North Korean food? Is it any good? Yes! And it's more than just kimchi. Much more! Here's the best in North Korean cuisine.
Korean food is famous all over the world. If you've tried Korean food before, you've most likely tried Korean BBQ or Bibimpap, the fried rice dish. But what about North Korean food? Does North Korean cuisine differ from the South? And, if so, how does North Korean food differ?
Actually, Korean food - including both North Korean cuisine and South Korean - remains similar with lots of common staples and main dishes. And most importantly, both are equally as tasty! If you're a fan of East Asian cuisine and have yet to try Korean food, get yourself down to your local Korean restaurant to try some of our favourite Korean foods listed below!
Alternatively, book yourself on a tour to North Korea to get your hands on some North Korean food that's only available in North Korea!
(See below for more info!)
North Korean Food #1
So North Korean food isn't just kimchi, but kimchi certainly plays a big part in North Korean cuisine.
So let's start with kimchi.
Kimchi is a popular Korean food in both the North and the South. It's a staple food for North Korean cuisine served with almost every meal. It is a side dish of fermented vegetables, usually cabbage or sometimes radish. The seasons it is made with vary widely but generally include chilli, garlic, ginger and scallions.
If you're not a big spice lover, apparently kimchi in the South is spicier than in the North. Also, the spice level definitely differs from restaurant to restaurant in North Korea too!
If you haven't had kimchi before, you haven't had Korean food.
North Korean Food #2
Bibimbap is another well known North Korean food also popular in the South. It is rice that comes in a stone bowl piping hot. It is also usually served with a lightly flavoured soup.
Ingredients for this North Korean cuisine include rice (duh), various vegetables, soybean paste, egg, and sometimes raw meat.
When you get your Bibimbap, add your soup (as desired) and give it a good mix around whilst it's still cooking in the hot stone.
North Korean Food #3
Injobap, or Injo-gogi-bap, literally means ' Rice with artificial meat'.
This North Korean food can ONLY be found in North Korea.
This interesting and unique North Korean food is 'fake meat' wrapped around sticky rice, eaten with a generous helping of spicy/sweet sauce.
Great washed down with a pint of Taedonggang beer!
It was created in the 90s during the famine in North Korea as a substitute for meat. So it's great for vegans too!
This fake meat is neither soya nor seitan. Nope, the North Koreans created their own fake meat. And it's pretty damn delicious.
Seen as a very cheap snack in North Korea, this North Korean dish goes for a very cheap price and can be found in various locations around North Korea - including the Kwangbok supermarket.
If you like typical street foods, this North Korean food is the one for you!
North Korean Food #4
- Banchan, Bansang, Pansangi (반상, 반찬)
Pansangi is a North Korean cuisine fit for royalty. This is a meal made up of many small dishes served in bronze bowls, accompanied usually with soju, rice, and soup.
It is a typical cuisine given to royalty. The more dishes you get, the higher up you are..! Enjoying this dish in Kaesong (South part of North Korea near the DMZ) you get 12 dishes. A pretty decent amount!
One of our favourites in North Korean food, there's something here for everyone. From veg to tofu, kimchi soup to dried seaweed...
North Korean Food #5
Head to North Korea's East or West coast for some fresh seafood!
In Wonsan on North Korea's eastern coast, you can find a variety from the catch of the day. Walk along the pier for a great selection of seafood available to take away, or also enjoyed as a seafood BBQ on the shore.
Alternatively, try some seafood in Pyongyang next to the Taedonggang river at the seafood BBQ restaurant for an interesting dining experience!
North Korean Food #6
An absolute must when heading to Nampo, the clam BBQ - fondly known as the 'petrol clam BBQ', only adds to the experience at the Nampo Hot Spa Resort.
The clams are caught fresh on Korea's West coast from local fisherman, brought straight to the hot spa resort, then cooked in petrol. (Don't worry, it is safe..!)
With BBQ locations dotted around this peaceful area, it makes for a perfect pre-dinner snack.
Accompany this North Korean food with some North Korean soju and you have the perfect match!
North Korean Food #7
Bingsu/Patbingsu is Korean shaved ice. Also found in Japan and China, this North Korean food is great for those hot summers.
Sweet and filling, it will cool you right down!
North Korean Food #8
Korean BBQ is one of the most famous and popular types of Korean cuisine with foreigners.
This North Korean food is usually served with duck or lamb and accompanied by lettuce and spices for you to eat the meat with. Veggies, don't worry! There's also vegetables and tofu that you can cook on the Korean BBQ.
There are more and more restaurants popping up throughout Europe and Asia that try to replicate this unique (and very tasty) style of BBQ.
But really, it's best when served locally!
And even better served as a picnic in the park!! (See above photo)
North Korean Food #9
AIR KORYO BURGER
The infamous Air Koryo mystery-meat burger.
The world's worst airline food on the world's worst airline?
We think not!
It's anyone's guess what meat is actually in the Air Koryo burger, but it's certainly not too inedible. It does the job of keeping your tummy happy on the Beijing - Pyongyang flight before you land in Pyongyang and get your hands on some North Korean food goodies!
Veggies, never fear! There's something for you too...
North Korean Food #10
PYONGYANG COLD NOODLES
Leave the best until last?
Arguably the most famous North Korean food, Pyongyang cold noodles are world-famous. Even in South Korea, Pyongyang cold noodles are something of a delicacy. During the first North-South Korean summit, President Moon Jae-In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ate these Pyongyang cold noodles together.
What are Pyongyang cold noodles?
Believe it or not - they're cold noodles. Made in Pyongyang. Simple as!
The noodles are made from buckwheat. Ingredients vary but often include chicken, cucumber, cabbage, and radish. This is all presented in a lightly seasoned sauce. Add a mixture of mustard, soy sauce and vinegar to your taste!
Whilst eating something cold as a main meal may not be something for everyone, Pyongyang cold noodles are a must try on a tour to North Korea.
North Korean Food - BONUS
NORTH KOREAN BEER
One thing that surprises many first time visitors to North Korea is how good the locally produced beer is.
And for those in the know, it's one thing they look forward to.
Some have even made the claim North Korean Beer is a much better brew than those produced in South Korea! What do you think?
The Koreans in the north have had beer breweries since at least the time of Japanese occupation, but their proliferation has come about thanks to a combination of the demand for fresh beer and unreliable transport within the country. This has resulted in many breweries of various capacities being set up around the country from large beer factories such as Taedonggang, Ponghak, Ryongsong and Kyonghyung, down to small setups in bowling alleys, restaurants and even train stations. Styles produced are mainly lagers, but there are also stouts and steam ales available as well.
While there are many to be sampled, our top 5 recommendations to try and seek out on tour (and in no particular order) are Ponghak 12 (made using an old style of fermentation), Taedonggang #2 (the most popular beer in the country, available in regular and premium), Ryongsong Beer (an interesting beer with fruit notes to it), Raekwon Brewery Beer (this brewery is located on top of a department store, popular with visitors and only 50 cents a pint) and Kyonghyung Beer (a new brewery in Pyongyang, available at only Kwangbok Supermarket).
Koreans also always have snacks when they are drinking beer such as dried Pollack (talpi) or dried bean curd (inzogogi), so don’t forget to order some to truly enjoy your local beer drinking experience!
See yourself as a beer connoisseur? Or just enjoy a pint? Join Koryo Tours on our annual North Korea Brewery Tour!
See you in North Korea!