North Korean restaurants in South Korea
It may be near impossible to visit South Korea’s secretive neighbour, but several North Korean descendants and defectors have introduced their cuisine to the world by opening North Korean restaurants outside of the heavily guarded country.
These restaurants have been experiencing increasing popularity in South Korea – some of them were even included in MICHELIN Guide Seoul 2021. Check out these 8 North Korean restaurants in South Korea for the most authentic North Korean cuisine and dining experience.
1. Jaha Son Mandu 자하손만두
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Mandu lovers, be sure to visit Jaha Son Mandu as they are known to serve one of the best mandu in Seoul. Jaha Son Mandu specialises in North Korean dumpling dishes, such as mandu-guk (만두국). It’s a clear, refreshing dumpling broth with a clean aftertaste and costs (KRW15,000, ~USD13.60) per bowl.
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Unique, square-shaped pyeonsu-changuk (편수찬국) are also on the menu. More commonly known as pyeonsu, these square dumplings (KRW12,000, ~USD10.90 for 4 pieces) are served chilled and often eaten in summer. This dish originated from Gaesong, North Korea.
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Jaha Son Mandu also offers ddeok-mandu-guk (떡만두국) (KRW15,000, ~USD13.60), a dish that consists of colourful dumplings and rice cakes that make the dish look appetising and Instagram-worthy.
You won’t face a language barrier when deciding what to order as their menu has English translations.
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On top of delicious dumplings, the restaurant also offers a picturesque view of surrounding mountains and buildings, so make sure to snag a seat by the window.
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You can choose between sitting indoors or outdoors – sit outside during cool weather and inside when it is hot and sunny.
Jaha Son Mandu is Michelin-certified – it was included in MICHELIN Guide Seoul 2021, which means that this restaurant is definitely worth a visit.
Address: 245-2 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 11AM-9.30PM, Daily | Closed on the eve of public holidays
2. Woo Lae Oak 우래옥
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Woo Lae Oak is well-known for their pyeongyang naengmyeon (평양냉면) (KRW14,000, ~USD12.70), which are cold buckwheat noodles. The dish has its roots in Pyeongyang, North Korea, and is a refreshing meal to eat in summer or whenever the weather is warm.
Pyeongyang naengmyeon trended in 2018 during the Inter-Korean Summit – the dish became the highlight of the dinner banquet because it was specially prepared for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
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The restaurant also offers bibim-naengmyeon (비빔냉면), which is a spicy buckwheat noodle dish. It is also referred to as hamheung naengmyeon (함흥냉면) as originated in the city of Hamheung in North Korea. Each bowl costs KRW14,000 (~USD12.70).
Unlike pyeongyang naengmyeon, this dish is best eaten in winter or when the weather is cold.
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Woo Lae Oak is housed in a huge building that is easy to spot. This restaurant has a grand and spacious interior with wood-panelled walls and traditional screen doors. It is usually bustling with people and is suitable for those dining in large groups.
Woo Lae Ok was also included in MICHELIN Guide Seoul 2021.
Address: 62-29 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jugyo-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 11AM – 9.30PM, Daily | Closed on Mon and public holidays
3. Banryongsan 반룡산
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If dumplings at Jaha Son Mandu are not enough for you, head to Banryongsan, where you can get them king-sized. One of their best-selling dishes, the wang-mandu (왕만두; king dumplings) (KRW8,000, ~USD7.25), is stuffed generously with vegetables, beef and pork.
In North Korea, these dumplings are usually the size of a small fist. Though they’ve been downsized a little to fit South Korean preferences at Jaha Son Mandu, rest assured that the dumplings are still larger than their regular counterparts.
The dumplings are made fresh twice a day – once in the morning and once in the afternoon – then steamed right before they are served.
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Another signature dish is the hoe-naengmyeon (회냉면), which is a type of bibim-naengmyeon (spicy buckwheat noodles) made with raw fish. Each bowl costs KRW11,000 (~USD10).
Besides raw fish, it also contains pears, cucumbers, eggs, and radishes.
The restaurant gained enough popularity to be featured on episode 56 of Wednesday Food Talk (수요미식회). Wednesday Food Talk was a weekly Korean food show that ran from 2015-2019, and episode 56 featured Taemin from SHINee as a special guest.
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If Taemin’s happy face hasn’t convinced you, then hopefully the menu, which has English translations, will.
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Banryongsan is a small and cosy restaurant, great for dining with a small group of friends.
Address: 26 Teheran-ro 78-gil, Daechi 4(sa)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 11AM-10PM | Sat & Sun 11AM-9.30PM, Closed on Chuseok and New Year’s Day
4. Dongmu Bapsang 동무밥상
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Dongmu Bapsang offers glutinous rice blood sausages (KRW12,000, ~USD10.90), also known as chabsal-soondae (찹쌀순대). It is one of their signature dishes, and it is made by stuffing pig or cow intestines with ingredients such as assorted vegetables and glutinous rice.
South Korea also has their own version of blood sausages (soondae;순대), but it’s made with glass noodles instead of glutinous rice. And although this dish may not seem appetising, it does taste better than it looks.
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The restaurant also serves pyeongyang naengmyeon (KRW11,000, ~USD10), which happens to be one of their most popular dishes.
Dongmu Bapsang was also featured in Wednesday Food Talk for their glutinous rice soondae.
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The restaurant can be hard to spot as it’s located in an obscure location along a street populated with shops bearing similar signboards. Do use Naver Map to find your way.
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The restaurant is small and may be crowded during peak hours, so avoid 12pm-1pm and 6.30pm-7.30pm if you don’t want to face long queues.
Address: 10 Yanghwajin-gil, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Tues – Sat 11.30AM-9PM, Break 3PM-5.30PM | Sun 11.30AM-3PM, Closed on Mon
5. Neungra Bapsang 능라밥상
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Neungra Bapsang is a well-known North Korean restaurant that sells dishes such as nokdu-jijim (녹두지짐) . Nokdu-jijim is a type of pan-fried mung bean pancake that resembles hotteok (호떡), a sweet pancake that’s eaten in South Korea. At Neungra Bapsang, nokdu-jijim cost KRW15,000 (~USD16) for 5 pieces.
Nokdu-jijim is also known as bindae-tteok (빈대떡), but Neungra Bapsang uses the former term because that’s the name used in North Korea.
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The restaurant’s eobok jaengban (어복쟁반) is a colourful traditional Korean dish that is similar to shabu-shabu and hotpot. Prices range from KRW65,000 (~USD58.60) for a small portion to KRW87,000 (~USD78.80) for a big portion.
This dish consists of ingredients such as sliced beef, water parsley, and mushroom. The small eobok jaengban feeds at least 2 people – or 1 very hungry soul – so we recommend bringing someone along to try this with you.
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The menu comes with English translations of the names and descriptions of each dish, so you can understand what you are ordering.
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The interior of the restaurant has a rustic feel and it’s small, which is perfect for small gatherings. The walls are plastered with posters of Neungra Bapsang’s founder and history. Unfortunately, they are entirely in Korean, but you could use a translation app or bring along a Korean-speaking friend to translate for you.
Address: 42 Donhwamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 9.30AM – 9.30PM, Daily
6. Hadan 하단
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Hadan is another North Korean restaurant that offers cold noodles. But this time, it’s not naengmyeon, but naeng-kalguksu (냉칼국수).
In English, both are referred to as “cold noodles”, but naeng-kalguksu (KRW9,000, ~USD8.15) is not to be confused with naengmyeon. Naeng-kalguksu is made with wheat flour noodles while naengmyeon is made with buckwheat noodles.
Like naengmyeon, the icy broth of naeng-kalguksu is refreshing and best enjoyed on warm days.
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With North Korean cuisine, you can never get enough of mandu. At Hadan, the mandu-guk (KRW9,000, ~USD8.15) comes highly recommended and is worth a try.
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The restaurant is easily recognisable with their hanja signboard and quaint brick exterior.
Address: 14 Seongbuk-ro 6-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Mon & Wed – Sun 12PM-7PM, Break 2PM-5PM, Closed on Tues
7. Pyeong Rae Ok 평래옥
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Pyeong Rae Ok is famous for their cold chicken broth – chogyetang (초개탕). This dish is usually eaten during summertime. Cho (초) in chogyetang means vinegar – it plays an important role in making the broth flavourful.
One bowl (KRW26,000, ~USD23.60) serves a minimum of 2 people.
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Aside from chogyetang, their pyeongyang naengmyeon (KRW10,000, ~USD9.10) is also a crowd favourite – you will need to arrive early to beat the queue.
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Pyeong Rae Ok is a huge restaurant with 2 storeys – keep a lookout for the bright blue signboard and you’ll have no problem locating the shop.
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Pyeong Rae Ok’s spacious interior is suitable for people dining in groups. They also have seats lining the window, which is great for couples and solo diners.
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It may be uncommon to dine alone in South Korea – especially in restaurants – but the seats lining the window emulate convenience stores, where people usually have meals alone. This makes it more comfortable to dine solo in Pyeong Rae Ok.
Address: 18-1 Jeo-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: Mon – Sat 11.15AM-9.30PM, Break 3.30PM-5PM, Closed on Sun
8. Pyeongyang Suljib 평양술집
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Located in Hongdae, Pyeongyang Suljib is a unique North-Korean themed pub that sells North Korean dishes and alcohol.
They offer the usual North Korean fare – mul-naengmyeon (KRW9,000, ~USD8.15), bibim-naengmyeon (KRW9,000, ~USD8.15) and hoe-naengmyeon (KRW9,000, ~USD8.15).
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Aside from those, they also have potato pancakes called gamja-jeon (감자전) (KRW10,000, ~USD9.10) and sogogi-hoe (소고기회) (KRW23,000 ~USD20.80), the latter of which is raw beef.
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To make it more realistic, the interior is fashioned to resemble actual North Korean pubs – walls are plastered with North Korean propaganda posters and banners.
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Hanbok rental is free for diners, so you can fully immerse yourself in the culture.
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The exterior is also modeled after North Korean pubs and looks especially beautiful when lit up at night.
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Back in 2019 – before the pub opened – it was embroiled in a controversy due to the use of portraits of North Korean leaders on the exterior of the building, and they were eventually taken down.
But controversial or not, we can agree that Pyeongyang Suljib is a place that’s perfect for the gram.
Address: 6 Wausan-ro 19-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 5AM – 3PM, Daily
North Korean restaurants that serve authentic cuisine in South Korea
Many of us won’t North Korea any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of what the country has to offer in terms of cuisine. These 8 North Korean restaurants will make you feel as if you were dining in North Korea – that’s a truly remarkable experience.
Also check out other food articles here:
- 9 restaurants in Seoul with international cuisine
- 15 restaurants in Seoul with best views
- 8 pocha streets in Seoul
- 9 bars in Seoul
- 10 Korean buffets in Seoul