Though most South Koreans have never been to the North, almost everyone has heard of the famous Okryugwan restaurant in Pyongyang and its signature naengmyeon.
Koreans often debate about the cold noodle dish’s original taste, wondering what it’s really like in its hometown of Pyongyang.
The classic menu has been creating a sensation here, partly thanks to the recent peace mood between the two Koreas. North Korea even brought a noodle machine from Okryugwan to the historic summit with the South in April.
MBC’s two-part documentary show “Okryugwan Seoul 1st Store” hopes to find the meaning and the original taste of Pyongyang naengmyeon, visiting old naengmyeon restaurants, talking to those who visited Okryugwan and consulting professionals.
“We actually planned this show before the summit, thinking that the noodle dish was very symbolic. Okryugwan naengmyeon holds meaning, standing for the ‘Korean diaspora.’ For those who left the North, it represents their hometown and family,” producer Kim Jae-young said at a press event held Friday.
The documentary show even ran a one-day popup store with Pyunghwaok at Incheon Airport Terminal 2 on the same day. The restaurant’s Michelin-starred chef Yim Jung-sik worked on recreating the taste of Okryugwan naengmyeon.
“As a naengmyeon maker, Okryugwan is like a dream. It is an honor for me to even indirectly make the menu,” Yim said.
“Talking to those who visited Okryugwan, it was interesting that the taste has been changing,” he said. “A person who ate at Okryugwan 10 years ago and recently too, told me the taste has become stronger and the visual much more elaborate.”
For the popup store, he created two naengmyeon dishes. One is reunification naengmyeon, Yim’s reinterpretation of the naengmyeon served at the summit.
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Reunification naengmyeon is refreshing, as the broth is made with dongchimi, radish water kimchi. There is a hint of spiciness to the broth. Buckwheat noodles are elastic yet easily cut off with the teeth.
“Running a Korean restaurant in New York, I have been feeling that more foreigners are showing interest in naengmyeon,” he said. “After today, I may make today’s naengmyeon into a regular menu.”
The production team hopes to touch on inter-Korean relationship by spotlighting the everyday dish.
“Ordinary people don’t really think deeply about the North and South Korea’s relationship every day. But naengmyeon is relatable to everyone. We hope to shed light on the inter-Korean ties through the dish,” producer Kim Bo-ram said.
“Okryugwan Seoul 1st Store” will air Monday and July 16 at 11:20 p.m.
Source: The Korea Herald