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Koreans overcome differences by way of cuisine

[ 2011-08-12 14:39]     字号 [] [] []  
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It is well known that food is hard to come by in parts of North Korea, where the UN World Food Program has been helping feed more than 3.5 million people since April in the wake of severe food shortages.

But travel past the Korean Demilitarized Zone, a strip of land that separates the two Koreas, into South Korea and one can find an abundance of North Korean-style dishes.

Gastronomical tour

Ryu Kyung-ok is a tiny restaurant that fills up with customers quickly during lunchtime. The menu takes you on a gastronomical tour of North Korea.

There is dumpling soup from Kaeseong, a rice and beef dish from Pyongyang and from Hamheung, a bowl of cold noodles called naengmyeon.

The list is what many people here come for.

One customer, 20-year-old Rho Soo-ah, says naengmyeon is just what you want on a steamy day.

"When it's really hot, it's just really refreshing and it tastes good it kinda cools down your whole body," Rho ordred one bowl of naengmyeon served in a cold beef broth and another mixed with raw fish and pepper sauce.

All the staff at Ryu Kyung -ok are North Korean defectors, including the owner, Ahn Mi-ok.

She says North Korean food is really simple compared with the South Korean food. It uses the traditional way of cooking and it does not add unnecessary ingredients. She says here the South Koreans use too many artificial flavorings or add extra types of sauces. North Korean food goes back to the basics.

Naengmyeon has been popular in South Korea for decades. Ahn hopes other North Korean dishes will soon catch on.

For the love of food

Forty-seven-year-old Lee Aeran is also counting on that. Lee is a former food inspector from Pyongyang. She now runs the North Korean Food Institute in Seoul.

She says cooking is a great way for Koreans from both sides of the peninsula to overcome their differences.

Lee says, the problem is that North and South Korean people have had no communication since they were separated. But the love of food is universal. She says cooking provides a place for people to come together and chat over cooking or eating and talk about food.

Recently, Lee's school started offering classes in English, so non-Korean speakers can talk about North Korean food too.

With the help of an interpreter, Lee instructs the class on how to make haeju bimbinbap - a North Korean rice and vegetable dish that is made with chicken and soy sauce.

Delicious way to learn

Twenty-seven-year-old Korean American Alex Jung stands over a simmering pot. He says the class taught him some new things about Korean food.

"I think that I am pretty familiar with South Korean cooking, in general, and all the regional differences within South Korea. And, there definitely aren't that many opportunities to try, eat or make North Korean food. And I was just excited to learn about a certain style of North Korean food that I had never eaten before."

Lee Aeran says her cooking school also has a special meaning for North Korean defectors who did not have much to eat back home.

She says many people in North Koreans really can't eat well. They struggle because of the food shortages there and that can not have proper meals and often just rice mixed with water.

Often, there wasn't even enough rice, says 41-year-old Seong Yuri. She is a student at the cooking school too and says that since she arrived in the south in 2007, she has learned a lot about food from her homeland. Seong says, in the North, they did not have the ingredients to make these types of dishes. But now here in South Korean, she has learnt how to make North Korean food. She says she did not know much about this type of cooking until she came here.

Food appreciation

But Seong says what she really learned was how differently North and South Koreans appreciate food. She says she was really surprised that many people here go on a diet. She says North Koreans are starving to death, but here people want to be slim. She thinks there is actually so much diversity in food that it is hard to choose what to eat. But she is going to try a lot of other countries' foods.

Seong says that despite those differences, she too believes learning about each others' food can bring the two Koreas closer together. Reunification, she says, starts at the dinner table.

gastronomical: of or relating to gastronomy 美食学的

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(来源:VOA 编辑:实习生史莉萍)