Practice of making Pyongyang cold noodles, a representative ICH element of humanity

January 30, 2023

Pyongyang cold noodles which have become one of the favourite dishes of the Korean people through a long historical course are a traditional dish representing Korean noodles. 

As the name suggests, the cold noodles were much favoured in the Pyongyang area. It also reflects the special recipe of the dish which involves pouring cooled meat stock over a coil of buckwheat noodles. 

From olden times, Koreans liked to eat noodles made with a noodle-press and created dozens of kinds of noodles according to local ingredients and characteristics. 

Yet Pyongyang cold noodles top the list of such many kinds of noodles which can be classified according to ingredients, meat stock and garnishes. 

The reason is that the recipe for Pyongyang cold noodles has something very different from others in material, broth, garnish, vessel and preparing. 

Haedongjukji, an old historical document of Korea, says that Pyongyang cold noodles are the tastiest of its kind and Tongguksesigi says that the cold noodles of the Kwanso area (the Phyongan provincial area in the period of the feudal Joson dynasty) made of buckwheat are the best. 

The people of the Kwanso area which included today’s Pyongyang and North and South Phyongan provinces had get-togethers on holidays and other meaningful days and drank liquor and then ate refreshing Pyongyang cold noodles, saying “Liquor first, noodles later”.

Therefore, in those days, it was an accepted custom in the Kwanso area for every household to have a noodle-press.

The main ingredient of the specialty of Pyongyang is buckwheat which has long been regarded as a health food. As buckwheat has large contents of proteins, essential amino acids and lysine, it helps prevent hypertension and cerebral hemorrhage, promote digestion and neutralize poison.   

To make Pyongyang cold noodles, buckwheat flour is kneaded with warm water with a temperature of 70-80 degrees centigrade and the dough is put into a noodle-press to make coils of noodles.  And then, beef, pork and chicken are boiled slowly and then sliced. The meat juice is seasoned with soy sauce and salt, brought to the boil and strained with a sieve before being cooled. The meat stock for noodles is then added with watery radish kimchi juice. 

The noodle broth, an important part of Pyongyang cold noodles, made in this way looks clear and tastes refreshing and savoury. 

A coil of noodles is put on a brass vessel, which is refreshing and also good for health, and garnished with kimchi, cucumber, pear and meat, which are sliced in the shape of oval willow leaf, and boiled egg one after another, before meat stock is poured over it.

Pyongyang cold noodles are famous for chewy strips of noodles, sweet meat stock surrounding them, garnishes of harmonious taste and brass vessels enhancing the value of the traditional dish. 

The true taste of the dish can only be felt when some vinegar is sprinkled over the noodle strips, mustard is fully stirred into the broth and the dish is eaten with garnishes. 

Overseas Koreans who savoured Pyongyang cold noodles at the Okryu Restaurant which has food as their signature dish said that visitors to Pyongyang would regret bitterly for long if they failed to enjoy the cold noodles. Some foreign visitors said that as they acquired a taste for Pyongyang cold noodles in the DPRK, they looked for such noodles after they returned to their countries and that they could not forget the Korean word for noodles.

Koreans love to eat the dish on the traditional holiday of Jongwoldaeborum and various other occasions of life. A noodles contest among popular restaurants in Pyongyang is held regularly in order to improve the taste of the traditional dish. 

The tradition, technique, recipe and sociocultural custom related to Pyongyang cold noodles are carried forward from generation to generation through TV, public-catering facilities and educational institutions like Pyongyang Jang Chol Gu University of Commerce and Pyongyang College of Cookery as well as families. 

The practice of making Pyongyang cold noodles was put on the Representative List of ICH of Humanity at the 17th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO held in Rabat, Morocco, in November last year.


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