Kimchi in the North

Northern Korean Kimchi is amazing. It is healthy and flavoursome, both as a side dish and as an ingredient in savory pancakes, stews and fried rice.

Kimchi made the news last month in the DPRK, when Korean Worker's Party Chairman Kim Jong Un visited a new factory that produces the fiery pickle dish. (It is obligatory that all English-language articles about Kimchi describe it as 'fiery'.)

"Kimchi is one of the Korean nation's most favorite traditional dishes and it is well-known as one of the world's five health foods", he was quoted as saying. We're not sure what the other four are, but based on a recent trip to Whole Foods, we'd guess paleo-balls, wheatgrass shots, quinoa protein bowls and free-range gluten-free muffins.

Plate of Kimchi at the Arirang Restaurant, Pyongyang

Plate of Kimchi at the Arirang Restaurant, Pyongyang

OK, so those may be more recent fads.  Kimchi, other the other hand, is probably over one thousand years old and is has undeniably been the favourite food of Koreans for...since then. It was the perfect way to ensure a supply of vegetables year-round, but especially during cold, harsh winters.

In the last few years, Kimchi has gotten a global profile, showing up on trendy menus in the west and on the shelves in supermarkets. The process of Kimchi-making also now appears on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, noting 'Kimjang', the preparation of Kimchi in the fall to last through the winter months. In fact, it appears twice.

Kimchi is very regional in style, so you'd expect differences between north and south to develop over time. Indeed, the difference from one town to the next can be noticeable. In the North, it tends to be a little sweeter, less spicy and crunchier than Southern varieties. This often suits western palettes a bit better.

Our favourite Kimchis in Pyongyang are served at Arirang Restaurant, Taedonggang No. 3 and, surprisingly, at the Italian Pizza Restaurants on Future Science Street.


Northern Kimchi is Amazing! Come try it while teaching a Choson Exchange workshop. (Or after, at dinner.)