The Best of Lesser Known North Korean Foods

One of the great joys of travel is experiencing the new food of different cultures and North Korea is no exception to this rule. Anyone familiar with Korean cuisine will recognise kimchi, bibimbap and Korean BBQ pop up throughout meals in the DPRK but we thought we’d give you the top 10 of some lesser known North Korean foods.

While there are certainly similarities between food both sides of the DMZ, the culinary fare served in the North is slightly more “old school.” Where South Korean food might feature more international influences from the West and Japan, North Korean food has a more simplistic, modest “home style” feel to it, void of the international influences and more broadly defined international palate of the South.

However, there are a few culinary delights unique to North Korea that should absolutely be on any travelling foodie’s bucket list.

10 - Ostrich BBQ

North Korean Ostrich farm

With ostrich meat and eggs providing substantial amounts of food to both the North Korean military and people, ostrich meat and eggs are prevalent throughout Pyongyang. Giant ostrich eggs can be found in most supermarkets.

A trip to the Ostrich Farm just outside of Pyongyang is the best place to try ostrich BBQ and purchase all manner of ostrich goods at the gift shop, from ostrich related foodstuffs to ostrich leather shoes.

9 - Injo Gogi Bap

Injogogibap - a popular North Korean dish

Literally translating as “rice with artificial meat,” injo-gogi-bap is made of rice, kimchi, soy bean paste and soy bean oil and made by wrapping steamed rice in the skin of leftover soybean paste, covered with a generous dollop of chilli sauce.

With this dish being developed during the dark times of North Korea’s famine of the 1990s, the texture is said to replicate a meat-like texture and is still eaten today as one of the most popular street food dishes in North Korea.

8 - Gongmiri

North Korean food gongmiri

Fresh, delicious seafood is rife throughout the entire Korean Peninsula and is also one of North Korea’s biggest exports.

Sampling the fresh seafood during any trip to the east coast city of Wonsan is a must for any visitor, particularly on our Liberation Day tour. A trip down to the local pier sees local fishermen selling their catch of the day to a series of tiny, al fresco eateries dotted along the pier.

Ask for a serve of “gongmiri,” a long silver fish, caught locally and prepared in front of you as sashimi. Dipped into some locally made gochujang (chilli sauce) and washed down with a swig of soju while watching the sun set over the East Sea of Korea – now you’re really on holiday.

7 - Petrol Clam BBQ

North Korean petrol clam cooking

While we’re on the topic of seafood, this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the infamous “petrol clam BBQ” of the west coast city of Nampo, typically enjoyed during our May Day tour.

A giant concrete slab of locally procured clams is set up immaculately, while your friendly KITC bus driver douses the arrangement with petrol, setting the slab alight and continuously cooking the clams in their shells.

With the clams set up facing downwards, no petrol goes inside the clam once it opens and burns off instantly, roasting the clams inside their shells. Sound wild? You better believe it is. One of the most authentic, local culinary experiences you can get.

6 - Talpi

Talpi or Beer fish in North Korea