The Korean peninsula is such a powder keg of political tension that it's easy to forget that it's also a powerhouse of flavor. To serve as guides through the fog of war and into the steam of the kitchen, we enlisted two experts to school us on both Seoul food and Kim Jong cuisine: Holly (South) from Beyond Kimchee and Jae Jung (North), a New Orleans chef who's curated dinners that were actually attended by Kim Jong-un himself!
Before you learn more about each country's individual specialties, here's a quick history lesson.
Although there's currently little mingling between the North and South, there isn't necessarily a DMZ line drawn between the culinary traditions. Each culture serves a wide array of small side dishes (banchan), like kimchi and other pickled foods, with meals. Many dishes that originated in the North became South Korean staples as families migrated South after the war.
THE DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH CUISINE
The differences are largely based on climate and economics: the colder mountainous regions of the North and high levels of poverty lead to blander flavors and a focus on sustenance over style, while the warmer South lends itself to spicier fare and a grander eating culture rooted in royal court cuisine.