A meal for the lonely North American in Pyongyang on Thanksgiving
Happy American Thanksgiving (and, of course, to the US’ northern neighbors, belatedly, a happy Canadian Thanksgiving too)!
In Korea the holiday of Chusok (추석- 秋夕), celebrated from the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, is sometimes referred to as “Korean Thanksgiving” due to its association with the autumn harvest. Yet autumn dishes on both sides of the Pacific share many common ingredients, thanks to the Columbian Exchange between Old and New Worlds from the late 15th century onward. Corn, pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, turkey, and red pepper are all New World Crops and their introduction to East Asia profoundly altered cooking in the region.
In the past fruits, grown in orchards on marginal soils, were more common in Chinese cooking. Orchards eventually gave way to higher yielding and higher energy crop plants like maize and potato to support growing populations. Korean cooking also underwent changes. Before the introduction of the red pepper, the iconic Korean fermented cabbage side dish of kimchi, its own origins dating back at least to the medieval Three Kingdoms Era (prior to 668 AD), was a pale comparison to its more modern and spicy crimson self. Today this original pepper-less variety lives on as “white kimchi” (백김치 – baek kimchi - see photo below).
And so, the lonely North American traveler in Korea might be able to put together a close-approximation to hearty Thanksgiving meal. Here is our suggested holiday menu:
Pumpkin Porridge (호박죽)
Baked Sweet Potato (군고구마 - see photo below)
Side of Fruit Jam (과일쨤)
Kaesong Ginseng Stuffed Chicken
Corn on the cob
Turkey Soup (게사니육개탕)
And the best thing about Korean Thanksgiving? The Korean word for a turkey bird is 칠면조(七面鳥), literally "the-seven faced bird".
The Pyongyang Home Companion is a guide to daily life in Korea: how-to, food, culture, and romance.