South Koreans crave ‘peace noodles’ after Moon-Kim summit

SEOUL, May 3 (UPI) — The summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has left many South Koreans hungry for a dish of Pyongyang-style naengmyeon — chilled buckwheat noodles.

The dish, prepared by a North Korean chef from Okryugwan restaurant on a special machine brought from Pyongyang, was served at the banquet following Friday’s Inter-Korea Summit in Panmunjom.

“While watching scenes of the two leaders eating naengmyeon, I wanted to enjoy some too and I think many people around me felt the same way,” Lee Dong-ju, an office worker, told UPI as he waited outside a naengmyeon restaurant with his girlfriend.

“It looks very different from the naengmyeon we have in the South, so I thought if we really reunify with the North or have cultural exchanges, I’d like to go and try the authentic naengmyeon at Okryugwan,” student Kim Jun-sung said.

Naengmyeon, which means cold noodles in Korean, is usually served in beef broth or mixed with spicy pepper sauce, topped with sliced cucumbers, cold meat and a boiled egg to decorate.

Variations of the dish exist across the country, but in the North Korean capital, naengmyeon is traditionally flavored with pickled radish soup and topped with slices of boiled meat, radishes, cucumbers and eggs.

The North Korean dish offers a more rustic taste as the noodles contain more buckwheat than starch, compared to Southern variations.

Since the weekend following the summit, restaurants in Seoul specializing in the Pyongyang dish have seen an influx of customers.

A Michelin guide-approved restaurant in eastern Seoul opened up an annex building to accommodate the crowds seeking their clear but flavorful Pyongyang-style broth.

“We’ve seen the number of customers double. As you can see there’s just so many people and cars coming in. It’s been like this all weekend and normally on weekdays, it’s just crowded during lunch hours but not today,” staff member Kim Dong-gyu said.

Even regulars were surprised by the line that stretched about 32 yards out of the restaurant and into the street.

“I brought my parents here as they have one of the best Pyongyang naengmyeon dishes in Seoul,” said Yoo Sang-jin, a self-employed businessman.

Many of those who didn’t venture out tried the Pyongyang specialty at home. According to food giant Pulmuone, sales of ready-to-cook Pyongyang naengmyeon packets more than tripled over the weekend compared to the week before.

Convenience store chain GS25 said sales of plain naengmyeon increased 145 percent while Pyeongyang-style naengmyeon jumped 157 percent.

After Kim mentioned Pyongyang naengmyeon in his televised conversation with Moon before their official summit talks began on Friday, the local specialty became the most tweeted hashtag by noon, recording around 32,000 tweets. “Inter-Korean summit” came in second.

“The fact that Pyongyang naengmyeon’s number one on Twitter and the inter-Korean summit came second shows you what people will be having for lunch today,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Pyongyang naengmyeon is a sign of peace. I hope we can walk to Pyongyang by foot one day to taste the real thing,” another said.