We like to consider ourselves experts in all things related to Korean cuisine – we’ve written about the best dishes as well as the street food, and today we’ll be talking about the North Korean dish best known outside the country – Naengmyeon.
The summit between Marshal Kim Jong Un and President Moon Jae-In was big news, largely because it helped lower the chances of nuclear meltdown on the Korean peninsula, but to a (much) lesser extent because it sparked a naengmyeon craze in South Korea. People were lining up outside the few restaurants in Seoul that serve the dish, eager for a taste of North Korea.
Naengmyeon are a big deal for all Koreans, with both South and North Korea having gone as far as writing catchy pop songs about it. We’ll let you be the judge!
But what, exactly, is naengmyeon?
Simply put, naengmyeon are cold noodles, or to use their colloquial name, Pyongyang cold noodles. The name Naengmyeon (냉면) literally translates to cold noodles.
The noodles, made from buckwheat, are served in a slightly vinegary broth that has meat (or meat flavouring) and Korean chilli paste (gochujang). A hardboiled egg is often placed on top of the noodles.
Then it’s your turn to sex it up and add your own condiments. The two main things used are Korean vinegar and/or mustard, both of which are pretty intense. Korean vinegar is extremely strong, and the mustard is some of the best I’ve tasted anywhere in the world. Come the end of sanctions, it’s the first thing I’ll try to export from the country!
Pyongyang Naengmyeon (Pyongyang cold noodles) remain the most well-known of the varieties of cold noodles, though they can be found in much of the South, Yanbian and in most Koreatowns around the world.
In North Korea the ‘other’ famous cold noodles come from Hamhung. Hamhung Naengmyeon is served with fish – hardly surprising for a coastal town. In the South, the term ‘Hamhung Naengmyeon’ generally indicates that the cold noodles are served with fish.
Ironically, the best restaurant to try ‘real’ cold noodles is on Tongil (reunification) Street in Pyongyang.
Try real Naengmyeon yourself on one of our many tours!