As the leaders of the two Koreas meet for a historic summit, the pair will be chowing down on a North Korean specialty dish for dinner: naengmyeon, a cold noodle dish generally made with buckwheat noodles.
How to make Kim Jong-un’s dinner noodles
South Korean president Moon Jae-in specially requested that the dish be served, as created by the chefs at Okryu-gwan, one of Pyongyang’s finest restaurants.
The North Korean government actually has several restaurants in China, and Inkstone’s own Xinyan Yu headed to Haedanghwa restaurant in Beijing to have a taste of peace.
“I sat down next to a table of middle-aged men talking in Korean - one of them was dressed in the same green army uniform North Korean officials wear, with a shiny gold pin showing headshots of Kim Jong-un and his father.
"After rolling out a pink napkin on the table, a lady served my naengmyeon.
"It’s a bowl of dark brown glass noodles soaked in cold, sweet-and-sour meat broth topped with slices of cucumber, kimchi, chicken, beef and surprisingly, pears.
"The noodles were nice and chewy and the broth was refreshing, especially with the slices of sweet pears.
"Although Naengmyeon is a very humble item on the menu – only US$7 compared to the $300 lobsters at the front of the menu – these officials probably ordered it for a refreshing peace of mind in a summer day, just like their leader Kim Jong-un.”
But if you can’t quite make it to North Korea (or Beijing), you don’t have to worry. Here’s how to make the Pyongyang version of the dish at home, courtesy of Korean-American food blogger Hyosun Ro and her blog Korean Bapsang.
“We all associate naengmyeon dishes with North Korea because the dish was brought down by the people who fled the North during the Korean War,” she tells Inkstone, “Many of the famous naengmyeon restaurants are run by the people who came down during the war or by their descendants."
Ro grew up in Seoul, and her parents-in-law are both from North Korea. “It was nice to hear Kim Jong-un saying he brought naengmyeon and he hopes that President Moon enjoys it. I thought the meeting was a very positive development, and it made me feel hopeful and optimistic about the future of the two Koreas.”
Pyongyang (Mul) Naengmyeon
Cut radish into 3/4-inch-long strips, sliced as thinly as possible. Add the vinegar, sugar and salt, and mix well. Adjust flavor to taste.
1) In a large pot, bring the meat, onion, scallions, garlic, ginger and peppercorns to a boil, uncovered, in 14 cups of water. Reduce the heat to medium to medium low to keep it at medium boil, and skim off the scum. Continue to boil, covered, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Stir in soup soy sauce with 10 minutes remaining. Remove the meat and cool. Discard the vegetables. Cool the broth.
2) Pour 5 cups of the broth into a bowl (about 2-1/2 cups per serving). Stir in 1 teaspoon of sugar and salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon). You can add 1 or 2 cups of dongchimi radish water broth, if available, and reduce the beef broth by the same amount: Also use less salt. Place broth it in the freezer for an hour or two until the broth becomes slushy.
3) Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Thinly slice crosswise, lightly sprinkle with salt, and let it sit until the cucumber slices are wilted. Thinly slice the beef against the grain. Thinly slice the pear into half-moon shapes if using.
4) Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath while water is boiling. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain quickly and shock in the ice water to stop cooking. Drain and rinse again in icy cold water until the noodles are very cold.
5) Make two one-serving size mounds, placing in a colander to drain.
6) Place one serving of noodles in the middle of a chilled serving bowl and top with the pickled radish, slices of beef, cucumber, pear, and the egg half. Pour half of the icy broth around the noodles. Repeat for another serving. Serve with vinegar and hot mustard paste on the side.