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North Koreans seek out cold noodles as weather heats up

An increasing number of market goers have been seeking out Chongsu naengmyeon (cold noodles) in some North Korean cities, Daily NK has learned.

“Chongsu naengmyeon has been very popular at markets in Hamhung. While it’s nearly as expensive as rice, selling for KPW 6,800 per kilogram, vendors have been selling it in the sizes requested by customers, leading more people to ask for it,” a source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

According to the source, market vendors used to sell Chongsu naengmyeon in 500-gram or one kilogram packages. But more recently, they have been allowing hard-up customers to purchase smaller portions of 100 or 200 grams. That is apparently bringing more customers to their stalls.

“Since business hasn’t been very good at the marketplaces lately, almost all the vendors have tried to accommodate their customers’ financial conditions by selling smaller portions to at least make a little money. There are people who can’t afford to buy large portions, so vendors are making things easier for them by letting them buy smaller portions that fit their budget,” the source said.

The trend toward selling Chongsu naengmyeon in smaller portions – and the resulting increase in demand – is reportedly evident in marketplaces not only in Hamhung, but also in Hyesan, Yanggang Province.

“Families who are short of money are eating chongsu naengmyeon for three meals a day. They prefer it to corn or rice because it can be eaten cold in hot weather. This allows families to save on the wood they would have to burn in the stove,” said a source in Yanggang Province.

According to the source, Chongsu naengmyeon is becoming popular not only because vendors sell the smaller portions that customers prefer, but also because the dish can be prepared without boiling water, which helps people save on firewood.

Wealthy North Koreans can cook with gas, but less fortunate families usually have to burn firewood to prepare food, even in the middle of summer. The source said the demand for Chongsu naengmyeon has increased because it is easy to prepare and does not require firewood or cooking on a stove. The noodles are simply soaked in cold water and then dipped in a chilled broth seasoned with doenjang (soybean paste).

“As the weather heats up, Chongsu naengmyeon is a convenient food for struggling families,” the source said, while acknowledging that many do not consider it a sustainable diet.

“People say they long for the day when they can eat naengmyeon for its refreshing taste, rather than to fill their bellies as they do now,” the source said.

“Many people feel very anxious and even desperate about their gradually deteriorating living conditions. It’s not uncommon to hear people openly say that they really wish the state would do more to make sure people have enough to eat,” the source added.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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May 30, 2024 at 08:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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