Saturday, August 16, 2014

Recipes from North Korea

My kids went back to school this week, so yay. Not because I didn't enjoy having them home (I did) but because now I'm really hoping I will have enough time to keep up with the work I get paid for and the work I don't get paid for (this blog). 

Anyway this week we are  in the world's most scary place, I mean the world's most wonderful place. Because if you say anything bad about this place, the person who is currently in control of it starts whining--I mean legitimately complaining--to the United Nations that you have committed an act of war. So let me just begin this entry by saying, North Korean food is fabulous and not at all bland or boring.

OK, so about North Korea, it's a magical land full of unicorns and fairies. Super macho, manly fairies and unicorns that have nuclear launch capabilities. You may know it as that country that the US got involved with in 1945, back when we were sort of irrationally afraid of communism. We occupied the south, Russia occupied the north, and five years later both sides started fighting each other. Technically, the two nations are still at war since no one actually got around to signing a peace treaty, and each one thinks it is the legitimate government of the entire region.

Pyongyang, Arirang, North Korea (Mass Games). Photo by (stephan).
North Korea is the most militarized nation in the world, with a total of nine and a half million military personnel, which includes an active duty army of 1.21 million, the fourth largest in the world. Oh, and it is led by a person who is not at all crazy.

I got all of this week's recipes from the North Korean government's online recipe website (no, really!) which I'm not going to link to because frankly, I don't want my website linking to it. Evidently, North Korea launched the site a couple of years ago for "housewives' convenience." How thoughtful. If you're interested, The Guardian has published a link to it here:

North Korean food is less spicy than South Korean food, which doesn't necessarily mean it's boring or tasteless ;). Most of the recipes I found seemed very simple, and the meal didn't take a lot of time to put together, so that was a definite plus. Here's what I made:

Beef Stir
  • 2 lbs beef, sliced
  • 3/4 small onion, sliced
  • 1 /2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
Bibimbap shrimp
  • 3 3/4 cup cooked rice
  • 10 1/2 oz prawns
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 a small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 a medium potato, sliced
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch pepper
And that was all, because I was kind of feeling like I wanted a slow week, and frankly I didn't find any recipes that qualified as Must-Make.

Again, these recipes are really simple, so no need to wait until you have half a day to make them. Starting with the beef:

First whisk the soy sauce together with the spices. Add the vegetables to a hot pan and stir fry until the softened. Add the beef and fry quickly on both sides until brown.

Pour the soy sauce mixture over and stir until well-incorporated. That's it!

Now for the rice:

Boil the rice and drain. Set aside. Now place the shrimp in boiling water until just pink. Remove and set aside. In the same pot, add the potatoes and onions and let cook until just soft.

Transfer to a pan and stir fry with the oil, peas, rice and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

That's all there is to it. See? Simple. And very simple-tasting too, which is fine if that's what you like. All joking aside, it was OK and perfectly edible, but I was left wanting a little bit more. So I added soy sauce.

Next week: Emilia-Romagna, Italy


  1. Ah-ha, so South Korean food tends to be more spicy. Very interesting. I was wondering if you had any difficulty in finding specifically North Korean recipes, and if they guard their culinary secrets as closely as their other assets!

  2. I got all the recipes off of that website, which I'm told is actually run by the North Korean government. It could be that they're just hiding all the best recipes, though, you never know. :)


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