Food in North Korea
Despite acute food shortages in North Korea, which have resulted in the deaths of millions of people, you will not have any difficulties in obtaining food. Your guide will place all of your meal orders for you, and you will only dine in places that accept hard money. Vegetarians and those with dietary allergies or aversions to popular items like shellfish or eggs may need to make special arrangements ahead of time. Inquire with your guide about a visit to a “genuine” local eatery. Although your cuisine will be superior than that consumed by 95% of the population, it will not necessarily be excellent. Shortages, coupled with the traditional usage of Korean culinary methods, result in a restricted range of food, which may be exhausting on trips lasting more than a few days.
In Pyongyang, there are a few western cuisine choices today, and these places may generally be visited if booked in advance with the guides. They will almost always need extra payment (unless you have previously negotiated this with your tour operator), since the expenses are not included in the Korean Travel Company’s per diem price. There are two Italian restaurants (one near the Korean circus and one near the USS Pueblo) and two burger restaurants (one on Kwangbok Street near the Korean circus where the pizza is excellent and they have imported a pizza oven and all the ingredients so the quality is extremely good) (the more accessible is in the Youth Hotel). Both are cheap and provide some variety to an otherwise bland dining setting – particularly on lengthy trips! Visit the Vienna coffee shop on the riverside of Kim Jong Il Square for a decent cup of coffee that tastes like it came from Europe.
Drinks in North Korea
Insam-ju, Korean vodka flavored with ginseng roots, is a local specialty.
Taedonggang beer, which is produced locally, is excellent. The brewery was bought from Ushers in the United Kingdom and relocated to Pyongyang, and some of the sojus are also very good. A 650mL bottle of beer costs €0.50 on the local market. Imported beers, such as Heineken, are likewise reasonably priced. However, do not get inebriated and create a ruckus. You and your guide will face severe consequences if you don’t follow the rules and show respect.
Because tap water isn’t always adequately treated, it’s best to consume bottled water instead.