Young Pioneer Tours

Hamhung Cold Noodles

Hamhung Cold noodles of Hamhung Naengmyon
Hamhung Cold Noodles as photographed by Gregor Samsa

Did we make a spelling mistake? Surely we must have meant Pyongyang Cold Noodles right? No, we are talking about the second most famous cold noodle dish of North Korea Hamhung Cold Noodles ( 함흥냉면 ).

Naengmyeon — are a bowl of icy cold noodles usually served in a broth made of beef, or marinated in a sweet-spicy sauce. It is the mots famous dish emanating from North Korean cuisine. Since they are cold, they are traditionally eaten during summer months.

It can be eaten as a starter or, as is often the case, as the main meal. A number of restaurants specialize in this dish alone.

That’s a simple and very brief intro into cold noodles. If you want to read about Pyongyang Cold Noodles you can do so here.

Now whilst there are different styles of cold noodles in Pyongyang one of the main ways to differentiate is by region, different places have different ingredients available, so therefore the end product is different. Simple as.

What is the difference between Pyongyang Naengmyeon vs Hamhung Naengmyeon?

Traditional cold noodles are believed to have originated from two two cities, namely Pyongyang and Hamhung (allegedly).

Cold noodles date all the way back to the back to the Goryeo Dynasty, when people began eating buckwheat noodles with icy-cold dongchimi with the radish water from kimchi added to it. Add meat and broth to create the modern cold noodle we all know, and at least some of us love.

Spicy cold noodles on the other hand trace their origins to the coastal city of Hamhung. The cold dish features thin noodles served in a spicy hot red pepper sauce. Instead of being made for soaking in the summer, they were invented as spicy dish to fight the piercing cold of winter in Hamhung.

Hamhung noodles are also not made completely with buckwheat. They are mixed with potatoes to create a thin white and chewy noodle. In fact, the noodles are so chewy that scissors are provided to help chop them up.

It is then served with cucumbers and beef brisket, cold obviously, and with the aforementioned spicy red pepper sauce. Adding mustard or vinegar to Hamhung Cold Noodles is done less so than with its Pyongyang-based cousin.

And are there other cold noodles?

Interestingly, Busan in southern Korea is also famous for its own naengmyeon variety known as the Busan milmyeon. In this case, the noodles are made with a mixture of wheat and potato starch.

The story goes that it was invented by Koreans fleeing south during the Korean War who missed good old cold noodles.

And of course both Pyongyang and Hamhung noodles are available in copycat form through the whole Korean peninsula, but to answer the big question…

What is better Pyongyang Cold Noodles, or Hamhung Cold Noodles?

Well if you listen to the North Koreans they literally have a song called “Pyongyang Cold Noodles are the best”

But, you might think otherwise? Of course, join one of our tours to find out yourself!

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