As a kid growing up in the USA, I had the opportunity to try a variety of cuisines from around the world, since you know, we are kind of a melting pot (I’ll leave the authenticity of said cuisine up to you). Now add on to that trips abroad to Canada, Europe, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. By this point you’re probably thinking I’ve had the chance to try every type of cuisine on the planet. Well you would be wrong oh so wrong, because I recently had the chance to try out North Korean Cuisine. Yes you heard me right, North Korean cuisine. As it turns out, Mongolia is one of the few countries on the planet to have friendly relations with the most reclusive country in the world.
Now I know what you’re thinking, Chris you #$#$!@^%$^@! Moronic idiot, what the hell where you doing traveling to North Korean. And no I did not travel to North Korean, you couldn’t pay me enough to do that. However there is a North Korean Cuisine restaurant in Ulaanbaatar off a side street a little ways behind the State Department store. (It is called the state department store, because prior to the collapse of the communist it was run by the state.) FYI- Our resident foodie Kelvin couldn’t make it either time, and he was worried we would be eating pine cones or something.
So what is North Korean Cuisine…..? Well its hot pots, stews, soups, noodle dishes, meat, and kimchi lots of kimchi. Oh and an important tidbit for anyone traveling to Korea, if the title of the dish contains the word nutritious, its dog. Yes, you heard me in Korean cuisine nutritious equal’s dog meat. So if you are a dog lover don’t have the nutritious soup. Oh and for the record I did not have it and neither did anyone else.
The intrepid travelers trip 1
The intrepid travelers trip 2
Amuse bouche or something like that
If you can’t tell its rice cakes, and kimchi. The rice cakes tasted something like an upscale wonder bread. Weird, I know, but they did taste pretty good. The kimchi, and don’t ask me what kind of kimchi it is, was also extremely tasty and delicious.
Yes, kimichi again but it is oh so good. I could eat kimchi every day. This is some kind of cabbage kimchi, but between the two trips I had several other varieties including raddish, which is my current favorite.
Braised Ox ribs
Some kind of beef dish
Seafood hot pot
Mine was the braised ox ribs, which I had on both excursions, and it was delicious. The meat is so tender it literally falls right off the bones, and the broth is exquisite. I highly recommend this dish if you end up going. Something to remember is to make sure to get rice with the meal because it is perfect for finishing off any leftover sauce. Oh and the portion sizes are large, and by large I mean American large, I was stuffed after eating it.
The service can be a little slow, but that seems to be a Mongolian thing and it really wasn’t any different than any other restaurant in Ulaanbaatar. I do have to say it was particularly bad on our second excursion, but the place was having some renovations done. A number of us concluding that the restaurant wasn’t really expecting anyone that night, let alone a group of 14 westerns. Thus I will give them a pass, this time.
Sadly no desert, sorry mom not even ice cream. However you do get a show, by North Korean singers and dancers. It’s not Vegas by any sense of the imagination, but it gets the job done, and hey where else could I see North Korean singing and dancing.
At this point some of you are probably wondering, how we know that it is actually a real North Korean Restaurant run by North Koreans. Well the pictures of the Un family on the wall might have something to do with it, or the souvenir stand selling, North Korean postage stamps, among other things. FYI- the book of stamps cost 130 USD. Not to mention the place is cash only. As we learned from our Mongolian friends, this particular establishment is sanctioned and run by the North Korean government. Apparently working at this establishment is quite the step up, and many North Koreans apply to work here.