK-specific restaurants. In the US, I know of none. In fact, unlike (South) Koreans in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., (South) Koreans in US (L.A. mainly) get extremely agitated at my even ASKING about any DPRK stuff (books, usually).

I realize that at a time of famine, etc., it sounds odd asking about DPRK cooking, but I am serious. Some of the (South) Koreans who used to frequent those (North) Korean restaurants in Beijing confirmed that the cuisine was rather different.

I'd be interested in any leads on restaurants, cookbooks, or much of anything ELSE on the subject.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yongsusan in Los Angeles features North Korean dishes from the ancient capital of the Koryo Dynasty. I've eaten here many times, and highly recommend it. The food is interesting and excellent.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Tom Armitage

      In New York there is Okryukwan, the only North Korean restaurant that I know of. I haven't eaten there myself, but (since the Chowhound search engine is failing), I've added a link to the summary of Robert Sietsema's review from last fall.

      Link: http://www.chowhound.com/reviews/nyc/...

      1. re: BT Hillery

        Wonki and I ate there....really great ambiance (so much space!), only a few really rare dishes, and quality in general doesn't seem to rise above so-so.

        Maybe it's better at dinner (we did lunch), but I doubt it.

        1. re: Jim Leff

          Wow!! Thanks for the great responses! I really didn't expect such concrete leads!! I'm not in NY too often (read: never), but I'm *FROM* L.A. (ages ago), so I have definitely made note of that one for my next return.

          Guess the question wasn't QUITE as "tricky" as I thought then, huh??

          While we're at it, any further leads on cookbooks or explanations (magazine article?) of the differences in North-South cuisine?? At best I have a pamphlet or two clipped from the Air Koryo offices in Beijing or Bangkok.

          1. re: julie id

            Well, here's my two cents...uh my two hundred won. As for those South Koreans who scoff at your curiosity, I think that's uncalled for. In Seoul, there has been several North Korean food booms in recent times, especially with the influx of defectors here. Many North Korean defectors became celebrities for a brief while and wisely used that publicity to start their own North Korean-style restaurants. Some of them have done quite well, but I must say I have not been to one. Ok-ryu-kwan, for one reason or another, has been a common name for SEVERAL different North Korean restaurants, all of which specialize in genuine Hamhung style Naengmyun. I believe I was engaged in a discussion of this with Aleece in the International Section a long time ago.

            Apart from this, I have no more. Good luck and may your grail be found.

            Michael Yu

            1. re: Michael Yu

              I know this is really, really late in the thread, but I hope you're still interested. I agree with Michael in that whomever you spoke with was behaving curiously. Perhaps it's the by-product of years of indoctrination (N.Korea = bad, and anyone who shows in an interest in NK = bad). Remember, there was a time when even expressing favorable opinions about N.Korea could get you thrown in jail.
              I'm no expert myself, but I think the best way to approach the topic is by looking at N. Korean food the way you would any other regional cuisine. (Except, of course, that not many people can get up there to sample it.) As small as Korea is, the regional varieties are enormous, and I'm constantly amazed at all the different dishes I'm learning about. Even Seoul food is different from, say, Pusan, port city in the South.
              To generalize, North Korea is colder than South, so not as much spices are used. If you'd like examples of specific dishes, let me know.
              Yongsusan, which was mentioned, is an upscale restaurant chain based in Seoul. It serves Kaesong cuisine, which is not too far north of the DMZ. As it ws pointed out, it was the capital of ancient Koryo for a few hundred years and is renowned for its highly-developed cuisine. I haven't tried Yongusan in LA, but the one in Seoul is pretty good. They serve western-style (i.e., in courses) and are quite consistent.
              Okruygwan, if the one in NY is affiliated, is also a restaurant chain based in Seoul. The name comes from a famous nengmyon restaurant in Pyong Yang which supposedly serves as the standard bearer for all Pyongyang-style nengmyon, the nengmyong of connoisseurs. All the VIP's are taken there on visits, and they apparently serve thousands of bowls a day.
              There are a lot of excellent Pyongyang nengmyon restaurants in Seoul, some of which date from the post-Korean war period when there was an influx of North Koreans, but it's hard to say how authentic they are, since there has been (needless to say) very little exchange of inluences between the two sides. There has been a huge increase in information and interest in North Korea since the recent promises of a thaw, and media reports say that N. Korean food has changed much less than S. Korean food (for obvious reasons). For one thing, S. Koreans use MSG (the cursed invention), although there has been a backlash (albeit timid) in the works for some time.
              As for references, you might want to look in some general books on Korean food which specify regional varieties. Most books seem to have a few dishes from the Northern provinces.